________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 12. . . .November 20, 2009


Voices in the Dark. (The Last Descendants Trilogy: Book II).

Catherine Banner.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2009.
455 pp., hardcover, $23.95.
ISBN 978-0-385-66306-9.

Subject Headings:
Fantasy fiction.
Brothers -Juvenile fiction.
Exiles -Juvenile fiction.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Ronald Hore.

** /4



I owned nothing but the clothes I wore and the contents of the pockets. I kept checking them to see that everything was still there. I had given the driver fifty crowns and my christening bracelet as payment; by the time we set off, it was nearly midnight, and the queues at the harbour stretched a mile. But I still had a pencil and a stack of papers and a box of matches and a candle and the medallion Aldebaran had given me.

We did not speak to each other. This would be a long journey, long and cold, but we were still strangers and had nothing to say. The old man beside me had his rosary beads, but ever since I was a young boy I had put my faith in stories; they came to me more easily than prayers. When we set out on this journey, I thought that perhaps I could write everything down and explain it. And yet the words did not come easily this time. I was nearly impossible to write with the lurching of the coach, and my heart was heavy. I put the paper back into my pocket and tried to sleep.

Set in a world that runs parallel to ours, with pathways connecting to England, the complicated story begun in the first volume. The Eyes of a King, continues, this time with the adventures of Anselem, the stepson of Leo from book one. Anselem is 16 and lives with Leo, his mother Maria, and his six-year-old sister Jasmine, in the country of Malonia. The country, seemingly just slightly less advanced than England, is impoverished and ruled by a king who returned from exile 15 years ago after the rebels had been overthrown.

     Malonia is torn by political factions, the royalists who support the king, and the new rebels, the Imperial Order. The story is told mainly through the eyes of Anselem, interspersed with the lives of two children living in England, Ashley and Juliette, who have strong connections to Malonia.

     Anselem's once ordinary world begins to unravel. His little sister shows signs of having powers, something frowned upon in modern Malonia. Leo is having financial problems, and Maria is pregnant. The political situation in the city is growing worse, with violence in the streets and a threat of invasion from an aggressive neighbour.

     Voices in the Dark continues the gloomy mood of the first book, with a main protagonist suffering more than the agonies of a normal teenager. The tale gives a strong feel of a culture coming apart at the seams, political turmoil, and in many ways echoes of some of the events of the twentieth century, with riots in the streets and a political party preparing to take charge, by force if necessary.

     A serious, complicated tale, mainly told through the eyes of young Anselem, Voices in the Dark is not for the fantasy reader who is looking for wizards, elves or dragons. It is a well-written, thoughtful story, with a complex plot that leads the reader through the shattering of a once-ordinary family and the troubled country in which they live. This cautionary tale will certainly leave the reader wondering how the final threads will be woven together in volume three.


Ronald Hore, involved with writer's groups for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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