Monday, February 21, 2011

The Boy from Ilysies review

The Boy from Ilysies
November 2010

I picked up this novel on a whim, and from the first page was completely hooked. I had not realized that the book is actually a sequel to Libyrinth. I frequently complain about too much exposition in books... I like it when an author simply thrusts you into a world, trusting you to figure out, or at least muddle through until the clues start to come together and the rules of the world become more clear. This book, though, is probably that rare exception, where I could have used just a pinch more information to catch me up with the backstory. It was a bit of a challenge, but not impossible, to figure out who was who at first.

We start out knowing that Po, a lone subservient young man from the strictly matriarchal Ilysies society, is struggling to adjust to life in a new settlement, where patriarchal Singers and egalitarian Libyrarians are attempting to mend their differences. Everyone in the settlement recently fell under the effects of a powerful magical spell, one which temporarily created peace, and inspired them to try a more permanent blending of their cultures. Naturally, once the magic fades, the hard work of creating a new society is easier said than done. The casually insulting manner towards women that Singer males cannot seem to shake causes Po to instigate frequent fistfights. As is normal for his culture, Po is often quite weepy, just another thing which causes him to stick out like a sore thumb amongst the more stoic males in the settlement. Suffering from low self-esteem, eager to abdicate responsibility to a wife who can manage matters for him, and unable to stop himself from continually prostrating himself before Ilysian Princess Selene, who does not appreciate reminders of her former life of privilege, poor Po can't seem to figure out how to fit in.

Unfortunately, Selene's ruthless mother, Queen Thela, is able to step in and take advantage of Po's naivete. When the settlement's struggling first crop is burned, Po is framed for it. To redeem himself, he must journey to a nearby enemy city to find the long-hidden Endymion's Rose - a legendary magical artifact that could save them all. Most remarkable, to me, was Po's utter shock and initial lack of understanding of things such as prostitution, rape, or unwanted pregnancy. Po's upbringing in an all-powerful matriarchy where fertility is revered, and violence against women results in an instant death sentence for the offending male and all of his living relatives leaves him completely unprepared for some of the harsher aspects of living in a patriarchy.

The worldbuilding in this book is complex and the cast of characters fairly large. There are hints that all of the warring factions are descended from a long-ago Earth, especially when they quote novels such as Peer Gynt, Moby Dick, or  Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The planet's inhabitants study what appear to be ship's logs as their holy texts, hoping to divine clues which will help their survival. They do rely on technology, especially personal flying jets, yet this is a world where magic is ever-present as well. Po learns to develop his skill as a healer with the use of trance-like visions where he sees a beautiful garden setting. With it's abrupt entry into the story, and cliffhanger ending, The Boy From Ilysies is clearly the middle-volume of a trilogy. Fans of Ursula Le Guin's feminist science-fiction, with it's exploration of culture clashes and gender roles will feel right at home in the world of Libyrinth. Recommended for older teens.

I borrowed this book from the library.


  1. I enjoyed Libyrinth lots (there's Fun with Books, which is always nice), and I'm looking forward to this one. My tbr pile is like a busy airport in a snowstorm, though--the line of books waiting to take off just grows and grows....

  2. This sounds like something I could get into. I'd have to get my hands on the first book though, otherwise I wouldn't be able to follow along that well.

    Excellent review! :)


  3. Hm. Not sure how I feel about this book falling prey to the "middle book" syndrome with it's quick beginning and abrupt ending. Normally, I'm like you and enjoy being thrust into the middle of the things and learning as I go, but sometimes in certain worlds it just doesn't work and you need more information:) Fabulous review!

  4. Yes, I'm going to have to go back and read the first one, now!

  5. I only skimmed your review because I haven't read the first book yet. Now at least I know that this is a trilogy (which I didn't know before) and that I should probably wait until all the books are published given how this book begins and ends. Thank you for all the info.



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