Kim Van Vliet is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer.
Strandia, Reynold’s first novel, is a fantasy adventure about a young
“raeth” woman called Sand and the Island of Strandia where she
lives. The raeth-kin are distinguished by the ability of the women to
compel, using mental telepathy, dolphins—called “Dorrado”—to
herd fish into their waiting nets.
The story begins on Sand’s wedding day. The marriage has been
arranged according to custom without regard for the bride’s wishes.
Sand rebels, cuts off her hair, and leaves her parents’ home to find
her own way. This marks the beginning of her adventures as she searches
for a place and people among whom she can live in freedom. Her
experiences include learning skills like weaving cloth and the use of
medicinal herbs. She also learns who her friends are as she pays the
price for her rebellion. Her friendship with a dolphin is primary and
constant, and it is through this connection that Sand ultimately returns
to her people on her own terms.
Reynolds has created a fantasy world complete with creation myth,
customs, religion, and social order. There is an emphasis on feminine
strength and power: the people of Strandia worship the “Mother.” It
is a strong current of ideas that gives this book depth. The questioning
of authority, personal integrity and autonomy, friendship, love, and
independence are some of the concepts explored through Sand’s
experiences that will appeal to teenagers. I do think there is too much
crammed into these 277 pages. The young heroine is pushed to the limits
of her endurance so often that I was not able to fully appreciate the
final test. The relentless pace may account for the characters’ being
somewhat less than three-dimensional. That said, I did enjoy reading
this book. The writing is consistently simple, clear, and strong and the
story full of subtleties that make a second reading even more
interesting than the first.