Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s “Alfreda” novels – Night Calls and Kindred Rites. I’d enjoyed Kimbriel’s “Nuala” science fiction novels and looked forward to her Young Adult series. Set in an alternate, magical American frontier, these coming-of-age stories are told in such a powerful, distinctive voice and with such rich world-building, they drew me in from the very first paragraphs. Adolescent Alfreda comes from line of psychically gifted people, which in itself doesn’t sound very original. Her personality, her family, and her world, however, mark these stories as among the very best. I loved the relationships between Alfreda and her parents and brothers, her townsfolk neighbors, but most of all, the natural world – the tangle of forest and harsh weather, wild animals and supernatural entities – ghosts, werewolves, witches, and more. All too often, the characters in fantasy tales are orphaned or in some way disconnected from their families. In Kimbriel’s work, however, Alfreda’s family of loving, contentious, beautifully-drawn people, give her the strength and context to face her magical calling. I loved how competent Alfreda is, not only in the domestic chores expected of any young woman in that age and place, but in wilderness survival. Kimbriel’s writing is so smooth, the dramatic tension so finely handled, that I was caught on the very first pages.