Reviewed by B J Epstein in SBR 2015:2
Review Section: Fiction - Children's, YA and Crossover
Do you believe in the old sagas? Do you think fairy tales and folk myths are true? Therese Henriksson’s debut novel can make you believe that magic is real and all around you. In Korpmåne (Raven Moon), people who can shift forms or communicate with animals or create herbal potions seem almost everyday, even though their experiences are also depicted as extraordinary, scary and exciting in equal measure.
Saga is a teenage girl in a tiny village in rural northern Sweden. Her father has recently died and her mother is already starting to date; unfortunately, her choice of suitor is the father of Saga’s bully of an ex-boyfriend, and Saga suspects that the man’s intentions are less than noble. Meanwhile, Seth is the new boy in the village, and although he’s a talented musician, the other teenagers don’t accept him because of his piercings, his emo/goth look, and his quiet,introverted manner. Saga and Seth bond over a love of animals, and their relationship slowly develops, much to Saga’s ex’s disgust and envy. However, Seth and his mother are gone for a few days each month during the full moon, and Seth won’t tell Saga where he goes; all she knows is that their car is still at their house, and there are no tracks or footprints in the snow, so it seems that Seth and his mum just disappear. Saga is also left wondering why there are so many ravens around the village, especially during the times when Seth is away.
Korpmåne is a young adult novel, and as with many YA books, it can be enjoyed by a wide range of readers of most ages. It’s a suspenseful, mysterious, almost creepy page-turner. Readers might initially dismiss it as a trendy vampire or werewolf tale, especially given a few scenes such as this: ‘The year was sixteen hundred and thirty-six, Windshead in England, and the strawberry blonde girl had stolen what was hers.Taken the life she should have had…’ But in fact, despite the supernatural tale underlying it, this book focuses more on the progression of Saga and Seth’s friendship, which turns to romance. It’s a sweet study of how it feels to be a teenager, particularly one who doesn’t quite fit in, and what it means to find someone you can truly connect with. It’s also a change from many other recent YA novels in that the characters allow their relationship to deepen over time, rather than hurrying into bed: ‘Seth nodded and lost himself in Saga’s face, which was so close. Her lips looked so soft and her sleepy, caring eyes. Maybe he ought to kiss her now, he thought.’ Seth doesn’t kiss her then, and there are many more pages of them getting to know one another before he does.
Saga is a strong female character; it’s a delight to read a novel about a teenage girl who finds her own way and isn’t afraid of being different. She is the hero of the story, and she doesn’t need a man to save her or complete her.
The suspense builds quickly in Korpmåne. Saga learns Seth’s secret, meets the jealous woman from 1636, and tries to protect her mother from her inappropriate boyfriend and Seth and his mother from a curse; all this is woven together so smoothly that it doesn’t at all seem unreasonable that a witch has been wandering around England and Sweden for several centuries, torturing people and performing dark rites. Magic in Korpmåne is physical, mental, and emotional, and it is present in all aspects of the world. The old sagas are true, and young Saga’s story brings them life.