Tanith Lee,
The Claidi Journals #1:
Wolf Tower

(Dutton, 2000)

Tanith Lee writes marvelous young-adult fantasies that are witty, imaginative, vibrant and thoroughly entertaining. Wolf Tower is an excellent example of her many talents, including the rare ability to write in the perspective of a teenager -- and make it sound completely genuine and convincing.

There's a marvelous sense of immediacy throughout the novel as it is told in the form of a journal by 16-year-old Claidi, who is by turns sharp, naive and sarcastic. Most readers (particularly teenage girls) will be able to easily identify with Claidissa Star, even though they haven't been virtual slaves in a tightly ordered and hierarchical House. Despite continuous harsh treatment, Claidi retains much of her rebellious nature. When the handsome stranger Nemian comes to the House, she is given the opportunity to journey with him to dangerous and bizarre lands beyond the House's confines where she has her own destiny to fulfill. But it's not a destiny Claidi particularly wants.

Peopled with lively characters from a mix of highly original cultures, Wolf Tower is an unusually creative and unpredictable YA fantasy that neatly avoids many fantasy cliches and tells a thought-provoking story at the same time. If you like it, your best bet is either tracking down the sequels or reading Lee's Unicorn trilogy (Black Unicorn, Gold Unicorn, Red Unicorn), which contains the same level of originality and intelligence. By the way, Wolf Tower is one of those books that gets better with multiple readings -- I liked it much more the second time around.

by Jennifer Mo
19 August 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.