Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
To read Ansgar by Aleksandra Layland is to be transported into a mystical, medieval, mythological world so removed from today yet, in so many ways, the same. Perhaps the best word to describe this world is ideal, and as such, this novella will be for many a welcome escape. Enter a world where the weather is violent but people aren’t, where doing good for others is more important than doing good for self, and where love lasts forever and not just a few years. Of course, this ideal world doesn’t come without some real issues being resolved, as the darker-skinned Ansgar and the almost white-skinned Keholani find when they fall in love: they are advised that deciding to marry outside of culture or race “can have nothing to do with the color of the skin, hair or eyes of your children.”
Issues we are dealing with today like female equality, “racism, cultural preservation, peacemaking and good governance” are explored through the captivating characters we meet, generation after generation, in this novella, the first of a series which is followed by several other series. It’s a good idea to check out Aleksandra Layland’s author profile page at Amazon where she has clearly listed the full collection. It occurs to me that this remarkable series might be well-suited to young adult classrooms: it could generate some animated discussion.
Apart from excellent writing, vivid descriptions, period-suited dialogue, and nicely paced action, what struck me most in this book, perhaps because I was enjoying a digital version of it, were the illustrations. In a word, magnificent! Colors and details, especially those of the eyes and hair, jumped off the portrait pages of the key, brilliantly smiling characters. The illustrations of a stormy water-spouted sea, an imposing canyon entrance, and three stallions were outstanding. What I couldn’t decide, and perhaps the author can shed some light here, is whether these were photographs or paintings? I also would love to know if she is the artist as well as the writer behind this wonderful book. Whatever the case, my final word on Ansgar is to read it! It was a rare and real treat to take a break from today, thanks to Aleksandra Layland.