Child of a Rainless Year by Jane Lindskold
Mira Bogatyr Fenn is fifty-one and unfulfilled, having sublimated her artistic talents for reasons she doesn’t quite understand. Her adoptive parents pass away, and Mira finds herself drawn to the Victorian house she inherited from her long-missing birth mother, and realizes there’s more to her mother’s disappearance than she ever suspected as a child.
In Child of a Rainless Year, Jane Lindskold leads the reader into the mystery slowly, letting the weirdness accumulate until Mira can no longer deny it, which is a different technique than what I’ve seen in a lot of “urban fantasy” novels. It’s more usual to drop a mundane character right smack into a supernatural event and go from there; here, it’s a more gradual realization. And it works very well indeed.
Lindskold’s prose is beautiful, and the setting vividly painted.
It was also refreshing to see an older heroine. Not to mention a heroine who’s plump and doesn’t miraculously lose weight as part of her character development.
Child of a Rainless Year — (2005) Publisher: Middle-aged Mira Fenn knows she has an uncomfortably exotic past. As a small girl, she lived in a ornate old house in tiny Las Vegas, New Mexico, tended by oddly silent servant women and ruled by her coldly flamboyant mother Colette. When Mira was nine, Colette went on one of her unexplained trips, only this time she never returned. Placed with foster parents, Mira was raised in Ohio, normal save for her passion for color. On gaining adulthood, she learned that she still owned the New Mexico house. She also learned that, as a condition of being allowed to adopt her, Mira’s foster parents had agreed to change their name, move to another state, and never ask why. Years later, going through family papers after the deaths of her elderly foster parents, Mira finds documents that pique her curiosity about her vanished mother and the reasons behind her strange childhood and adoption. Travelling back to New Mexico, she finds the house is and isn’t as she remembers it. Inside, it’s much the same. Outside, it’s been painted ininnumerable colors. As Mira continues to investigate her mother’s life, events take stranger and stranger turns. The silent women reappear. Even as Mira begins to suspect the power to which she may be heir, the house itself appears to be waking up… Shot through with magic and the atmosphere of the Southwest, this singular fantasy novel has all the storytelling vigor of Jane Lindskold’s very popular Firekeeper series.