While The Tales of Tarya trilogy is presented as a fantasy for Young Adults, I think it’s an engrossing read for anyone aged 109 or under fascinated by that most mysterious thing, the act or the moment of creativity. What happens to artists, writers, composers, as they disappear into “where the magic happens”? Do they go to another place entirely? Do they go to Tarya? The Tales will especially appeal, I think, to anyone who has stepped on a stage and entered that terrifying in-between moment being being oneself and playing the role.
‘Thunder rolled heavily as Mina neared her house, her steps weighed down by the endless years ahead, fulfilling everyone’s needs but her own.’
Mina’s quiet days consist of helping her family, particularly Uncle Tonio who had some sort of breakdown years before. She had enlivened her hours by telling stories but her father forced her to stop – he feared them for some reason.
Players arrive in her backcountry town of Andon in Litonya. The disturbing Harlequin invites Mina to join the troupe. She accepts in the hope of learning what happened to her brother who had disappeared years before. Her father now reveals that her story telling is a special gift: she can call visions into being with her words.
As the troupe rolls through Litonya in their wagons Mina tests her story telling powers and discovers a mysterious other world called Tarya. But her new friends evade her questions, even Dario to whom she feels attracted . They pass through villages afraid of the Players and some people in them seem to be empty of soul, like Uncle Tonio. She grows more and more uneasy.
Rachel Nightingale looks at the paradox of power. When you can affect the lives of others you could do great good but also unwittingly cause harm. And always there are those who take power for themselves and abuse it anyway.
‘Darkness can come from what seems to help others’.
The descriptions of the other-world of Tarya itself are lyrical, dreamy, haunting. I couldn’t get enough of it. I will never think about creativity again without Tarya in mind.
I recommend also the posts on the website for Rachael Nightingale, novelist, playwright, performer and thespian, where she speaks of the power of story and fantasy in our lives. Readers can learn more there about the Commedia dell’Arte.
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