Summary (from Amazon): When Chalice sets off for Branbury in the middle of the night with her grandfather's instructions, she has no idea of the dangers that await her. The King's men have destroyed her home village of Canton and she is suddenly thrown into a Terravailian world that she does not know. Lost and alone, she is hard pressed to evade the iron grasp of the madman who rules the land. With the help of a friendly Chinuk, an old man, and a book that she discovers along the way, not only does she find true friends and true love, but she also finds her true self and what it means to be the Raie'Chaelia.
I have not picked up a YA novel since Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer so The Raie'Chaelia was very unexpected.
To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by The Raie'Chaelia (say that five times fast!), instead of a young love story that overshadowed a bigger plot, it was the reverse. The book starts off with an ominous tone and by the end of the first few pages, the reader is left with the questions "Who, What, Where and How?"
Chalice is a sweet character, young of course, full of questions of her past that she was so close to finding out when her village was attacked and she was forced to flee to another village far away. Alone with only her horse and her unanswered questions for months, Chalice has plenty of time to think of what may have happened to her village, family and friends as well as why her family kept her past, including who her parents were, hidden from her. It was interesting to watch her grow from a young, carefree teen, into a cautious, wiser young lady, and to see her start to fall in love with her childhood friend Jeremiah, who seems to be the only inhabitant of the village of Branbury.
I have to hand it to Melissa Douthit, she created such imagery with this book that it made it hard to put down. The descriptions of places and people were so vivid that I could almost see the forests Chalice traveled through, Branbury and even the mysterious Chinuka. It really was like watching a movie unfold in my mind.
While reading The Raie'Chaelia, I was reminded of The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey which I read as a young adult. It has the same fantasy feel and can be a bit confusing to readers who aren't very good at remembering names, places and family lines. However, I find that sometimes using Google to sort things out can make it much easier. Or a simple pen and paper to take notes. This separates the serious readers from the readers who are just passing time until their favorite show comes on.
Douthit's grasp of the fantasy genre is strong, her understanding of how creating languages for your characters can make or break a story and thankfully, it made this one. The introduction to several words in different languages made the story that much more believable.
What was a little odd, in my opinion was the inconsistency of the names. Here you have a fantasy novel and you definitely expect names like Chalice, Kirna and Tycho but you don't expect common names like Jeremiah and Ben. It kind of made me stop in the middle of envisioning scenes and go "Jeremiah? Ben? Really?" But perhaps I'm just finicky that way.
Being a YA novel, I expected it to be similar to many of the others of its genre that you can find in stores and in some ways it is. Chalice is a teenager after all and she's going to behave like one, she may even have you rolling your eyes at her at times (I know I did), but what teenager, myself included, didn't elicit that reaction from passing adults?
Overall, a very enjoyable read if I do say so in a slightly surprised voice. I'll be adding the rest of the series to my TBR pile.