Summer reading for young romance-lovers doesn’t have to be as sweet, mushy, and insubstantial as a melting grape Slurpee. Cynthia Voigt, an award-winning novelist, proves it with this long, engrossing narrative crammed with drama, interesting characters, and surprising turns of ”fortune’s wheel.”
Birle, 14, a sturdy innkeeper’s daughter in a medieval-style kingdom, is the likable heroine of On Fortune’s Wheel. One night she surprises a lordly young man while he’s in the act of stealing her father’s rowboat. Birle instantly falls in love with Orien, the stranger, and impetuously joins him on his perilous journey to unknown lands.
The two are shipwrecked, captured and brutally enslaved, undergo terrible suffering, and escape thanks to Birle’s courage and resourcefulness. Together they return to their safe and stable kingdom, where Orien is to become a ruler. In a surprise twist that has to be read to be appreciated, the adoring Birle turns her back on love, luxury, and marriage to Orien in order to lead her own homespun life. Not to worry: There’s a happy ending after all.
Voigt subtly undercuts many of the socially conservative conventions of the stereotyped romance, while leaving enough of that genre’s familiar structure intact to please the most starry-eyed reader. B+