October 28, 2014 by mmileti
It has been a long time since I have read a novel that has the elements and tone of a fairytale, but when reading Lark Rising I was suddenly transported back to my youth when my mother would read to me out of the big book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Lark Rising is being labeled as YA, but it felt much more like a middle grade novel, and I would definitely not recommend it to adults looking for an epic fantasy, as the characters and plot are oversimplified, and the battle between good and evil in the story is strictly black and white, containing not a single shade of grey. However, this is a novel that would be perfect for a middle school or high school student, especially one that is looking for an introduction into the epic fantasy genre. Despite its simplicity, it is a fun story and an easy read, with plenty of imaginative elements and a tone that will transport you straight into the fairy tales of childhood.
The story follows Lark Carew, a sixteen-year-old girl who possesses the Sight. She lives a simple life, tending her garden and always staying close to home, until one day her Sight reveals that the monsters known as Troths will soon invade her village. Lark is chosen to go on a journey to find the legendary Riders of Tarnec and ask for their help, but little does she suspect that one of the riders is a boy she has seen in her visions; a boy that the Sight has told her she will fall in love with. Unfortunately the Sight has also told her that one day this boy will kill her. Suddenly Lark’s world changes from the simple pleasures of life in her village to the burden of saving her home from ultimate destruction. For Lark is the Guardian of Life, and it is up to her to find her own inner strength and keep her world in Balance.
Lark’s tale is very typical for an epic fantasy, and she almost follows the concept of “Hero’s Journey” to the letter. Though this novel is filled with common fantasy tropes, it is still a fast paced and easy read that would be a perfect introduction to the fantasy genre. I would also recommend this novel to any fantasy fan who is looking for a nostalgic excursion to the bedtime stories of their youth, where good and evil clash, politics are absent, and a walk into the dark woods is never as simple as it sounds.
If, however, you are looking for a book that contains depth, nuance, and character development, I would not recommend Lark Rising. This is the kind of story where the details and fine distinctions do not make an impact on the plot. For example, the ecologist in me cringed when Lark took a day and a half to walk through numerous distinctive ecosystems: grasslands, woodland, swamp and mountains high enough to have snow on them. In addition, the fact that an entire Kingdom being hidden and completely secret from villages that were with in a few days walk makes no sense politically or geographically. But that is how fairy tales are told. If we let ourselves put aside the details and tell us a story that will take us away to a magical land, then we can read a story with the eyes of the innocent. This is nice to do sometimes; be transported to a place without the complications of moral ambiguity, petty cruelty, and ambition. Seriously though, this is not a novel for any reader looking for an intellectual or challenging read. You must be able to sit back and let the protagonist make mistakes that would have been obvious to avoid and not worry about the reasons the “bad guys” are evil (they just are, OK?). Lark Rising should definitely be labeled as a middle grade novel, but it will be a fun, fast paced, and easy read for anyone looking for a simple tale of magic and adventure.
My rating: 6.5/10
I received a copy of this book from Random House Children’s Books in return for an honest review.