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Book review: Lyrical prose makes fairy tale twist 'Bearskin' an enchanting debut

"BEARSKIN," by Jamie Robyn Wood, Sweetwater Books, $17.99, 275 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)

On the night Heart came into the world, her sister, Lark, encircled her with love and banished Death, which took their mother, as Jamie Robyn Wood's novel "Bearskin" opens.

In the land where the sisters live, the evil queen had a son, a daughter and a stepson. They all struggled against her darkness but failed. Conrad, her stepson, sacrificed his memories and home for Moira but found love and new memories in an unlikely place. Heppson, her son, fled the queen's manipulations, bargained with a Trickster, and found himself changed beyond recognition. And daughter Moira, left alone, lost herself to the evil of the queen and became her fears.

When the queen's evil curses Lark, Heart must seek the help of the forest and its four Guardians to save her sister. As the Summer Guardian, the Fall Guardian, the Spring Guardian and the Winter Guardian offer gifts and counsel, Heart learns of the power in change, the salvation of love and the strength of the forest.

This stand-alone fairy tale breathes life into the fantasy young adult genre. Wood, an Iowa resident, uses lyrical prose and well-crafted lush imagery. The characters are three dimensional and fascinating. There are echoes of the Grimm brothers' fairy tales.

And, like any good fairy tale, "Bearskin" contains powerful lessons about life mixed in with the magic.

"Bearskin," which is due out Sept. 8, contains generally described violence, both physical, including several deaths, and fantasy, such as spells and curses. There is no profanity or sexual content.

If you go ...

What: Jamie Robyn Wood book signing

When: Friday, Sept. 11, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com, jamierobynwood.com

Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of the featured book from The King's English.

Rachel Chipman graduated with a bachelor's degree in family life and human development. Her current goals are to read more, to write more and to learn to type while holding her infant daughter. Her email is racheldchipman@gmail.com