Aiden Beaverson,
The Hidden Arrow of Maether
(Delacorte, 2000)

Aiden Beaverson's The Hidden Arrow of Maether is a temporarily amusing YA fantasy targeted toward the pre-teen/early teen crowd. Unfortunately, it holds only minimal interest for the older and more jaded fantasy reader.

For example, there's the plot. A young, rebellious, talented Follower of the Light/Truth and General Good Guy (girl) leaves a restrictive and oppressive environment to join other Followers of the Light/Truth in their secret hideout hidden from the eyes of powerful, tyrannical, evil forces. The young protagonist follows a laid-out destiny and ends up saving all the Followers of the Light/Truth by dint of special powers, youth and faith.

Sound familiar? No, it's not Star Wars. Not that this sort of plot isn't capable of greatness -- after all, look at Star Wars. But Arrow doesn't manage to pull it off, and remains a mildly generic, mildly enjoyable fantasy. There is nothing particularly notable about it. In fact, it's all rather shallow. The conflict between good (the Truens, followers of the true religion, obviously) and evil (the Ranites) is drawn in overly simplistic terms without ever exploring shades of gray -- a possible one being that no religion is ever totally without corruption and another that nothing is ever all good or bad. But there aren't any shades of uncertainty here; the reader knows immediately who's on which side and every character and struggle is obviously good or evil.

I, for one, hate being expected to believe that something, particularly a religion, is good just because the author says so. Linn's not a particularly unique heroine, either; most of what she accomplishes is done through inexplicable acts of destiny/God and even so after quite a bit of whining on her part. And there are occasionally gaps in the world building -- how can anything be "heavenly" when Christianity doesn't exist in that world?

Beyond that, there's nothing seriously the matter with Arrow, and at the same time, nothing to make it stand out from dozens of similar fantasies. If you don't mind spending an hour on a predictable but certainly readable fantasy, by all means, read it. For something really outstanding, though, Robin McKinley, Garth Nix and Lloyd Alexander are much better choices.

by Jennifer Mo
4 February 2006

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