Pärlfiskaren: Legenden om ögonstenen
(The Pearl Fisher: the Legend of the Eyestone)
by Karin Erlandsson
reviewed by Charlotte Berry
Pärlfiskaren is the first title in a new fantasy quartet by award-winning Finland-Swedish author Karin Erlandsson. The tale’s narrator is the teenage orphan Miranda, who makes a perilous living by diving for pearls in a seaside town on the southern shores of a fictional kingdom surrounded by mountains and forests. The story opens with a market scene in which she sells the fruits of her day’s work before heading straight out to sea for another fishing trip. She is an experienced trader and has an eye for the most valuable and sought-after pearls, those in shades of red, gold and blue.
It quickly becomes clear that Miranda is entirely obsessed with the myth of the fantastical and elusive Eye Gemstone, the king of all pearls which will render its finder famous throughout the land for centuries to come. This desire is intensified by the queen’s message to her subjects that she will richly reward whoever completes this irresistible quest. Miranda has full confidence in her abilities as the best diver in the Southern Seas, and determines to set off on an ambitious journey to fame and fortune.
Before her departure, Miranda’s plans are disrupted by the arrival of a new and younger diver, Syrsa. Although she is a poor swimmer, Syrsa can still find more pearls than any other diver. Miranda is mystified and jealous. It only becomes clear as their journey begins that Syrsa has a secret ability that no other pearl fisher can boast, and Miranda is determined to exploit that skill to her own advantage in order to fulfil her mission.
Miranda’s scheming backfires radically when the mysterious figure Iberis kidnaps Syrsa and plans to abuse the young girl’s abilities to satisfy her own obsession to find the Eye Gemstone. The fiercely independent and hardened Miranda is faced with an impossible decision – will she still pursue the Eye Gemstone for her own gain, or should she set off on a rescue mission to save Syrsa? She travels the length and breadth of the kingdom in her own personal journey for redemption and resolution, eventually finding peace and belonging in unexpected places, and ultimately breaking the curse of the Eye Gemstone.
Pärlfiskaren is written in the present tense, creating an intense and very personal atmosphere from the outset. The use of the first person throughout further intensifies this mood. Although the plot is at times rather slow-moving and fragmented through the use of very short chapters, the quest motif creates a familiar and well-trodden reader’s expectation of movement and self- discovery which will be familiar to any fans of Young Adult fantasy literature. The themes of desire, absence and belonging are explored throughout, as both young protagonists have been deprived of friends and kin through the inter-generational obsession with the Eye Gemstone quest.
The story can be read as a satisfying stand-alone novel, as most of the plot threads are tied up satisfactorily at its close. With the quest for the Eye Gemstone apparently completed, the following three titles will find new adventures and challenges for Miranda and Syrsa.
Legenden om ögonstenen has have been received with wide open arms in Finland, and the last two titles are eagerly anticipated. This particular title, with its richly drawn landscapes of sea and forest, will undoubtedly appeal to all those who love the quest tradition of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books.
Schildts & Söderströms (Finland), 2017. 248 pages
Illustrator: Sami Saramäki
Rights: Mari Koli, Schildts & Söderströms
Karin Erlandsson is a Finnish journalist.
Pärlfiskaren is the first title in the Young Adult fantasy quartet Legenden om ögonstenen (The Song of the Eye Gemstone). The second volume was published as Fågeltämjaren (The Bird Master), 2018. Part three (Bergsklättraren,The Scaler of the Peaks) was published in April 2019. Part four (Segraren, The Winner) is due out in autumn 2019.