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Book review: The Amber Crane by Malve von Hassell

Chafing at the rules of the amber guild, Peter, an apprentice during the waning years of the Thirty Years’ War, finds and keeps a forbidden piece of amber, despite the risk of severe penalties should his secret be discovered.
Little does he know that this amber has hidden powers, transporting him into a future far beyond anything he could imagine. In dreamlike encounters, Peter witnesses the ravages of the final months of World War II in and around his home. He becomes embroiled in the troubles faced by Lioba, a girl he meets who seeks to escape from the oncoming Russian army.
Peter struggles with the consequences of his actions, endangering his family, his amber master’s reputation, and his own future. How much is Peter prepared to sacrifice to right his wrongs?

My thoughts on The Amber Crane.

After reading von Hassell’s historical fiction novel, Alina: A Song for the Telling, I looked forward to the release of The Amber Crane, and was not disappointed. In this new story, von Hassell has introduced a subtle fantasy element. As the description above shares, Peter, a troubled young apprentice, transported through time (30 Years War - 1600s) to the side of Lioba (First World War - early 1900s), a young woman searching for her family in World War 1 ravaged Poland.

The experience is a learning curve for Peter, who is also navigating the journey to adulthood and responsibility. His soldier brother’s death and the effect of the long war threatens the stability of his family–his father, already suffering from the death of Peter’s mother, is faltering. His sister, unable to communicate with others, retreats further into her mysterious inner-world. Peter’s apprenticeship to an Amber-maker is under threat. His sudden ability to “time-travel” might seem like one more burden. However, von Hassell gently weaves history with personal sensitivities, rule-breaking with integrity, future with past.

Amber is the catalyst in the story and as Peter explores his skill and understanding of the valuable resin, we learn also the importance of guilds in the lives of artisans, and the human cost of war, not just on those fighting on the front lines, but those left to pick up the pieces in regions devastated by its impact on trade, agriculture, and the guilds. Lioba shows Peter that even in the face of great adversity, there is always hope. Amber shows them both how to let hope carry them forward into an uncertain future.

The author’s writing style throughout is fluid. She manages the two time periods with a deft hand. While the tale is not immediately gripping, the flow of story follows Peter’s journey and shares his discoveries and awakening in a way that stays with the reader. I love a story that hangs around in the head, provoking thought, understanding, learning, and hope long after I’ve read the last word.

I walked along a beach this week, kicking at the white sand looking for amber. I didn’t expect to find any.

But I hoped.

Visit Malve von Hassell’s website to learn more about her and her writing, and Odyssey Books for more great reads.


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