FAR HARBOR
Melisa Michaels


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Embiid Publishing, 1989
Review by Joy Calderwood

Young Adult Science Fiction

Would you name your child Ugly Starling? Thatís what the Starling family named the baby girl the government of Paradise asked them to raise, after an earthquake on the planet Freehold left so many children lost and without families. Until Ugly grew older, it wasnít even clear whether she was human or of the People, the dispossessed race who used to rule both Freehold and Paradise. When Ugly, at age 20, is being beaten yet again by her foster father, she finally strikes back with her inhuman strength. She flees thinking she has killed him. The Starlings feel it is safer to let her go.

They arenít allowed to. High King Arkos of the People is searching for one special person, lost in the earthquake. You see, the People work in pairs. At puberty, it becomes necessary for them to be matched with one particular mate or they will not be able to function adequately, much less use their magical powers. The Kingís son Prince Hawke has a very special destiny which he will not be able to fulfill without his mate. Ugly, disappeared into the wilderness, is that mate. It is up to Ugly, aided by unexpected friends and her own developing self-reliance, to make this destiny possible.

Author Melisa Michaels has made good use of two popular themes of teen fiction: Orphan finds a home and place in the world, and the Ugly Duckling story. The alien race of the People are heartwarming in their acceptance and self-knowledge, and especially in the constant companionship that is their way of life. Mysterious cats oversee and guide the lives of those in whom the Goddess takes an interest. The crystals used as tools by Ugly and Hawke convey a sense of magic by their loveliness. Many a solitary teenager will instantly adopt, as an imaginary haven, the beautifully described settings of nature where Ugly takes refuge in her travels.

There is a subtle Hawaiian flavor to FAR HARBOR. It is in the lush countryside, the dispossessed People and the imposing dignity of their royal family, and the beauty of the Crystal Goddess, bringing her wisdom to bear in the affairs of her People. It is also in the conquering human race, with the harshness of the Starling family standing for the missionary civilization which took over Hawaii. Michaels does not make a social issue of this. She is more interested in the effect it has on Ugly personally.

FAR HARBOR has several valuable themes which will make parents glad to see their teens reading this ebook: the balancing of self-reliance and cooperation, faith and responsibility, self respect and respect for others, practicality and appreciation for nature. All this is wrapped in a richness that is rare for teen fiction. I highly recommend FAR HARBOR.

Mar 2003 Review Originally Published by WOR

 

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