Sanna, Sorceress Apprentice (The Sanna Chronicles Book 1)
Inkwater Press, 2015
It is perhaps the most common fantasy trope used today for young adult fiction, that of the would-be young hero traveling to a special school to learn and master magic as adventure awaits. Though thanks in large part to the success of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, this trope has always been present in fantasy fiction for simple but compelling reasons–it is infinitely relatable and offers infinite variation.
The first book of Roxanna Matthews’ young adult magical fantasy series The Sanna Chronicles, Sanna, Sorceress Apprentice, introduces us to the eponymous girl heroine who is kind, mildly insecure, talented, and eager to learn. She is a wonderful foil for young readers. Sanna is a sort of tomboy but is charming in her adolescent awkwardness as well as how Matthews writes her as perpetually wanting to learn from anyone who would be willing to share with her. This kind of non-judgmental embracing of the world around her opens Sanna (and readers) up in new and delightful ways making the story and prose enthusiastic and fun to read.
Crafting is a cornerstone of any fantasy world. What sets these Sanna Chronicles apart from all the other academy fantasy books out there? As a master knitter, Matthews gives her heroine amazing magical talents in fiber arts. Sanna can knit, crafting wonderful magical items such as an infinitely deep satchel and self-warming mittens (the pattern Matthews includes at the end of the novel for a delightful bit of fun). In later books in the series, Sanna crafts belts, cloaks, and a flying rug. Making handicraft such a vital part of Sanna’s education and adventures grounds the stories giving them a firm reality even in a fantasy realm.
Craftwork magic isn’t the only notable piece of worldbuilding in this novel. I particularly enjoyed the rationale for the Thieves’ Guild,
“We don’t steal from the poor–only from the rich After all…the poor don’t have any money. And we have to register our intended thefts at least twenty four hours before we make them, so people do have a chance to secure their valuables if they care to.”
This kind of bureaucracy or professionalization of theft is fascinating. A well-regulated consortium of pickpockets and burglars join traditional business and trade.
Matthews writes in a love story of sorts but the novel genuinely seems more concerned with showing us Sanna’s maturation, how she builds friendships and masters her craft, her profession. Romance comes in to play, of course, as it would in any young girl’s life but make no mistake, this isn’t merely a love story.
Matthews fantasy series is fully fleshed out (Sanna and the Dragons, Sanna Meets Dauntless Swiftsure, and Sanna and the Empress) meaning there’s little anxiety about when the next book will be coming out. For young readers (and adult readers who want a bit of satisfying, lighthearted fair) looking for a new series to dive into, The Sanna Chronicles will certainly entertain.
Roxanna Matthews is a Certified Master knitter, a professional weaver, and an experienced dyer, spinner and embroideress. She has a brown belt in judo and a BA in English from Lewis and Clark College. She and her wonderful husband live with three black and white cats in Milwaukie, Oregon.