For Frenenqer Paje, life is stifling with its sameness day in and day out. Books are her only escape from her overbearing father and the stifling heat of the desert oasis in which they live. One small act of rebellion leads to her meeting a boy named Sangris–a boy who can shapeshift–and this spins her life into a different direction. At night, Frenenqer and this boy travel to distant lands where she can barely feel the tug of her father’s commands. If she can learn to let go, Frenenqer might just be able to finally live as she wants to.
Rossetti’s fantasy novel provides a neat twist on the genre that a lot of readers won’t see coming. Instead of providing mere escapism for readers, Rossetti forces the reader to accept the fact that her fantastical world also has a grim reality to it. The harsh environment in which Frenenqer is raised comes to life with Rossetti’s lush prose. The scenes where Sangris and Frenenqer travel to distant lands are particularly well-rendered: the use of color to describe nature and their surroundings is often breath-taking.
Rossetti’s characters also subvert a lot of the usual tropes found in a fantasy novel. Although Frenenqer and Sangris have feelings for one another, it takes a good long while for those feelings to develop, and even longer for the characters to admit it. Frenenqer is a strong heroine who is also deeply damaged from her upbringing. An easy read this is not: there’s a lot of emotional turbulence to be found here, but Rossetti’s excellent characterization and good pacing keep the pages turning.
There are a lot of issues explored within the pages of Rossetti’s book. She writes about ex-pats with a kind of familiarity that hints at her own background and makes Frenenqer’s displacement palpable. The concepts of love, trust, and self-identity are all here, but Rossetti doesn’t push and never gives her readers an easy answer. Deeply affecting and deeply satisfying, this is a must-read for fans of YA. Highly recommended.
The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti. Dial: 2012. Library copy.