________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 8 . . . . December 10, 2004


The Minstrel's Daughter. (Tales of Three Lands, Book One).

Linda Smith.
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2004.
261 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55050-309-X.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4


"I can see why you want a finding spell. Well...I can't promise anything, mind you, but if you'll give me the whistle again, I'll try."

She handed it to him and watched intently as he bent over the instrument....Her muscles tensed as she waited, her eyes fixed on Garth, whose own eyes had gone slightly out of focus as he gazed at the whistle. His frown deepened. Time seemed to slow, the air to go still, as minutes---or was it hours---went by. ...

The room wavered. Blurred.

Then it steadied, sharpened. But now it was larger, brighter, different. Birdsong filtered in through the closed window. The muted tread of feet in the hall was suddenly loud. And there were smells, new tantalizing smells.

Cat blinked and shook her head, disturbed, and then shook it again, even more alarmed by the strange feel of her neck muscles, the strange lack of the swing of heavy hair. She blinked once more. Looked around. Her eyes stopped on Garth's face.

He was staring at her. His eyes were huge, his mouth an open circle, his face the colour of muddy snow.

Cat stared back. Something was wrong.

If there is one lesson that Fantasia can be said to bring home, it is that apprentice spell-casters cannot be trusted. Certainly Catrina, commonly known as Cat, was understandably upset to find her request for a finding spell to enable her to locate her father had resulted in her being transformed into her, as it were, namesake! Together, she and Garth, the apprentice wizard and accomplished musician, continued with her quest and, as well, ingeniously foiled a plot to incite war between their own country and both its nearest neighbours. In the process, Garth came to realize that he was not only a fine composer and singer, but that, if he concentrated sufficiently, he was also a pretty good wizard, and Cat's furry disguise came in very handy, although she was relieved to finally get her own shape back. And yes, she did find her father.

     Quests are common in fantasy literature, as is the struggle between good and evil. I liked the form that both of these aspects took in The Minstrel's Daughter. Catrina is not searching for some vast and portentous treasure; she merely is unhappy at the prospect of her mother's marrying (though she agrees with the frequently expressed opinion that Heard is indeed "a good man") and so runs away toward the remembered joy of life with her father twelve years ago when she was only three. She and Garth are not puppets of the Master of the Universe, keeping mankind from destruction by the power of the Evil One, but youngsters with integrity and loyalty, doing their best in a difficult situation.

     And it all works. What's more, while we are told it is Book One of a trilogy---and what fantasy book isn't at least three volumes long these days!---it is a satisfying and complete story as it stands. We shall be glad to reconnect with Cat---and Garth---but we can wait. Linda Smith has written a winner; however, I hope the wait is not too long!

Highly Recommended.

Mary Thomas works in two elementary school libraries in Winnipeg, MB, and loves reading a good bit of fantasy.

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

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