CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 1. . . .September 3, 2010
Song of the Sword. (Shards of Excalibur, Book 1).
Montreal, PQ: Lobster Press, 2010.
330 pp., pbk., $12.95.
Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Ronald Hore.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
The pretty girl with the shiny, waist-length hair was the leader of the pack: petty, vicious, interested mainly in boys, clothes, and lousy music. There was one – or more than one – in every school, and they always took an instant dislike to Ariane. She wasn't sure why – probably because she wouldn't put up with any of their alpha-female crap. It couldn't be because they saw her as a rival. She wasn't good-looking enough for that, and besides, she had about as much interest in high school boys as she did in bathroom fungus. Less, actually: scientifically, she found fungus fascinating.
That one, the blonde giving Ariane a toothy smile, like a feral dog smelling blood, would be the lieutenant, the second-in-command. Pretty, but careful not to be as pretty as the leader. She was the real brains of the clique and its enforcer, making sure the leader's plans were carried out ... and planting her own ideas in the invitingly empty space between the leader's ears.
The other two were mere hangers-on, ciphers who would latch on to anyone who promised parties and boys. They could be ignored when they were on their own, but were dangerous in the company of their leaders.
Song of the Sword is an updated and slightly different take on the legends surrounding King Arthur. Set in modern day, with a teenage girl, Ariane Forsythe, who has strange premonitions, and a younger boy, Walter (Wally) Knight, who is the school geek and takes fencing as a hobby, as the heros. One thing that makes this tale different from many in the genre is that it is set in Regina, SK, and full of other Canadian place names, such as Yellowknife and Toronto.
Ariane is new to this high school. Its her first week in grade 10, and she has drawn the antagonism of a group of senior girls who set out to cause her grief. Wally becomes involved by accident, and later, when Ariane finds herself in Wascana Lake and facing the image of the Lady of the Lake, he stumbles into that meeting. The Lady chooses Ariane and Wally for a difficult quest: to stop the risen sorcerer Merlin from gathering up the shards of the broken Excalibur and using that sword to give him limitless power. Merlin has escaped from where the Lady had imprisoned him, and he is now Rex Major, a wealthy and powerful businessman and a software tycoon. The theme of this first volume in the series is to introduce the main characters, give the reader some idea of their powers, and send Ariane and Wally on their first of several searches for a piece of the sword. The sword has been broken into seven shards.
Ariane's mother disappeared two years ago, and, after living in foster homes, Ariane is now residing with her aunt. Wally lives at home with his older sister, Felicia, who, to complicate matters, is a member of the gang harassing Ariane. She bullies Wally constantly. As their parents are away, they are looked after by a housekeeper.
Ariane has some magic powers, and, due to her connection with the Lady of the Lake; she can control, and travel through, fresh water. Wally is quite happy to play the part of the heroine's brainy sidekick.
Written clearly, and with an interesting version of the Arthurian legend, the tale portrays some common teenage problems through the eyes of the two main characters, while placing them in harrowing fantasy situations. The villain is portrayed as two dimensional, and readers view some of the scenes through his eyes. The story will appear to those who enjoy fantasy and will not require a knowledge of the Arthurian tales to follow.
Ronald Hore, involved with writer's groups for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.
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