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Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood
Meredith Ann Pierce
Viking Children's Books, 184 pages

Rafal Oblinski
Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood
Meredith Ann Pierce
Meredith Ann Pierce is the author of a number of award-winning fantasy novels for young adults, including the Darkangel Trilogy, the Firebringer Trilogy, and The Woman Who Loved Reindeer. She received both a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Florida, and an M.L.S. from Florida State University, and spends her days as a librarian. Her hobbies include composing music and playing the harp. She lives in the woods south of Micanopy, Florida, in a house powered by solar energy.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

Highly-regarded young adult writer Meredith Ann Pierce makes a welcome return to the field in this, her first novel in five years.

Brown Hannah lives at the edge of the Tanglewood, a dark, trackless forest surrounded by barren moors. According to the peasants who eke a meager existence at the Tanglewood's edges, a great treasure lies at the forest's heart, though none of them know what the treasure is. Mounted knights come from faraway to seek it, riding into the wood as if bespelled, never returning. Only Hannah knows the truth: there's no treasure in the Tanglewood, just the powerful wizard she has served ever since she can remember. This is the way it's always been, and she doesn't question it, any more than she questions why she has always lived alone with only animals for companions, or why she can understand the speech of birds and beasts, or why green shoots and flowers grow in her hair.

Then Hannah finds one of the questing knights in the forest, badly wounded but alive. As she nurses him back to health, she discovers the rewards of human companionship, and for the first time begins to wonder about her strange existence. She challenges the wizard and wins her freedom, but at a price: the young knight is transformed into a fox. Determined to restore his human shape, Hannah sets out into the world she has never seen, on a journey of discovery and transformation. She becomes Green Hannah, behind whom the barren earth blooms into spring, and then Golden Hannah, who turns spring into summer, and then Russet Hannah, who draws the seasons to a close. There, at her journey's end, she learns the astonishing truth of who she is and where she came from, and the real secret at the Tanglewood's heart.

Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood has the feeling of a myth re-told. Rather than reinterpret a single myth, however, Pierce has drawn on a number of mythic archetypes to assemble a story familiar in many aspects, but as a whole not quite like any other. Hannah herself is a mythic figure, with supernatural power and significance that are clear from the start; but she's also appealingly human, in her bewilderment at the unwilled changes she undergoes, and her fear that she will never find a place within a world she doesn't understand. Just what her place is, and how important, will probably be clear to the reader long before it is to Hannah, who for most of the book remains oblivious to the signs and powers that reveal the truth of her nature. But the mystery isn't so much Hannah herself as how she came to be, and there's surprise enough in that to make for a satisfying conclusion.

Written in a lyrical, high-fantasy prose style that perfectly suits the story, Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood is a feast of luminous imagery, calling to mind Pre-Raphaelite paintings or those of Botticelli -- especially once Hannah moves out into the world, bringing the changing seasons with her. An elegant, magical tale that's not just for younger readers.

Copyright © 2001 Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel The Garden of the Stone is currently available from HarperCollins EOS. For details, visit her website.

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