Bewildering Stories

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Book Review:
Meredith Ann Pierce, Treasure At The Heart Of The Tanglewood

by Jerry Wright

Treasure At The Heart Of The Tanglewood
Author: Meredith Ann Pierce
Publisher: Viking Books (May 1, 2001)
Hardcover: 184 pages
Paperback: June 2003
ISBN: 0670892475
Price: HB: $16.99 PB: $6.99

Meredith Ann Pierce is known as a writer for "young adults", and I've seen, and bypassed, her books over the years. For some reason, what I'd seen just hadn't grabbed me. However, I came across the Treasure At The Heart Of The Tanglewood and read the inside cover, and said, "Well, that sounds interesting..." And it was.

Treasure (I'm going to shorten it for all our sakes) is written in fairy tale format. It doesn't start "Once upon a time..." but it very well could. Instead it begins:
"Brown Hannah dwelt at the verge of the Tanglewood. The Tanglewood rose dark and deep..."

Pierce's writing is appropriately archaic, pleasantly so, and her story of the entrapped maid living on the edge of the Tanglewood, reminded me of some of the work of Patricia McKillip. Brown Hannah lives alone in a cottage except for a magpie, a badger, and some fox kits with whom only she can talk. The local villagers come to her for healings and "simples", but seem very much afraid of her. And although physically she seems to be a teenager, the village grannies remember her.

Once a month she removes various herbs and flowers that grow amidst her hair, and brews a potion for a wizard who lives in the heart of the Tanglewood, and seemingly is her protection against the bad old world.

Her story really begins when she saves a knight who is questing for "the treasure at the heart of the Tanglewood" and is forced to challenge the wizard who instead of her protector, is actually her captor.

As the story moves along, Brown Hannah must set out on a journey across the wide world, and becomes Green Hannah, then Golden Hannah, and finally Russet Hannah. Of course the reader unravels the clues long before our Hannah does, but hey, she hasn't been herself. After all, she HAS been deep under a spell.

The imagery, the use of unusual but appropriate words and terms, and the creation of a beautiful nature myth, make Treasure stand out, and be well worth the reader's time.

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