I have always had a particular fear of stories set in space or deep in the ocean. Characters completely surrounded by a hostile environment, guaranteed death if fragile technology breaks down around them. I can now add "on the Great Plains during a dust storm" to my list of frightening environments, as Zettel's opening chapters were fantastically terrifying. The image of Callie, alone in that crumbling hotel surrounded by magic and creeping dust on all sides, will stick with me for a long time.
Zettel doesn't let up after the first few chapters, either. DUST GIRL weaves The Great Depression into the narrative, and the hobos and desperation and prejudices of the time period become just as strange and foreign as the magic of fairy. Callie has a habit of commenting on her own bad decisions, which I didn't particularly like, but the pacing of each encounter was elegantly wrought. Two parts historical setting and one part fairy tale results in a magical new look at our own world. I particularly loved how Zettel intertwines the racial and religious prejudices of the time period into Callie's pedigree. This comprehensive effort to weave magic into reality breathes new life into both familiar fairy tales and a this part of American history.
A coming of age story that transforms our own world into an exotic moonscape of danger and magic, DUST GIRL delivers on world building and adventure. In DUST GIRL Zettel lays claim to fairy tales and our own history in a way that is as indelible as it was enjoyable. Like the best of stories, Miyazaki's SPIRITED AWAY, Funke's Inkheart, or Pullman's His Dark Materials, DUST GIRL not only entertains, it asks us to take a closer look at the human need to label "us" and "them".
Full review to follow.
Sexual Content: None.