Meg Caddy’s debut novel, Waer (2016), contains a rich tapestry of an authentic fantasy world, strong, endearing, and evolving characters, and is a very easy and engaging read.
When young northern waer tribe member Lowell discovers the injured body of Lycaea in the Gwydan Valley, he takes her to his family, where their friends, Moth and Dodge, aid her healing. The Caerwyn army invades the valley and destroy it in their search for Lycaea. Lowell, Lycaea, Moth, and Dodge escape into the mountains and make their way to Luthan, a neutral city, where Lycaea meets her master, Hemanlock, after years of absence. Wanting to end the menace of the Caerwyn army and their bigot leader, Leldh, Lycaea must reform the old alliances of Luthan’s disparaged forces, but not before she has to reveal her deepest, darkest secret.
Immediately notable about Waer is the ease with which it can be read and the way it sweeps readers into its rich world and interesting characters. While other fantasy books can lag because of excessive detail, Waer is a crisp-paced story with many twists.
The novel’s strengths lie in its world building and characterisations. The world of Oster is richly imagined, with multiple cultures and indeed beings vividly portrayed in a realistic way, whether it’s the peaceful northern waer of the Gwydhan Valley, the class structuring of Luthan, the “savage” southern waer of the desert tribes, or the militaristic society of Caerwyn. The world’s mythology, which is gradually revealed, is original and grounded in the character politics that gives it a greater sense of authenticity. The descriptions of the world itself create intrigue and although much is described, enough is left to the imagination so readers hope the author will one day return to further explore this rich world.
Characters are authentically portrayed, from the strong Lycaea, who needs to learn to let herself become vulnerable, the at-first weak, almost traditionally feminine Lowell, who grows in strength as he learns the harsh realities of the world, to the nurturing Moth, kindly Dodge, and the vicious Cooper, Kaebha, and Leldh. The interaction and emotional conflict between these characters is one of the highlights of the novel, especially since many have secrets that twist the story in interesting directions.
However, one of the weak points of the story is its action sequences. While they work well on a small scale, the grand scale battle towards the end is a little confusing and even distant. Yet, the rip roaring pace makes it an engaging read and the few moments of confusion are offset with plot twists and character developments.
Overall, Waer is a very easy read and an engaging tale that immerses readers in a rich world, interesting and strong characters, and poses a conflict reflective of our times. It comes highly recommended for readers of Young Adult fiction and fantasy fiction.