Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book Review: Sorrow's Knot

Sorrow's Knot
By: Erin Bow
Reported by: Julianna Helms
Source: ARC via Scholastic (ugh I love you guys thank you <33)

In the world of Sorrow’s Knot, the dead do not rest easy. Every patch of shadow might be home to something hungry and nearly invisible, something deadly. The dead can only be repelled or destroyed with magically knotted cords and yarns. The women who tie these knots are called binders.

Otter is the daughter of Willow, a binder of great power. She’s a proud and privileged girl who takes it for granted that she will be a binder some day herself. But when Willow’s power begins to turn inward and tear her apart, Otter finds herself trapped with a responsibility she’s not ready for, and a power she no longer wants.


-Summary from Goodreads
Purchase: Mrs. Nelson's (support my local indie store!) || Barnes & Noble || Amazon || Book Depository

Sorrow's Knot is a woeful, poetic tale with a dew-dazzling quality to it, hypnotic in rhythm and unrelenting in emotions. Erin Bow's writing is beautifully quiet, with words stringed together like charms on a bracelet without ever stealing the story away from its original purpose: to give us some sense of hope, of peace and serenity, even when we know that not all is well.

I think what Sorrow's Knot does exceptionally well is its delicate balance of romanticizing sacrifice and spearing freedom. It raises such profound questions, and in a way that never makes you feel as if its suffocating you with its morality. How free is freedom, and how far are we allowed to go to protect freedom before we've gone too far? Is sacrifice a smudge of weakness or is it heroic and insurmountable?

Besides the phenomenally crafted themes and writing of the book, the worldbuilding is superb as well. The world is reminiscent of Native American culture, and some parts of it reminds me of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart (Evil Forest, etc.). But that's not to say the world is a parody; if it is based on any sort of Native American or African culture at all, it is safe to say that Sorrow's Knot is more of a corollary, a refining of such traditions rather than an imitation. And the world is rich and believable and immersive, and it's almost impossible to not forget yourself when you're wallowing in lakes with Otter or hiking through mazes of crooked branches.

The characters, finally, are commendable for their depth and realism. Though they live in a world so completely different from ours, there never was a doubt in my mind that they weren't fleshed out. Every character had its own identity and even the most seething, hateful ones had qualities that allowed us to glimpse their humanity. It is truly remarkable, how incredible each character is developed.

Read this book. There's nothing else I can say but ask you to read it. It is, quite simply, breathtaking.
starred review
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