Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Healer's Shadow trilogy - Zoe Brooks

This week, you get a three-fer -- mainly because I had all three books in the Healer's Shadow series and once I'd finished the first one, I just kept reading 'til I'd read the whole thing.

This series of books in the genre of magic realism follows the tale of Judith and her Shadow, Sarah. When we first meet them in The Girl in the Glass, they are young girls named Anya and Eva, living in the home of their cruel aunt, who took them in after their parents died in the plague. The aunt believes Anya to be a witch like her dead mother, the healer. Eva, as Anya's Shadow, is treated as less than human -- but she gets the better end of the deal, as the aunt finds every opportunity to punish Anya by beating her and/or locking her in the broom cupboard. After one particularly harsh punishment, the girls run away from home, across the desert, to the town of Pharsis -- a port city that suffers from frequent earthquakes. The girls change their names to Rosa and Elizabeth; they move into a condemned house and find odd jobs. Eventually Rosa comes to the attention of a powerful man named Rex, and again the young women are subjected to humiliation and abusive treatment until they run away. They change their names once again, to Judith and Sarah, and have a stroke of luck: an elderly perfume maker named Mistress Elma takes them in, and Judith finds her calling.

Or one of them, anyway. As it happens, many of the herbs and oils used in the art of perfume-making can also be used for healing. And in Love of Shadows, Judith is called upon to use her healer's gift not only to help injured dockworkers, but also to staff a secret hospital for Shadows who have been attacked by students at the local university. There's a war going on against Shadows in Pharsis, and Judith and her husband Bruno find themselves embroiled in it.

In the final book, The Company of Shadows, Judith and her young sons travel to Bruno's home village in the northern forest. There, Judith learns more about both Bruno's upbringing and her own, and finds peace -- and a real home -- at last.

Judith's story is compelling, and Brooks does a first-rate job in revealing it, bit by bit, over the course of these three novels. The reader also gets hints about where Shadows come from, and when the full story is revealed, it's a head-shaker at the very least. All of this is played out against a fully realized backdrop, magic-realism-style: Anya's desert home is devoid of love as well as moisture; as Rosa, and again as Judith, her world is rocked by personal earthquakes every bit as unexpected and severe as the real ones that plague the city; and there's a good reason why Judith keeps falling for men from the Forest, where magic is as abundant as the flora and fauna, and as nurtured.

For fans of women's fiction as well as those who love magic realism, I highly recommend all three books in the Healer's Shadow series.

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