________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 15 . . . . March 16, 2007


Rites of the Healer.

Anne Gray.
Toronto, ON: Sumach Press, 2006.
288 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-894549-59-2.

Subject Headings:
Healers-Juvenile fiction.
Fantasy fiction.

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4


Acknowledge your fear, Zagoad had said. Remembering this, Dovella tried to control her breathing, tried to see only what was happening now. And for now she was safe, for the Kaftil held up his hand, and the room fell silent.

"What is this New School?"

"A group of fanatics who have perverted their religion." As Dovella explained to him what was happening in the Village and why she had undertaken the journey, he listened attentively, but she could see he was not fully satisfied. "The Council would not send a young woman on such a mission alone."

"The Council doesn't know. Only my parents and Security Master Pandil. And I didn't leave alone." She told him how she and Zagoad  had been attacked. "He had hoped to beg passage through the hills."

"Zagoad? I know that name." The Kaftil looked up at the giant, who inclined his head thoughtfully. "It was necessary to get our prisoner back to Pandil," Dovella rushed on. "Zagoad would be in less danger than I in taking him back, and in any case, he wouldn't know what to do at the water source." She tried to crush the uncertainty that rose as she spoke the words. Would she know what to do?

At 16, Dovella is in the perhaps enviable position of having a real vocation for two very different careers, those of engineer and healer. She can intuitively 'feel' just where a machine or a body is malfunctioning and can then 'feel' healing taking place under her hands. Unfortunately, these talents hint at magic, and magic is not of the Village, but of the Hills and the Plains, that is, of the Enemy; and, therefore, it is suspect in the eyes of her neighbours in the Village. Especially this is the case for the New Schoolers who are a cult attempting to take control of the government of the Village and to bring about a return to the old values of the Founders of their civilization. The Founders may not themselves have been a bigoted collection of control freaks, but the New Schoolers certainly seem to be, in addition to being ignorant, devious, unscrupulous, and violent. How Dovella uses her two talents, as well as native spunk and intelligence, to journey to the Source in order to foil the plot of the New Schoolers to cut off the flow of water which supplies the Village with its power and drinking water is the subject of this story.

     And it is a good story. As well as the straightforward elements of action and plot, the conflict between various religious factions is well set out, and it is obviously possible to draw parallels with our own times. These fervent Fundamentalists are perhaps too solidly evil to be really credible - why would anyone want to take part in their rebellion! - but the arguments between them and those more ready to consider innovation and change have a very contemporary ring. Interesting discussions could arise. One other thing that intrigues me in modern fantasy novels is the unarmed-combat systems that all the girls seem to be taught and to have perfected to a much higher degree than any of the men against whom they have to fight. Since we, the readers, are on the heroine's side, this is all to the good - but why do the lads not get similar instruction? They couldn't all be too stupid or uncoordinated to learn these judo equivalents, could they? Just a thought.


Mary Thomas has taken one course in martial arts and was much too uncoordinated (she hopes not too stupid!) ever to manage more than basic stretches. She works in an elementary school library in Winnipeg, MB, where such skills are fortunately not required.

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

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.