“I am Uru Ana, privy to men’s darkest secrets, witness to the memories that haunt and the memories that comfort.”
Mirra and her brother Kel are from a people who mind-travel, who can see into others’ memories and thoughts. They are feared and they are used for their abilities. Their country has been destroyed, they have been exiled and are in hiding, many hunted and enslaved.
heir original home, where they truly belong, is gone. Author Claire Merle told me, “Mirra holds a deep sense of being unable to ever get ‘home’, even before she starts her journey and this is shown through the lost island of the Uru Ana. To me, it’s as much an internal sense of something missing as an external one. There have been periods in my life where I’ve had the sense that ‘home’, where I truly belong, is somehow inaccessible. As though it lies in another time and place, perhaps childhood, or elsewhere.”
Like many before them, Kel is kidnapped, the glittering eyes of the young shadow weavers giving Kel away. He is to be taken to the Pit and sold into slavery. This transaction is interrupted by Mirra, who leaves her injured father with her mother and follows the kidnappers, gives herself up and uses all her physical and mind talents to bring her brother home.
In this YA quest, our adolescent heroine must find her strength, and use her intelligence and ability to understand others’ memories to survive. As in most quests, she had to learn what people and information she could trust and how to act on it. When injured, Mirra is at the mercy of her captures and here her intellectual strength matters most. Her tenacity, including enduring pain, injuries and uncertainty, sustains her until allies come her way, mostly of her own making.
What is it that makes YA quest novels distinct from adult quests? In many YA novels, there are no adults to assist the young person. In Shadow Weaver, Mirra and Kel leave the protection and wisdom of their parents and are not reunited until the quest is completed. Many of the adults they encounter are malevolent, greedy and unpredictable. All are more powerful than they are, at least at first.
This is also a novel about power, who has it and how we develop our own inner power enabling us to be independent.
Mirra travels into the heart of political turmoil and intrigue, supporting the prince she has found, hoping to save her brother and her people from the slavery, hiding and fear that has become their lives. The Prince’s old friend and tutor told Mirra, “Prince Jakut went to the pit searching for the impossible. And when all seemed lost, you found him.”
s young and others, not only the Prince, begin to respect and depend on her strength of body and mind. Others fear and hate her and strive to render her powerless. As Mirra travels through lands, the equally difficult journey is through the “mind-worlds” she encounters. “It is as though I have been spread across a thousand lives.” She learns how the powerful can corrupt others even against their will, how the good and brave must struggle every moment against forces that seem overwhelming.
The concept of identity is a main theme—those who hide theirs, such as Mirra, those who search for theirs like the Prince, and those who have their memories taken away by the “mist berries”, such as the field slaves. Claire share with me, “Discovering who we are beneath the social masks we’ve been taught to wear as children, beneath the ‘norms’ and ‘expectations’ of society, is a difficult but essential undertaking. Without it, I don’t feel we can ever truly feel at peace with ourselves.”
ow Weaver is a well written YA fantasy-thriller that is hard even for an adult to put down. Mirra’s quest is the searching of all adolescents to find their own strengths and abilities in the difficulty-strewn journey to adulthood. It is a passage that adults fight through as well, which is why Shadow Weavers gives us truths and wisdom helpful to us all. Mirra tells us sagely, “I feel the strength of those rushing winds, and know, unlike the mind, which can be shaped and distorted by pain, the light inside each of us can never be dulled. Our memories sculpt the story we tell about our lives, but they do not decide who we are.”
Claire describes our deepest feelings as a conscience, our moral compass. She wrote to me, “But when we act from our most sincere feelings…though we may encounter a path strewn with difficulty, we are ultimately rewarded for remaining true to our most authentic self.”
When Mirra is imprisoned and barely fed, she is eventually served pastries with cheese, a true delight. Here is my version, without all the trauma Mirra had to go through!
Yield: 9-18 pastries
1 box frozen puff pastry, thawed (2 sheets)
2 tablespoons EVO
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 ounces frozen chopped spinach or fresh spinach, steamed and squeezed dry. Chop fresh spinach if using
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese, cheddar, Swiss or cheeses of choice. May mix.
1 egg, beaten
Sesame seeds, black and white, for garnish
- Remove puff pastry from freezer and defrost in refrigerator.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking another 5-10 minutes or until the onions are golden and caramelized. Add the garlic, thyme and nutmeg, and cook another minute. Add spinach and cook until spinach is dry. Remove from the heat.
- Stir in cheese.
- Lay the 2 puff pastry sheets flat on parchment paper or a floured surface. Gently roll the sheets out to stretch slightly. Cut each sheet into 9 squares.
- To make squares: Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the spinach filling on 9 of the squares, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edges. Brush the edges with egg. Lay the remaining 9 squares over the filling on each of the squares and seal the edges by crimping with the tines of a fork.
- To make triangles: Place 1 heaping teaspoon of the spinach filling towards one edge of the squares. Fold the square in half to form a triangle. Brush the edges with egg. Seal the edges by crimping with the tines of a fork.
- Place the squares and or triangles on the parchment lined baking sheet(s) and brush the tops with beaten egg. Make 2-3 small slits on the top of the pastries. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and thyme.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve warm or room temperature.
Adapted from Halfbakedharvest
Substitute vegan fillings: mashed potatoes, steamed cabbage, nutella, steamed apples or peaches sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.
Find out more about author Claire Merle at her website.