I received a free copy of this book to review. However, the following review is my honest opinion.
The lilies have been disappearing. They used to cover the entire surface of the lake. There were enough lilies to make medicines, enough to cure all illnesses and still have more to store for later. But that was a long time ago. That was before the cranes came. Before they tore, gouged, and devoured the fragile flowers. Now, there may not be enough, and they may not bloom in time. Kai can only hope they do before her mother dies.
Strangers have come to the lake before, to study the birds and try to shoo them off. They have always failed and the cranes have returned every year to glut themselves on the blossoms. But a doctor named Kevak brings new hope. He is well-traveled and Kai hopes he has enough knowledge to save the lilies and all the people depending on them. However, Kai’s mother warns her not to trust him; the handsome ones are always trouble.
The Quills: 10/10
The lilies aren’t ready, not yet. But in a few weeks they will be. On that day, the sun will rise and the lilies will open to the light. Slowly they’ll unfurl petals of deepest pink, and their full, heady scent–richer than jasmine or roses–will open, too. Dawn will glow on the water as well as in the sky: the fields of dawn-lilies will bloom.
And then the ravenous birds will come.
– Vanessa Fogg, The Lilies of Dawn
The Lilies of Dawn is told in first person by Kai, and boy, does she tell it. This is a fantasy novelette, which is even shorter than the already short novellas, (this one clocks in at 14,000 words, or 76 pages) but unlike a lot of short books, this doesn’t feel overly short or rushed at all. There isn’t a single word wasted and the author masterfully tells us things without having to say it in so many words.
The author and publisher didn’t indicate a target age group, but I think adults and young adults alike will love it. As for middle-graders, parts of the book may go over their heads, but there’s no mature content that would prevent them from reading it.
The world is built slowly but thoroughly. It is foreign but natural, ethereal and gentle, beautiful and terrifying. In short, it is a fully realised fantasy world, an amazing accomplishment in such a tiny book.
There are only three characters who appear in more than one scene, really, but that’s to be expected of such a short novel. The characters are complex and interesting, but you’re not explicitly told this. There’s some reading between the lines to be done, which is why I don’t recommend this novel to very young readers.
I did mention that this book happens slowly. It moves with the pace and grace of a flower unfurling its petals for the day. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, but it does take time.
The Roses: 10/10
I love this book. I LOVE this book. I received it as an ARC and I can’t believe it took me until now to read it. I should have read this so much sooner. To make up for it, I read this novelette twice in one day and I loved it just as much or even more the second time. This book has absolutely beautiful story-telling and world building. And you all know how much I like good writing.
I love the quiet tone of this book. It really fits the lake and the beautiful, lurking danger. I wish it was longer, but on the other hand, I do believe this book has everything it needs.
Conclusion: If you’re a reader who enjoys action right off the bat, this book is probably not for you. But if you’re patient, if you love the feeling of good words and perfect phrases, if you love fragile, carefully-crafted magical worlds, this book is for you.