Fifteen-year-old Willow has grown up entertained by her Nana’s stories of Mistolear, a magical land complete with princesses, knights, and fairies. Then Nana – her guardian since infancy, when Willow’s parents perished in a fire – dies, and Willow is transported into the realm she had always thought of as myth. It turns out that Willow is a real princess, sent to Earth to come of age safely while her home kingdom of Gallandra battles the neighbouring kingdom of Keldoran, in an elaborate quasi-chess game set up by a mischievous Dark Fairy. Willow has to quickly come to grips with her magical powers and her destiny as the kingdom’s saviour, for pieces are advancing across the board to “capture” her, just as her own, true, royal parents were taken.
Captured’s elaborate politics and cast of characters may be disorienting for readers at first, but like Willow, one soon becomes captivated by the possibilities of a fantastical realm. Wood infuses her fairy tale with a modern perspective, making Willow scoff at the stiff ideas of femininity carried by her “pompous pig” knight-protector (and potential love interest), Brand. And her mission is a relatable one, more psychological than material: in the words of her fairy “nethermother,” “[to] be strong in your knowledge of who you are, but at the same time, open up to what is still possible.” Wood offers a delicious debut to her Divided Realms series.
Andrea Belcham is the author of the forthcoming Food and Fellowship: Pro- jects and Recipes to Feed a Community (The Alternate Press/Life Media).