Review: Girl of Myth and Legend
[I received a free copy of “Girl of Myth and Legend” by Giselle Simlett in exchange for my honest review.]
Trigger warning: This book includes descriptions of suicide and its effects.
The concept of “Girl of Myth and Legend” is fascinating: What happens when a completely ordinary teen is actually a being of magic—and the last, great hope of another realm?
Leonie Woodville seems to be a normal, if isolated, teenage girl. She goes to school. She fights with her dad. She gets slobbered on by her dog, Pegasus. She has a comfortable routine to her days that keeps her shielded from a traumatic event in her past: school, home, homework, videogames—that is, until everything changes.
Her magic develops, intensely, overwhelming, and completely unexpectedly. Suddenly, she’s being told that she is a Pulsar—the first in generations—and that she will command a great role in some realm she’s never heard of before.
Leonie starts out with little agency; her father hides her true identity from her. She’s taken to Duwyn, where people attempt to mould her into the form they think she should take. She’s told she is being protected for her own good, but is that really true? As the book goes on, though, Leonie takes more and more control of her own actions—to mixed results.
She finds herself caught in between the old guard of her new home, the Imperium, and violent dissidents seeking to overthrow the old order and create something new in the ashes.
The narrative switches back and forth between Leonie, who is Chosen, and her kytaen, Korren. Kytaen are beings created specifically to serve, and their treatment is abysmal. They are seen as a mix of pets and weapons, despite their sentience. Kytaen are meant to protect their Chosen and are soul-bound to their masters. But because Leonie was raised on Earth, she doesn’t treat Korren as an animal; instead, she insists on treating him as if he was a person—albeit one that can transform into a creature made of flame. Kytaen are immortal; Korren has served more than 300 Chosen in his 2,000 years of existence. Through Leonie, we get to see the injustice of this. And because we also get to peek inside Korren’s head, we get to see his reaction. He doesn’t understand her or why she acts the way she does, and he has plans that do not include whatever destiny the Chosen have for their Pulsar.
Now, Chosen come in four flavors: Zeros, who have little-to-no magic; Phobien, who have a moderate amount of magic; Thrones, who are powerful and influential magic users; and the rare and godlike Pulsar.
The reader learns about Duwyn and the Chosen and this world at the same time as Leonie; having her come from the same world we inhabit was a deft bit of writing, allowing Leonie to ask the same sorts of questions the reader would have and to show the same sort of wonder we experience as we move through the world.
The centerpiece of the story, though, is the relationship between Korren and Leonie. It is so well portrayed: the give and take, the begrudging respect that slowly develops between them, the way it builds. Neither of them acts the way society dictates. As a Pulsar, Leonie should be calm, restrained, and in control of her emotions; instead, she’s temperamental, explosive, and feels things deeply. Korren should be a thing, little better than an obedient pet, but he longs to get vengeance on the Chosen for what they’ve done to him and to his people.
It’s not all perfect; sometimes author Giselle Simlett gets dialogue so spot on, so perfect, that it makes it easy to keep reading page after page and live completely in this fascinating world she’s created. Sometimes, though, it feels like an adult trying to mimic the way teens talk, and it’s jarring, mostly because of how good the voice is the majority of the time. At times, Leonie can be too self-aware; how many teens admit their moodiness comes from the hormones that come along with puberty?
But it’s easy to forgive because of just how immense and deep the world is. I got the sense that Simlett thought a lot about the realms she created: not only what they looked like and how they differed from the world we inhabit but also the people who lived there, the societal stratification, how the magic worked, and why things happen the way they do.
There is so much diversity here; women and people of color move seamlessly throughout the narrative. They are weak and strong, ambitious and loyal, angry and patient; in short, they reflect the diversity of people in the real world. Sexual and gender diversity are not addressed, however.
Still, the book is charming and funny and filled with emotion; it made me laugh out loud and shed more than a few tears. All in all, this is a world I want to see more of, and I’d definitely recommend picking it up if you like magic, alternate realities, and intriguing plot devices. I want to know what happens next, and I would definitely pick up the next entry in this series.