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14 May 2012 @ 11:47 pm
Warped by Maurissa Guibord  
Publisher: Delacorte, 2011
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-genre: Alternate history/time travel, YA
Rating: 3 1/2 pint of blood

The cover looks crazy busy until you realize the book involves a magical tapestry, which is what all the flowery detail is meant to represent. Admittedly, I haven't seen the cover art in person, since I read the e-book version, but I'm really not crazy about the face overtop of the tapestry. There's just too much going on for me to find it appealing. I do like the idea of working the tapestry into the cover art, but there are more eye-catching ways to do this. I mean, there are a ton of possibilities to use the colours and textures of a tapestry to really make the cover stand out from all the other YA novels, but overwhelming the eye with too much detail just makes me want to pass over it.

So why did I read the thing? Well, it caught my attention in that it was nominated for this year's RITAs. With the plethora of YA novels out there right now, it really takes a fantastic book to stand out from all the other offerings, right? Also, the idea of a magical tapestry sounded really different, something that hasn't already been done to death in YA, and when you get the Fates involved, how could I not give this one a shot?

Ever since her mother died in a car crash a few years ago, it's been just Tessa and her father. They keep themselves busy at the quiet bookstore he runs until one day he finds himself in possession of a box full of old and rare books... and a tapestry. The tapestry is definitely out of their expertise, but it looks ancient, and something about it calls to Tessa. She finds herself fascinated by it, and although the unicorn in the centre of it makes her a bit uncomfortable, she hangs it up on her bedroom wall.

She discovers pretty quickly the tapestry is more than it appears when pulling a stray thread makes a young 16th century nobleman suddenly show up in her bedroom. Now free after having been trapped inside the tapestry for hundreds of years, William de Chaucy is in more danger than ever, since not only is the witch who put him inside the tapestry in the first place keen on getting him back in there to continue extending her unnaturally long life, but the Fates want to sort out the damage to their weaving that his "thread" being in the wrong time period has done.

Caught in the middle of everything, Tessa isn't sure what to do. She's never believed in magic or fate, and now not only is she dealing directly with a vindictive witch and the Fates themselves, but she has the most disconcerting feeling that her destiny is somehow woven together with de Chaucy's.

The Fates in this story are really an amalgamation of the Greek mythological deities and the Germanic Norns, with the three women both protecting Yggdrasill and weaving lives in an enormous and intricate tapestry, but they don't share the names from either version of mythology. Why? I really couldn't say. Greek mythology names them Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos (the Romans called them Nona, Decima, and Morta); the three most important Norns were Urðr (or Wyrd), Verðandi and Skuld. Look, even Disney's Hercules kept the Greek names for the Fates, in spite of all the huge amounts of mythological inaccuracies and edits they let slip in. In Warped, however, the Fates are Spyn, Weavyr, and Scytha, which you could argue are very loose English interpretations of the Greek names with funky spellings, and they referred to their tapestry on the whole as Wyrd, since the name Wyrd means Fate. But once again, I have to wonder... why?

Alright, I'm nitpicking. Names and strange choice of amalgamation aside, I actually found the depiction of the Fates to be interesting. When threads from their weaving are misplaced, it changes the entire tapestry and they are willing to do anything require to fix it. They don't see people as individuals, they really just see the threads that are part of the whole, and their focus on the big picture is so intent it never occurs to them that people might have feelings about how the events caused by their manipulation of the threads in the weaving affects lives. It was a suitably "alien" mindset for a trio of deities far removed from any interaction with anyone or anything aside from each other and their weaving. Their slow and deliberate unravelling of Tessa's life in order to get her to comply with their orders is wonderful.

The villain, witch Gray Lily, is perhaps not a particularly complex character, but strong and interesting nonetheless. She's so desperate to maintain her immortality and eternal youth that she's willing to do anything to get Will back into the tapestry. Thwarting the will of the Fates doesn't bother her. On the contrary, it's an extra perk, and while her explanation of her motivations may have smacked a bit of standard villain monologue, it makes her by far the most interesting character in the book.

Which is where the problems come in. It doesn't have to be problematic that the villain is more interesting than the hero and heroine, unless it's because said hero and heroine are dull. And in this case, yes, yes they are. Neither Tessa or Will stand out in any way, and in Will's case that's really a shame because you'd think someone displaced from the 16th century would be something a little different from the standard YA fare. But while he spends a scene or two being fascinated by modern inventions (but not scared of them, merely fascinated in a childlike way because we need him to remain charming), that's about the extent of his old-fashioned behaviour. He doesn't speak differently, he doesn't think differently, he doesn't act differently. He's just a modern kid in funny clothes, and not a particularly memorable one at that.

Tessa's grief over her mother was poignantly drawn and had a sense of realism to it that I appreciated, but that seemed to be the only attempt to give her character any sense of depth at all. Nearly everything that happens in the book is something that happens to her, not something that she causes to happen. She doesn't have any particular chemistry with any of the other characters, including the guy whom destiny has allegedly brought to her. Her character and the relationship between the two of them is very standard YA fare, almost paint by numbers. Which is a shame, because Warped started with some very interesting ideas and had a lot of potential before it thwarted itself with relying on overly popular tropes, making it merely a decent read instead of the really good book it could have been.

Warped is available in trade paperback.
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in_excelsis_deain_excelsis_dea on May 15th, 2012 05:58 am (UTC)
I don't get how an author can write a character from the 16th century set into modern times and treat him like a normal modern teenager. I mean, that's going to be a HUGE culture shock. And, okay, if he's relatively familiar with magic, then it might not be as horrible as someone who doesn't believe in magic (and likely thinks it's the work of the devil, since hey, 16th century witch burnings anyone?). But still...that's going to be a huge issue for him, I imagine. His family is gone, women have rights, modern technology, dressing styles, and hey, didn't they even speak a nigh-understandable version of English back then? So...like, how are they communicating, unless it's by magic?

Man, the plot actually sounds kind of interesting, and I can think of so many ways this could be awesome, but from what you've said I don't know if I want to give it a shot or not...
Anna_ocelott_ on May 15th, 2012 06:05 am (UTC)
Yeah, there's really no culture shock at all. Will doesn't even bat an eye at Tessa wearing jeans. Aside from a couple of things like cars or streetlights, there's no sign that he's been displaced from another time period.
garnigalgarnigal on May 15th, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
I love YA fantasy - have you tried Lesley Livingstone? I really enjoyed Once Every Never, and it's also about time travel. But this time the heroine goes back in time, instead of the hero coming forward.
Anna_ocelott_ on May 15th, 2012 04:09 pm (UTC)
I've read her Wondrous Strange and really enjoyed it (and I currently have Darklight in my TBR pile) but I haven't read Once Every Never. I'll have to give it a look!