Book Review: The Girl from the Rune Yard, Eric Guindon (2014)

May 19th, 2014 1:52 pm by Kelly Garbato

A Pleasant Surprise!

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Member Giveaways program.)

Filled with runic metals from the Time Before, the Rune Yard – the center of Kyria’s existence, so tantalizingly close yet still beyond her reach – is a place of mystery. Peril. Taboos and dark magic.

When she was just ten years old, a man died in the yard; Kyria watched the other workers carry his lifeless body out on an improvised stretcher. When she was sixteen, Kyria burrowed under the fence separating the Yard from the ramshackle house occupied by her family; once inside, she had a near-death experience of her own.

All her life, she’s felt a strong connection to the Rune Yard. Sometimes Kyria can even hear it whispering to her. Yet, until that fateful night when the metals came crashing down on her, Kyria’s parents forbid her from working in the Yard, or even entering it. After that brush with death, Kyria’s father decided it would be best to train the headstrong young girl to run the Yard, since it was clear that she’d find her way in anyway.

Kryia and her family – father Frawn and mother Santha – are treated like pariahs for their work with these artifacts of a society long since collapsed. But this doesn’t stop scavengers from bringing them runic metals for trade, or customers paying the Rune Yard laborers to handle sheets of ancient metal as needed. Nor does it deter the so-called “tax collectors” from squeezing them of their profits. “For protection,” they say.

The Rune Yard is a dangerous place. But not quite as dangerous as the world outside.

One awful day, the bandits ride in from Groandel to raise the Rune Yard’s taxes. An argument escalates quickly among the armed men, and Frawn is murdered in a shootout. Kyria manages to escape to the safety of the Yard – which even the bandits dare not enter – but her mother is kidnapped in Kyria’s place. Kyria makes a promise to her dead father as she labors and then mourns over his shallow grave:

I will find the bandits.
They will pay.
I will find their leader.
He will suffer.
I will find my mother.
I will free her.

With no small amount of help from a rune-mind named Haylem (he lives under the Yard, yo!), Kyria travels to Groandel, where she takes on a local scourge known as the Hex and Star.

A delightful blend of science fiction and fantasy, The Girl from the Rune Yard is a fun (if sometimes harrowing) story about a spunky young heroine who quite reminds me of Lyra Silvertongue (from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials; best series ever!). Brave but foolhardy, Kyria is a curious girl with a hungry mind. The only way to stop her from endangering herself in the Rune Yard, Frawn realizes, is to allow her inside. (“Maybe you should teach me, if you want me to stop being ignorant,” she scolds Frawn after nearly dying in the Yard.)

And yet. It didn’t seem like Kyria’s voice matured all that much between the ages of ten and seventeen. I had trouble distinguishing teenage Kyria from child Kyria, and thus often found myself picturing her as a precocious twelve-year-old throughout most of the story. Then again, Kyria has led a rather isolated life, so perhaps her naivety is easily explained by her upbringing.

The only thing I didn’t much care for is Mikken, a security guard who accosts Kyria upon her entrance into the city, attempts to monopolize her time, and then – upon hearing her sad tale – won’t take no for an answer when she declines his help. He disappears from the story rather abruptly when Kryia knocks him out with her rune-blaster, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion that we’ll see more of him in later installations. I think Mikken is meant to be a well-meaning, likable guy, but he feels like such a quintessential Nice Guy that he immediately made my stomach turn.

When a lady’s on a mission of vengeance, the last thing she wants to do is fend off your romantic overtures, mkay?

Anyway, the material is pretty tame; rape is hinted at as a possibility, but never comes to pass. Despite the seemingly grave nature of Kyria’s business, she only murders one person – this ain’t no Kill Bill – and she and Haylem spend more time discussing the ethics of revenge killings than shedding blood.

At just 139 pages, The Girl from the Rune Yard is a shortish read that moves along at a steady clip. Plus there’s a pretty excellent cliffhanger that will leave you wanting more.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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