The Humpbacked Fluteplayer

Sharman Apt Russell, Author Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers $16 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-82408-4
While on a class trip, 12-year-olds May and Evan are mysteriously transported from contemporary Phoenix into a primitive land peopled by six tribes, each of which has its own, innate magical skill. Soon May and Evan discover that these magical powers are fading, and they become caught up in the tribes' struggles to preserve their strength. In her promising first novel, Russell almost pulls off the feat of blending two subgenres--anthropologically based fantasy and ``end of an age'' fantasy. Her desert landscapes are richly evocative and the cultures of each of the tribes are suitably distinct. However, the novel falls apart in its final sections, where the action ceases to focus on its young protagonists. Also, Russell consistently refers to her central characters as ``children,'' or ``the children,'' which adds a surely unintended patronizing tone to the narrative voice. These reservations notwithstanding, this book marks Russell as a fantasist of real potential. Ages 9-12. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/04/1994
Release date: 04/01/1994
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