Fragility can be it's own strength, and in Owlet, by Emma Michaels, Iris, a seventeen year old girl who has grown up secluded and weakened by debilitating asthma finds herself waking into the adventure of her dreams while beginning to discover her true strengths in a past which has been kept from her. On her own island of Never-Never, Iris begins to face the past she lost and the improbable future ahead of her while under the threat of the Eyrie, which wants her dead. Enchanted by her once-would-be assassin, she faces this new world with an unbridled thirst for the truth, even when the answers may be more dark or peculiar than the tragic past she'd constructed to fill in the gaps in her memory.
Written in lavish prose, Owlet moves between dreams and the present with fluidity and grace. The author uses poetry and song to weave a spellbinding and emotionally charged journey on a far away island that juxtaposes the surreal with the mundane. After all, Never Never is still close enough to get Chinese take-out.
My one reservation is that for much of Owlet , the first book in the Society of Feathers series, the story happens to Iris, with little agency on her own part. Debilitated with each exertion and constantly being watched and micromanaged, even half of her soul bosses her around without her own full understanding or complicity. Iris' amnesia provides a good mechanism for learning about her world as she does, but in keeping the main character in the dark about so many things, while relying on dream revelation and the monologue of others, the story does not move forward so much as it unfolds around Iris. At one point, her inner voice reminds her, "You are not inadequate: you are perfectly Iris," though at that time, she is very much the helpless damsel in distress, having not yet come into her own strength.
I enjoyed the dreamlike prose and Micahels' subtle approach to the paranormal and modern fantasy YA genres. I like that Michaels chose to write a differently abled lead character, reminding readers that fantastical adventures and beautiful new worlds are not reserved for the demigods among us, but even the slightly frail and less than hale. I am looking forward to the continuation of the series, and am optimistic that reading along as Iris grows into her potential will be a satisfying fairytale.