The City in the Lake
by Rachel Neumeier
Timou is the daughter of the mage Kapoen, growing up in a small, remote village. Timou never knew her mother; Kapoen brought her from the city as a baby with no explanation. Unlike her father and the other villagers, Timou is fair and pale, with light hair and pale eyes.
Under Kapoen’s tutelage, Timou is learning to be a mage, to find the stillness which is the heart of magecraft. But when Timou is around Jonas, a young man recently moved to the village, she has difficulty finding the stillness, because of the confusion he causes in her heart.
Far from the village, past the great forest, is the City. The City is the heart of the kingdom, and the King is the heart of the City. But the King’s younger son and heir has disappeared, taking the heart of the City with him. In Timou’s village, the effect of the disappearance is felt when babies, both animal and human, start to be stillborn. Kapoen sets off to the City to try to help, warning Timou not to follow him no matter what happens. But when Kapoen doesn’t come back, Timou ignores his warning and sets off to find her father.
The City in the Lake is an immensely satisfying book heavy with myth, metaphor, and symbol. It’s beautifully written book with a fairy-tale feel but more depth than a fairy tale. It draws on myth and folklore for some of the imagery and elements, yet it’s a wholly original tale.
This isn’t a book that all teens will appreciate. I know teens that will love it, but I also know teens that will find the long symbolic passages of wandering through the forest to be boring. This is a book for teens (and adults) who love rich language, good writing, and depth of plot and characterization, but who don’t need action around every turn. There is excitement, and suspense, and conflict, but it’s not a fast-paced book.
It was also a pleasure to read a book that is complete in itself; so many of the books that I’ve read lately leave plot threads unresolved to set up for a sequel.