Waer by Meg Caddy
Text Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781922182210
(Age: 12+ ) Highly recommended. Fantasy. Quests. Coming of age. Werewolves. Good and evil. Loyalty. Loss. Love. Shortlist Text Prize. Lowell Sencha is out in the forest when he discovers a young woman almost dead on the riverbank. She is human but she is also waer - able to take on the form of a wolf. Lycaea has run from the cruel tyrant Daeman Leldh, who has tortured her and who despises anyone with waer blood. Lowell's family takes her in, tending her wounds and helping her to recover, but Daeman is determined to find her, and his arrival in the valley leads to death and destruction. Lycea and Lowell, helped by the healer, Moth and her husband Dodge Derry, embark on a quest to bring down the tyrant and regain the Valley.
With a dramatic introduction, sure to grab any reader's interest, Caddy vividly describes a world where a young woman is hunted by ruthless soldiers and where waers exist. In the Valley, the waers have lead a peaceful life, worshipping their gods and helping each other. Daeman brings that to a terrible end and Lowell finds himself leaving with Lycaea, who is struggling with her past and her unwanted waer blood. She is determined to get to the city of Luthan, where she believes she will find help in bringing the tyrant down. Told in alternating chapters, the reader sees the journey through the eyes of Lycaea and Lowell, but also Kaebha, who was the one who tortured people when commanded to do it by Daeman. Lycaea has many hard decisions to make and for her, this is a coming of age story. Lowell has to be one of my favourite male characters in young adult fiction - sensitive, caring and strong and is a perfect foil for Lycaea.
Both young people, Lycaea and Lowell, overcome many obstacles on their path to right the wrongs that Daeman has inflicted on the land. There are major themes of good versus evil, peace versus warfare, loss, grief, loyalty and the betrayal of trust, all of which are handled sensitively by Caddy, and give much for the reader to ponder on. There is also plenty of action as the party travels across the land evading danger.
This would make a good class novel or literature circle novel, with many themes to discuss. Teacher notes are available at the publisher's website.