The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti
This is a stunning debut novel that will have your heart beating fast for many reasons. Frenenqer was created in the brain of her father, the perfect girl. So she tries to be exactly that for him by following his long list of rules about how to hold her fork, close doors silently, and never embarrass the family. But she can also feel the absence of wings on her back, as if she had been meant to have them all along but instead she has the pressure of her father’s finger there. Her life is lonely and dull, not even allowed to walk outside on her own in the oasis where they live surrounded by desert. Everything changes though when she rescues the dying cat in the market, against her father’s wishes. That dull lump of fur turns out to be a boy who can shapeshift, who can fly and who can show her new worlds and remembered places. As their relationship grows into something beyond friendship, Frenenqer has to face her own life of isolation and her part in her father’s controlling ways.
Rossetti’s writing is magnificent. She creates such a sense of claustrophobia in Frenenqer’s life, such a world of stifling expectation, lack of humanity and perfectionism. That feeling is amplified by the setting of the oasis, limiting even further her options of a different sort of life. When her rescuer arrives he represents breaking those rules, throwing them aside, and a freedom that she had never dreamed of. Here is where Rossetti makes a choice that sets her book apart from others. Frenenqer does not tumble easily into that freedom, she fights it, struggles with it, and almost rejects it. And it all makes wonderful sense.
Frenenqer is a unique character. She is a mix of world traveler and solitary reader. She yearns for freedom and shuns it. She longs to be touched but rejects that too. She is shown love of a new sort and doesn’t know what to do with it. She is beyond brave but also terrified. She is certainly abused mentally by her father, ignored by her mother, but also defies them in small ways that show you she is not cowed by them yet. She is pure and lovely complexity that works.
Beautifully written, wonderfully sculpted, this novel is a fresh look at fantasy from a new author. Appropriate for ages 13-16.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.