Life on Gullstruck Island is smoothed by the Lost: capable of detaching their senses from their bodies and sending them far afield, they watch for incoming storms, carry messages across the island, and otherwise make themselves useful. The Lost are few and far between, and then, abruptly and without explanation, something happens to them.
Except for Arilou. The only Lost born in two centuries to the Lace, a tribe neither trusting of nor trusted by the Towners or the other tribes,¹ Arilou is the pride of her poor village. With her mind so often out of her body, her body is cared for by her younger sister, Hathin; Hathin makes sure she eats, makes sure she doesn’t get sunburned or hurt, and translates the words her too-little-used tongue garbles. But here’s the kicker: no one is entirely sure if Arilou really is Lost, or if she’s just an imbecile.
Lost or imbecile, the village has touted her as their Lady Lost for thirteen years, and with the other Lost gone, the Towners turn on her and her village. So Hathin must take her sister and run, searching for help and for answers.
It’s a really good book. The writing is deceptively straightforward, telling its tale simply but effectively, covering a variety of tricky issues without losing sight of the story being told. It delicately explores the way reasonable people are transformed into a mob, how scapegoating happens, how seeds of truth get buried in generation of myth, and, most potently, the way someone who has been ignored and undervalued comes to ignore and undervalue herself. Hathin is a great character, embodying bravery and determination, but also petty jealousy and insecurity. She brings the sparkling writing and well-developed, entertaining world to life.
²Not entirely without reason; the Lace did kidnap and murder a mess of townspeople two hundred years ago, and the Towners did retaliate by killing all the Lace priests and Lost.