Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Twilight Child

Warner, Sally. 2006. Twilight Child.

I could honestly say that I've never read a historical fiction book set in Finland and Scotland in the mid-eighteenth century until I picked up a copy of Twilight Child. It has long been said that when a baby is born at twilight, the precise moment that hangs between day and night, that child is given a special gift. She is able to sense other in-between things. Eleni, our heroine, is a twilight child. She is able to see and therefore communicate with both Finnish and Scottish 'mythological' creatures: the tonttu of the sauna, the blue men of the Minch, and the brounies of the Scottish highlands. But her life while full of magic is also full of sorrow.

Prologue: Eleni and her best friend Matias are out walking in the forest discussing the war between Sweden and Russia. Their fathers are being called upon to join the army, though neither are too fond of Sweden. (Sweden apparently was in control of Finland much like England was in control of Scotland). It is only a few pages long, but it serves to present the idea of a peaceful childhood and a best friend she could trust.

The First Few Chapters: Taking place at least five to six years later, Eleni's life is radically different. Her father is an outlaw after leading an unsuccessful rebellion. Her mother is sick and dying. And Eleni is a maid in a lady's household. Mattias has been 'missing' for years on end. She has no idea what happened to him or his family or if they're even still in Finland.

The book takes a while to get into the 'main' part of the story. After the death of Eleni's mother, she is 'kidnapped' by her father and his friends. He is a captain of a small vessel, a vessel barely sea worthy. They are on their way to Spain where he will leave his teenage daughter with his new lady-friend. Eleni is far from pleased. Her father's friends turn out to be brutes, well, all except for one who gets killed tragically in a storm. So when Eleni is out on deck and sees the blue men of the Minch, she is told that everyone on board will die at sea but she'll be allowed to live because she is 'one of them' (aka a Twilight Child). She is told to escape from the ship at the next port which happens to be in Scotland--near the town of Tobermory. She is weak but she manages with the help of some creatures to make it away. And sure enough the rest of the crew are lost at sea a bit later on. She is rescued by a wonderful family and taken into the first real home she's had in a long time. There she meets another child touched by magic.

As Eleni gets used to her new life: meeting new people, regaining strength, learning a new language, making friends, etc. she has to decide where she belongs and who she really is. Is 'home' a place in Finland, a place in Scotland, or a place with her future-husband wherever that may be. As different men pay court to her, she must rely on her heart to lead her to a place she can truly call home.



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