More than anything, Liara just wants to belong. As an orphan “fey” child in the seventeenth century, Liara has been a ward of the Church for ten of her sixteen years. Grateful to be taken in and cared for by Father Phenlick, she knows most of the villagers want her gone.
The product of a rape by a magical creature, Liara is imbued with magic and in many ways is magic itself. The powerful wizard who created the creatures responsible for the attack during the attack on the valley, knows nothing of her existence. Father Phenlick enlisted the help of Nagareth, the wizard of the woods, to shield Liara and the village from further assaults all while outlawing the very power he is secretly trusting.
At St. Sophia, Liara is safe until she steals from the village busybody. When Liara’s extensive hidden stash is discovered in a “magicked” hollow tree, the Venetian soldiers who protect the valley force Father Phenlick to ostracize Liara. Abandoned by even her friends, Liara is taken in by Nagareth, who promises Phenlick that he will not teacher Liara his craft. Liara begs Nagareth for magical instruction, but he only allows her to care for his extensive magical library. Gradually, Nagareth sees great potential in his new ward, but when everyone in Dvigard is killed by a mysterious plague, he begins to fear that he can’t protect her from her powerful creator who will want her powers for his own if she is discovered.
Liara cannot see the danger around her, and as her own magical knowledge grows through her maintenance of Nagareth’s books, her only goal is to exact revenge against her father. As her abilities grow so does her anger and confusion at the only person standing between her and her destruction.
Liara is a complex, dynamic character. Her history gives her more than normal teenage problems. Liara’s mother was driven crazy by the rape and was never able to truly care for or love Liara, leaving Liara to the cruelty of the villagers. Without Father Phenlick, Liara would never have survived, and though he tries to give her a home, he isn’t able to fill the emptiness deep within her. Liara desperately needs something and somewhere of her own, which is why she steals–to fill her life with things that are her own. In creating her hollow-tree hiding place, she creates that place where she isn’t afraid to be herself. Though she is unaware of her own magic, it is as much a part of her as her history.
In the beginning, all Liara wants is to grow that power. She desires the very thing others accuse her of having to give her what she has never had, but it’s a double-edged sword. She is hated for her supposed abilities even before she shows evidence of magic, but when she finds the magic she wants so badly, it will define her. She wants others to see she has feelings and dreams, but in the very thing she wants most, this undeniable power, people will see only that. She limits herself to this magical creature, and that drive quickly becomes an obsession. Only too late does she see Nagarath’s minimal use of magic isn’t a waste. She almost allows her prejudiced idea that magic should be grandiose to cloud the important lesson she learns about living simply, living for love and not power. As she grows through her relationship with Nagareth, she learns what magic should truly be.
The evolving bond between Liara and Nagareth is a beautiful story. Only nine years Liara’s senior, Nagareth sees Liara as a child in the beginning, but over the novel’s development, he begins to see Liara as a true companion. The joy she brings to his life, the peace she makes him feel, even though she annoyingly begs him to teach her magic, becomes invaluable to the lonely wizard.
He wants to make sure she has a life of stability, not fear. As he opens himself up more and more, he becomes her friend. He realizes she has given him more than he has returned and relents in his promise not to teach her. Nagareth grows as much as his precious ward.
The Bookminder won 1st Place in the CIBA 2017 OZMA Awards for Fantasy Fiction.