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. Volume VIII Number 5 . . . . November 2, 2001
In this gripping fantasy novel, a sequel to Dragonfire, readers are re-introduced to the characters of Dahl and Catryn, his high-spirited friend. Dahl, Dragonfire's hero, has capably assumed the challenges of his role as the rightful King of Taun and has wrought many wonderful changes as he has restored peace and contentment to the land of his birth. This story, however, is Catryn's tale. In these recent years, she has, herself, been hard at work studying with the Elders and learning how to use her magical gifts. She is now the awe-inspiring Seer of Taun, and, in this role, she comes to Dahl to warn him of a new evil gathering in the north which they must together overcome. In spite of Catryn's misgivings, Dahl is determined that his trusted friend, Bruhn, shall accompany them on this terrible mission. These three, along with their old friend, Sele the Plump, set out on a perilous journey that will ultimately lead them to Caulda, the Dragon's lair, in their effort to prevent the enslavement of all the people of Taun.
Readers of Karleen Bradford's first novel about Dahl and Catryn will not be disappointed here, while newcomers will quickly become caught up in these, their latest trials. Like its prequel, Whisperings of Magic is a fine example of all that is compelling about the very genre of fantasy literature. The story is fast-paced and suspenseful right to the end, and it is peopled with intriguing characters, such as the Sele, a race of peace-loving creatures whose role in ensuring Taun's safety is not small. The villains are frighteningly cold and mercilessly evil, and Bradford's introduction of a soul-stealing dragon adds a new element of horror to ponder. Yet I believe that what truly sets both of Karleen Bradford's fine fantasy novels apart is the way in which the main characters manage to be convincingly heroic and yet remain completely real and human in their imperfection. In spite of her magical powers, Catryn is beset with doubts and insecurities about her ability to protect Dahl and his people. Perhaps more importantly, she is afraid to admit her weaknesses to him. And throughout this tale, Catryn's greatest struggle is to trust, to let go of her own will and believe in those around her. Gifted and powerful though Catryn may be, readers young and old can identify with the internal battle she wages. She is a satisfying and worthy heroine!
I was, however, disappointed with the depiction of the secondary characters in the book. Bruhn, Dahl's dear friend, was curiously one-dimensional, and his role in the story was a little too predictable: I had really hoped to be surprised by him. Also, the boy Norl, although a critical figure, didn't ever really come to life. But the language and tone of the story are strong and help create, from the very first page, a sense of the great import of Catryn's announcement. It is, without a doubt, a captivating tale that leaves readers with lots upon which to reflect and even more to look forward to in a third installment.
Lisa Doucet is a children's bookseller at Woozles in Halifax. NS.
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