File this in books that make you go, “Hmmm.” Dean opens with Arry, a 14 year old Physici. She’s got this role within her community because centuries ago, wizards seeking peace decided to parcel out knowledge and knowledge roles. The Gnosi knows, and understands, facts, concrete ideas and methodologies. Only the Akoumi understands about death and what can kill — injuries and the like. Everyone else gets a random bit of magical talent/knowledge — like the ability to know what’s beautiful.
Only Arry, the present Physici, knows about pain. But what is pain? Arry’s been wrestling with the borders of her knowledge province since her parents left her and her siblings alone. Given that this is an incredibly fragile system based around the denizens’ acceptance of the wizards’ spell-born doubt, Arry’s parents’ disappearance and the sudden arrival of stalking werewolves speaking about the knowledge of food, good, and evil rocks the community to its foundation. It’s hard to describe the plot without giving away spoilers; suffice it to say that the characterization is brilliant, the villagers are witty, and Arry herself a compelling narrator. It’s rare that an author so aptly capture the voice of a mature child, who’s trying hard to handle a responsibility much bigger than her years. Arry’s struggles, combined with the constant air of doubt created through that long ago magicking, make for a stirring, and beautiful, text. Arry’s meditation on pain and its emotional content make for a startling analysis for what you know that you don’t know you know, a meditation that critiques the roles of society in knowledge formation.