Patricia McKillip, Moon-Flash (Berkley, 1985)
It's quite gratifying to revisit books from one's childhood. Actually, it can be gratifying or disastrous. I'm pleased to say it was the former for me with Patricia A. McKillip's Moon-Flash. Originally published by Argo Books in 1984, Moon-Flash is one of a duology, though this first book is absolutely readable as a stand-alone novel.
I recently read McKillip's The House on Parchment Street and was disappointed, mainly because I was completely unconvinced of the Young Adult qualifications of the novel, finding it unsatisfyingly juvenile in more ways than one. Not so, here. Moon-Flash is a perfectly balanced, wonderfully organic story of quest, self-discovery, self-realization. It has that lovely combination of fantasy and science fiction which seems to have fallen out of favor with modern publishers, but was the mainstay for many who cut their teeth, as it were, reading genre fiction from the 1960s through the 1980s. Reading Moon-Flash makes me realize I've been missing that lyricism and expansiveness of those blurred delineations. There is also a certain refreshing gentleness here which is lacking from much modern fiction for younger readers -- a buoyancy of spirit which comes from the inner strength of the characters, rather than any fortitude they must develop in the face of trauma.
Moon-Flash was written after the Riddle Master series had garnered considerable accolades. The storyline of Moon-Flash is deceptively simple: a young girl named Kyreol, on the eve of her marriage, sets out with her childhood boyfriend (also betrothed -- to somebody else) to traverse the great river of their world beyond the boundaries of what for them is the known universe. Ostensibly, she is in search of her mother, who disappeared years earlier. But as the journey progresses, it becomes clear that what really drives Kyreol ever further -- just over the next waterfall, just beyond the next forest, just to the realm of the great beasts who live in the river -- is the eternal quest to discover for discovery's sake, to experience the not-yet-experienced purely for the joy and exhilaration of doing so. It is this which makes Moon-Flash a satisfying read for the eternally curious of any age.