Rhiannon Lassiter Biography (1977-)
British writer Rhiannon Lassiter became a published author at an early age, perhaps influenced by growing up around her mother, children's author Mary Hoffman, and Hoffman's circle of publishing insiders. Lassiter, an avid reader, and began trying her hand at writing at age fourteen; she submitted work for publication when she was sixteen, and although she did not get published at that time, editors encouraged her to try again. Not surprisingly, Lassiter was thrilled when her first book, the young-adult fantasy novel Hex, was published by Macmillan when she was only nineteen years old. The first part of Lassiter's futuristic fantasy trilogy, the novel also marked its author's emergence as a popular YA writer. The "Hex" trilogy takes place in twenty-fourth-century London. Hexes are people who have been born with the ability to interface directly with computers. As yet, the full force of their powers is unknown, but the European Federation is threatened by them and is determined to destroy them completely. For this reason, most Hexes do not even survive childhood. A group of young Hexes who have evaded capture band together with Raven as their leader. In the first installment in the series, Hex, Raven and her brother, Wraith, set about finding their sister who was adopted at an early age. They succeed in locating her and almost abandon their plan to take her back with them when it appears she is happily placed in a loving home. When they discover that she has been kidnaped by the government, however, they know they do not have much time to save her from extermination. Sally Estes, reviewing the novel in Booklist, commented that "the action is nonstop" and dubbed Hex "a good start for this noir thriller series." The second book in the trilogy, Shadows, finds the group of Hexes in league with another anti-government faction intent upon taking down the arm of the government responsible for destroying Hexes. Although Raven is captured, she escapes and finds her powers even stronger. School Library Journal reviewer Ronni Krasnow declared Raven "about as strong a female protagonist as there is," while also noting that the same insecurities and flaws are present within her clique as there are in ordinary teenagers' circles. Krasnow praised the novel as "fast-paced" and "engaging," noting that Lassiter "shows considerable skill in drawing readers into her world of tomorrow."
The final book in the "Hex" trilogy is Ghosts. In this book Raven and the others save a pair of siblings whose mother passed on to them a computer file just before she died. The file contains critical information about the Hexes and their future, and reveals that the group now faces dangers from the government and the world's computer system. In School Library Journal, Molly S. Kinney remarked that "the strength of the characters, their willingness to fight, their survival instinct, and goodness ring true, even if everything is a little glossed over." Praising the "Hex" trilogy as "tautly plotted and exciting to the max," Booklist reviewer Estes concluded that series conclusion Ghosts. "will satisfy readers."
In an online interview for Achuka, Lassiter discussed how she came to write the "Hex" trilogy, noting that she first thought up the story "when I was seventeen and wrote most of it when I was eighteen. It was accepted for publication shortly after my nineteenth birthday." "I wanted to set 'Hex' in London because it's a city I know well but when I started writing . . . I came up with an image of a city with incredibly high buildings where the heights were gleaming and beautiful and the depths hidden from sight. It occurred to me quite soon that the two ideas were complementary and from that was created a London which had swallowed its own history, building on top of the ancient parts of the city in an effort to progress."
In addition to penning fantasy fiction, Lassiter has teamed up with her mother to edit Lines in the Sand: New Writing on War and Peace, a book containing writings about war. Intended to shed light on the war in Iraq and its impact on people at a personal level, this book features the work of numerous children's authors, poets, and artists. Topics include the Crusades, the Holocaust, and revolutionary violence occurring in Nigeria, and Kosovo. Hazel Rochman, reviewing Lines in the Sand for Booklist, wrote that while some of the material is a little heavy-handed, much of it is less propaganda and more storytelling. The critic added that the most effective entries "bring the suffering close to home," and cited the work as a useful springboard for discussion "both in and out of the classroom." All profit from the sale of Lines in the Sand were earmarked for UNICEF.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, January 1, 2002, Sally Estes, review of Hex, p. 842; April 15, 2002, Sally Estes, review of Ghosts, p. 1395; February 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Lines in the Sand: New Writings on War and Peace, p. 968.
Kliatt, March, 2002, Susan Cromby, review of Hex, p. 24.
School Library Journal, April, 2002, Ronni Krasnow, review of Shadows, p. 152; January, 2003, Molly S. Kinney, review of Ghosts, p. 140.
Achuka.co.uk, http://www.achuka.co.uk/ (February 3, 2005), interview with Lassiter.
Rhiannon Lassiter Home Page, http://www.rhiannonlassiter.com (February 3, 2005).*
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