In this lush, brutal fairy tale, Tasmanian author Robbie Arnott (Flames) imagines a new mythical creature inspired by climate change and vulnerable to human greed.
Five years after fleeing into the mountains to outrun a coup, Ren lives off the land and trades with locals who ask no questions. Her solitude breaks when a band of soldiers come to the mountain and ask her to lead them to the fabled rain heron, "a bird made of water" described in legends with "cold rain spraying from its wings, the moon shining clear and bright through its feathers." Fearing for the bird's safety, Ren refuses, but harsh young Lieutenant Harker has her own cruel methods of persuasion. In a time before the coup, a girl named Zoe learns to lure squid with her blood for their valuable ink, but when an outsider arrives wanting the secrets of the ink trade, tragedy ensues. Ren's and Zoe's stories intersect in surprising ways in this struggle of conservation versus exploitation.
Drenched in natural imagery, Arnott's vivid descriptive passages give readers a realistic world with enough wonder left to make a fit home for a creature out of a fable. While the heron is Arnott's original creation, it feels as ancient and established as a unicorn. Ren's painful but heroic efforts to protect it will win readers' sympathies, and the unexpected notes of hope and redemption for multiple characters in the finale bring a memorable and satisfying sense of closure. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads