This might have been a perfect book, if the author hadn’t been struck by Profundity Syndrome (more on this later). As it is, it’s a damn good book. Aslaug has spent her first fifteen years living alone with her mother in a house with no electricity or hot water – or mirrors. They almost never go anywhere except to forage for plants, which they use for food and medicine. Aslaug’s mother won’t tell her who her father is.

Madapple moves quickly from Aslaug’s mysterious childhood to issues of religion, control, family, love, and herbology – lots of herbology. Really cool herbology, complete with etymology of plant names and uses in folk medicine and magic. Told in alternating chapters of first-person narrative and court transcripts from Aslaug’s murder trial, it keeps the reader from being entirely sure what’s going on, and that’s a wonderful thing. The revelations develop organically, and it all falls into place with an amazing, well-timed precision.

Oh, and it revolves around virgin birth.

So why is it not perfect? Because after 400 pages of awesome, the 401st turns into a lecture on why what we just read is profound and what we should have gotten out of it. I hate it when authors do that. If you did your job right, you don’t need to give us the lecture. And if you didn’t do your job right, we’re not going to appreciate it no matter what.

Still, a trite final page isn’t nearly enough to make this anything less than an amazing book.