From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, October 29, 2007:
"A luxuriant exploration of the nature of magic, storytelling, and love."
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2007:
"Dickinson's return to that world will delight and satisfy his fans and introduce others to an enchanting reading experience."
From the Hardcover edition.
For the right reader-one who is able and willing to fall in with its stately pace-this novel marks a welcome return to the lavishly imagined lands Dickinson first mapped in The Ropemaker. Twenty generations have passed and once again the Valley and, as it turns out, most of the surrounding Empire are in dire need; only a quest undertaken by a woman of the Urlasdaughter family with an Ortahlson man can produce a magician able to help. This time around, the predestined pair is Saranja, who grew up determined to flee her family's heritage, and easy-going Ribek, who would just as soon stay at home and work his mill. Accompanying them, and providing the point of view from which most of the tale is told, is Saranja's orphaned cousin Maja, whose extreme sensitivity to the presence of magic gives this story an inward, contemplative focus that mostly compels but occasionally veers into self-indulgence. With its imaginative shape-shifting, worlds within worlds and stories within stories, this tale seems to tap into a body of lore that has always existed. High adventure calls: Dickinson treats readers to visions of flying horses, fearsome demons and the twin Ice-dragons who preserve the balance of the planet. A luxuriant exploration of the nature of magic, storytelling and love. Ages 14-up. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
In this sequel to The Ropemaker (Delacorte, 2001/VOYA December 2001), the Valley has been invaded again after twenty generations of peace, and it is Maja Urlsdaughter, her half-sister Saranja, and Ribek Ortahlson's turn to seek the Ropemaker for help. Accompanied by a powerful young magician, Benayu, and the lizard-like, Jex, who is from another universe, they set off on their quest but are caught up in the war that breaks out between the Pirates (Sheep-heads) and the Empire. Threatened by dragons, demons, and the all-powerful Watchers, but strengthened by the addition of a canny spy named Striclan, they discover that the Ropemaker has been stranded by time in Jex's universe. Only by reaching the "touching point" of the two universes on Angel Isle and by benefiting from the help of powerful female magicians, Zara and Chanda, will Maja and the others be able to rescue the Ropemaker and destroy the Watchers. The characters, especially Maja, from whose perspective the story is told, are interesting and well-developed. Maja's relationship with Ribek adds a romantic touch. Dickinson painstakingly weaves together several subplots, but the momentum often slackens. Magic is experienced frequently by characters as a powerful, physical force. There is a heavy reliance on cataclysmic magical events to achieve momentous happenings. Dickinson's fantasy will potentially appeal to teens who enjoyed the first book and to those who relish a fully developed fantasy world. Reviewer: Hilary Crew
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10 In this sequel to The Ropemaker (Delacorte, 2001), Dickinson's well-constructed fantasy world is rejoined 20 generations into the future. The magical Ropemaker is now trapped in a parallel universe, unable to prevent the evil Watchers from retaking control of the Empire. Angel 's prologue is identical to the epilogue of the earlier book: Maja, Saranja, and Ribek set off to find the Ropemaker so that he can protect their Valley. Along the way they learn more about the history of the mysterious man. Ultimately, what makes Angel compelling are the relationships among the main characters, particularly Maja's love for the much-older Ribek. As with Ropemaker , the lack of a map makes the saga somewhat difficult to follow, and, as sometimes happens with fantasies of this type, the story's unfurling over a period of long months spent traveling on horseback makes the pace drag a bit. Still, patient readers, especially those who enjoyed the earlier book, and fans of Hilari Bell's "Farsala" trilogy (S & S) will find much to like in this character-driven epic fantasy.-Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH
Centuries have passed since the Printz Honor Award-winning The Ropemaker (2001): Mountain horsemen have attacked The Valley and two adults and a teenager set out, searching for a magician to renew life-saving enchantments on their home. Their quest leads them through the mountains to cities, villages and lands in the Empire south of The Valley. The complex and intricate plot illustrates just how artful a writer Dickinson is, as he builds tension through the difficulties the protagonists face-magical, political and personal. Characters, from the humans to the alien who lives halfway between two dimensions, have a depth formed by their actions and dialogue-even the animals have distinct personalities. This book stands on its own because the back story is carefully integrated into the narrative flow. However, it's enthusiasts of the first installment who will most appreciate acquiring additional information about this world and will have a sense of threads being tied up in a thoroughly satisfactory resolution. Dickinson's return to that world will delight and satisfy his fans and introduce others to an enchanting reading experience. (Fantasy. YA)
Read an Excerpt
Cold, hungry, terrified, Maja watched the two strangers from her secret den beside the mounting block, beneath the burnt barn. That was where she’d run when she’d seen a troop of the savage horsemen from the north come yelling up the lane all those days ago, and lain there cowering. Her uncle and the boys were away fighting the main army of the horsemen, but they must have caught her mother and her aunt. Maja couldn’t see what they did to them because of the smoke, but she’d heard their screaming. Then the smoke of the burning buildings had got into the den and overcome her. After that she didn’t remember anything for a while, and when she woke the savages were gone and the farm was ashes around her.
She had felt too ill to move, and too terrified of the savages, and her throat had been horribly sore, but at last she’d crept out and climbed up to the spring and drunk, and then stolen round the farm like a shadow and found her mother’s body and her aunt’s lying face down in the dung pit, and a lot of dead animals scattered around. Her aunt used to make her help with the butchering, so she cut open a dead pig with her knife and roasted bits of its liver on the embers of her home, and despite the soreness of her throat had managed to swallow it morsel by morsel. By the time she’d finished, it was beginning to get dark, so she’d crawled back into her den and curled up in her straw nest and slept there all night without any dreams at all.
She’d spent the next day collecting dry brushwood and straw and the burnt ends of rafters and beams and piling it all into the dung pit on top of the two bodies. As dusk thickened she’d used a still smoldering bit of timber to set the pile alight.
“Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye,” she’d whispered as the flames roared up, then turned away dry-eyed. She didn’t seem to feel anything. She was vaguely sorry about her mother, and vaguely guilty that she’d never learned how to love her. There hadn’t been anything there to love. She’d dreaded and hated her aunt, but her aunt had shaped her world and she felt a far greater sense of loss at her going. Now that shape was shattered and all she had was emptiness, until her uncle came back from the fighting, if he ever did.
The dead animals had soon begun to rot, but some of the chickens were still alive and hanging around because they didn’t know anywhere else to go. There was good barley out in the little barn in Dirna’s field, which her aunt grew there every year to feed to the unicorns, so the chickens learned to come to her again when she called to them, and she managed to coax some of them into laying. She ate the cockerels one by one and found a few things still usable in the vegetable patch and the orchard, and survived, afraid and lonely.
She had found her den long before. Ever since she could remember she had needed somewhere to hide. Hide from her uncle’s sudden, inexplicable rages, from her aunt’s equally savage tongue, from her boy cousins’ thoughtless roughness. Only occasionally did anyone hurt her on purpose. Indeed, once or twice when she was small and at the end of one of his outbursts her uncle had slammed out to the barn, her aunt had deliberately sent her out to call him in, despite her terror of him. It was one of her aunt’s ways of punishing her, though she’d never been told what for. So she’d crept through the barn door, tensed for his anger, but instead he’d called to her and put her on his lap and fondled her like a kitten for a while, and spoken gently to her, though she could feel his rage still roiling inside him—and it was the rage itself that had terrified her, not the fear that she herself might suffer from it. Usually it had been her big cousin Saranja who’d suffered, or the two boys—and they had been always angry too. Even her own mother had been too vague and feeble to notice her much, let alone stand up for her when she needed help. She must have had a father, of course, but she’d never known him, and had no idea who or where he was. She didn’t dare ask. Saranja had been the only person besides her uncle who had sometimes smiled at her, as though she had meant it.
But then there had come the day she had taught herself never to think of, and at the end of it Saranja had gone away and the rage had been ten times worse than before and her uncle had never spoken to her kindly again.
And it was all Maja’s fault. It always had been, even before that. Since she was born.
There was a bit of the heap of ashes that had been Woodbourne which she fed with fresh wood to keep the embers going, and then hid under layers of ash when she’d finished her cooking. She’d just done that when she’d spotted the woman trudging along the lane with an old horse trailing behind her, and a solitary figure limping along further back. They hadn’t looked dangerous, but all the same she’d clucked to the chickens, who’d come hustling over, imagining it was the start of the evening drill that kept them safe from foxes. She’d laid a trail of barley to lure them into the den and lain in the entrance to watch, letting the scorched branch of fig that screened it fall back into place.
From the Hardcover edition.