________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 3 . . . . September 21, 2012



Holly Bennett.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2012.
201 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-4598-0038-0.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Libby McKeever.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



There was an unwritten code of street performers: you don't impinge on another man's space. But it was a good-sized square; Rowan could barely hear the other instrument from where he stood. Likely, neither of them would make as much as they would without the competition, but Rowan could live with that.

He climbed into the caravan and emerged with a small stool and a large case. He settled down, drew out the button box and wrapped the whole contraption inside his jacket, trying to get enough warmth into the pleated leather bellows to ensure they wouldn't crack when he stretched them out.

"Get out of here!" The voice was an angry hiss right next to his head. Startled, Rowan looked up to find the fiddler looming over him. Two high spots of color burned in his narrow face. The pale blue eyes were cold and angry.

Teenagers Rowan and Samik are both musicians and both alone. Although from very different backgrounds, they share the same need, to escape: Rowan, from the memory of his parents and only sister Ettie who died of the plague, and Samik from the treacherous warlord, Jago. Samik, now known as Aydin in the country of Prosper, is fleeing for his life after he injured Jago while saving his younger brother from the warlord's wrath. Both boys are now without family, and, as they travel along on the roads and byways eking out a living playing music in the country markets, a bond forms between these two unlikely friends.

      Rowan discovers Samik has the gift of Sight after he informs him that Ettie is with him, even in death. After a time, Rowan comes to learn how to listen to the voice in his head and realizes it is Ettie, trying to guide him and protect him. Before he learns how to listen and act, he ignores her warnings which set the path for possible fatal consequences. After finally heeding her insistent instructions, Rowan discovers that Jago and his men have caught up with Samik, and, when both the boys' lives are threatened, it is Ettie who saves them.

      Holly Bennett has crafted a wonderfully exciting story with great characters that the reader will cheer for. She has an ability to create whole worlds with specific nuances that make them interesting and believable. In Redwing, Bennett has woven her characters' musical talents throughout the story. Their music is what brings them together, keeps them together and enables them to survive. Both boys come from vastly different musical traditions, and their instruments are new and unfamiliar to each other. It is a learning process where they come to appreciate and incorporate each other's musical style, thereby ensuring their success. The story moves quickly, with many tense moments that will keep readers turning the pages to a surprising and satisfying conclusion.

      Holly Bennett is the author of the "Bonemender" series; Bonemender, Bonemender's Oath, and Bonemender's Choice, and novels inspired by Irish Legends, The Warrior's Daughter and Shapeshifter.

Highly Recommended.

Libby McKeever is the Youth Services Librarian at the Whistler Public Library in Whistler, BC.

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

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