Jackaroo – Cynthia Voigt, 1985

On a particularly stressful day  I found a list of young adult fantasy which included a number of titles I wasn’t familiar with. This is one of the few from the library’s collection that I read after scanning the first few pages. The idea of a Robin-Hood-like disguise hidden away intrigued me, and the vivid realism kept me reading through the long initial sections before the Jackaroo cloak, sword, and mask showed up. Like Ursula LeGuin, Voigt shows a strong female protagonist dealing with a sexist society, but even more dominant is the class struggle. Innkeeper’s daughter Gwyn and Lord’s son Gaderian very slowly develop a genuine relationship after being stranded in a tiny cottage together for weeks, but the obstacles aren’t waved away. The world of the Kingdom, which Voigt returned to in three other books, is darker than any of LeGuin’s setttings; the attitude toward human nature reminded me of “Souls” by Joanna Russ. This actually wasn’t fantasy at all, which disappointed me a little in the middle, but the deeply satisfactory ending made me glad I stuck with it. It sounds like the sequels can be read independently, so at some point I’ll read #3 (The Wings of the Falcon) which is also in the library collection.