Chasing the Bard

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He is born into the human world with a gift; a gift that brings him to the attention of powers both dark and light from the World of the Fey. Sive, the goddess of battle, hopes that he may be able to change the fate of her people.

The Fey are dying, killed by something beyond the boundaries of worlds, and Sive will do anything to save them. So she enlists the help of her trickster cousin Puck to guard the child, and watch him grow into his gift. But a dark power imprisoned by ...

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2005 Trade paperback Very good. Minimal Wear // Pages Crisp and Clean Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 328 p. Audience: General/trade.

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He is born into the human world with a gift; a gift that brings him to the attention of powers both dark and light from the World of the Fey. Sive, the goddess of battle, hopes that he may be able to change the fate of her people.

The Fey are dying, killed by something beyond the boundaries of worlds, and Sive will do anything to save them. So she enlists the help of her trickster cousin Puck to guard the child, and watch him grow into his gift. But a dark power imprisoned by human and Fey, plots to destroy both worlds, and unmake all that they have created.

Can one boy stop the destruction, even if he is William Shakespeare?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781896944173
  • Publisher: Dragon Moon Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2005
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author with her husband Tee Morris of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a mighty clowder of cats.
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Read an Excerpt

1: 'Lord, what fools these mortals be!'

It was of course a guilty pleasure. When Puck parted the Veil Between Worlds, and stepped into the forbidden delights of the human realm, it was with a delicious shudder of anticipation. If he were found out of course there would be more than the Christian hell to pay for it. He could think of a hundred unpleasant things that Auberon could punish him with, probably even more than the king himself, and yet he couldn't quite bring himself to step back.

The wood was so pleasant, and the trees were actually sighing to him as he took his first step into the crisp layer of leaves. Surely the rest were wrong about this human world. Beauty still lingered here--even if his people's music had faded.

He bent, scooping up a handful of the trees' castoffs, and with a little flicker of his Art he formed them into a very passable brown coat which he slipped over his head with an almost--giggle. What he wouldn't have given for a mirror.

The trees whispered again, the slight wind giving them an eager breathy voice, and, head cocked, Puck listened.

"Why thank you," he leapt on light feet to where a sliver of water had gathered between the roots of a grandfather oak. Reflected in nature's mirror the Trickster admired his handiwork. He flicked his silver white hair out from under his new vest, and grinned. The dark leaves looked good--even on this his smallest, and most childlike form. It still needed something.

Head on one side, Puck considered. Another flicker of art brought a sleeping hyacinth out from its hiding hole. He thanked it just as kindly as the tree before plucking it, and putting it behind one ear. He'd just settleddown for a decent spell of admiring himself when a smell came to him on the breeze. Something human was plodding towards his little nook. Quick as a startled squirrel he'd bounded up the tree, and nestled into its friendly crook long before the old woman came puffing around the corner. She paused with a great huffing sigh, and wiped a thread of sweat from her creased face.

Puck had never seen a human so weighed down with objects, a scraggly bag on her back, a sheaf of herbs under one arm, and even more interestingly, an oddly-shaped stool under the other. His eyebrow went up a notch, and despite not wanting to be seen, he leaned perplexed over the branch for a closer look. The woman passed right beneath him, all the while muttering to herself in a low angry voice.

The Trickster had never been one to resist his impulses, and was not changing that today. Nor was he known for his skill with Art, but even his stern cousin Sive the Shining would have been impressed with the sharp sliver of Art he sent into the human's consciousness; she didn't feel a thing.

The old woman's mind was heaving with anger, all tied up with someone called Joan who had obviously failed in some way, and not aided by the fact that her burden was heavy. This Bess's bones hurt, her feet were almost worn raw in her clogs, and the path was slippery at this early hour. Still the concern at her slowness was not solely for herself; she had a duty that he had not quite winkled from her brain, but it was what drove her to walk so quickly in the chill misty morning. She had a good heart, and he'd always had a soft spot for her sort of humanity, so if he called his Art to strengthen her muscles he wasn't to be blamed. Sive's stern look was a whole world away. It was only a moment's work.

It was gladdening to see her face relax and her back straighten as the power filled her. It wasn't his imagination; her eyes did drift to the tree he was hiding in.

"Thank you Lord Callirius," her voice was very low but his otherworldly ears were equally sharp.

Bess had straightened and moved on by the time Puck recovered. He should have been incensed that she'd mistaken the reprieve as a gift from his cousin, but he was more shocked that she'd named a Fey at all. How extraordinary, thought Puck as he climbed atop the branch, to watch the woman walk away, faster, and with a great deal less puffing. Could it be that some of the old ways still remained in the humans even after his kind had forsaken this realm? It would have been remiss of him not to find out.

His people had always hidden from the humans. However as Bess was moving quickly beyond the reach of the trees there was nothing left to do but to wrap a glamour of invisibility about himself, and follow after. Sive should be proud of his determination--if he ever told her the whole adventure, of course.

Unseen then he trailed after the old woman, his hidden shape masked by wind-blown grass, or a minor cloud of dust kicked up by her heels. True invisibility was beyond him, so this was more his Art giving any watchers a gentle nudge to look somewhere else. Certainly Bess was moving with such speed she never spared a look over her shoulder. Puck had to really set his mind to keeping up, turning away from every distraction that tempted his eye. He would have loved to pause a while, and delve into the hedgerows they passed, or perhaps shapeshift to gamble with the thick-coated sheep he saw on the rolling hills, but he had a higher purpose today.

They approached a town, a fact he had detected long before he saw the huddle of buildings. That was the one thing he disliked about humans; no matter how amusing or pleasant they were, there always remained a vague scent of decay about them.

As if she had picked up on his stray thoughts, Bess drew up for a second, letting her eyes wander dismally over Stratford. "Aye the plague is here," she muttered darkly before stamping on.

Protected he might be, but Puck still shuddered. He knew all about plagues, and buboes, and shrieks of agony--more than anyone of his light nature should. Many was the time when his cat shape had been lapping up the milk a goodwife left out to please him, and he had heard the moans of the afflicted. Why would Bess be going toward a place of infection, when she was clearly no fool?

Curiosity overcame his desire to avoid any unpleasantness. As they drew closer, the smell became worse, so that even Bess had to halt, and wrap a portion of her cloak around her face. Puck recoiled. Great Mother, they had come upon the limed cesspits where the dead were thrown. He wasn't his cousin, he wasn't used to the ugly nature of this realm--he almost fled.

"Great Mother, hold my life," Bess whispered, clutching her bundles tighter before plowing on.

It really would not have been very brave of him to abandon her after that. Holding his breath, Puck and his glamour passed quickly on, almost knocking the old woman's heels, until they reached the somewhat less odorous village itself.

Piles of refuse were burning on the street, which did not add to the atmosphere. A group of women perhaps the same age as Bess were gathered around one smoldering near the corner, bonneted heads pressed close together, clucking into each other's ears dismally.

"Bad time for birthing I'd say." One nodded sagely.

"Oh yes, hardly worth the bother," another pressed her hands together pronouncing judgment.

Bess passed them in silence as their eyes turned contemptuously on her. They could never place how, but they knew she was not one of them.

Puck though had enough to concern himself with. Being surrounded by humanity in all its grime was bad enough, but there was something far worse about the town, a tension that rang through his head. Preternatural senses told him that behind every wall was an anxious human, terrified of death for themselves or their loved ones. Some were locked in fornication in a desperate attempt to forget, others were wearing holes in their knees trying to pray past it, but all wore fear around their heart like a chain. Puck pitied them, as was his nature, but there was not enough Art in his body to cure this malaise.

They turned a final corner in the strangely still street, and Bess' mind was ringing with relief. Finally there was her destination. For a single one of his immortal breaths Puck was unimpressed, for it looked like any other of the houses in the row, and then his Art broke loose. His ears buzzed with a mighty hum, his vision drained of all color, and his skin suddenly became hot. In that one instant he almost lost hold of his glamour, and his shape. The power he had always wielded with such ease was abruptly staging a revolt, the center of which was the house Bess was now approaching. It was bright white to Puck, as if the sun was caged within its frail walls, and even as he stood struggling with his Art, it pulsed faintly like a human heart. And he now he could hear it calling to him, softly but persistently like a half-recalled dream, and so much of him wanted to follow after Bess that tears spilled from his eyes. The ache inside him was a burning pit, and every ounce of Art was urging him toward the house.

Puck was not a great Fey. He'd not walked the elder days, nor taken up a godhood among the humans; he was the Trickster, not made for serious or important matters. But still he knew when he saw them, and better still he knew those that were more equipped to deal with such momentous events.

With a half cry of sorrow, Puck threw open the Veil, and quit the suddenly frightening human world. Whatever secrets the house held would have to wait. He could not let it burn his foolish eyes, and change him forever. As he passed Between and into the Fey realm, he couldn't have even identified what he did as cowardice. For the Trickster it was merely survival.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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  • Posted March 16, 2011

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    A wonderful story with a fey twist to Will Shakspeares life.

    Sive is to marry the fey man she once had feelings for, but now knows he is not the same man who left to find a cure for the plague haunting the fey and killing them slowly. He has changed, but yet doesn't know what that change is. She just knows she doesn't want to marry him and her brother, the king, is requiring it believing Mordant knows of a cure from his travels around the distant realms. Sive learns from her Aunt a human child is born in the mortal world possessing the great power of the Bard and this child could be the salvation of all fey. Sive sends he cousin, Puck, to guard this child from any dangers. Sive decides later, when the child is older, that she wants to know what her evil husband is up to. She takes books from his library to Will so he can teach her to read. In this time together Sive learns of a new side of herself. Which could put her and Will in more danger, along with their loved ones and worlds.

    I purchased this book after reading Geist by Philippa Ballantine. I enjoyed the story and her writing in Geist so, that I wanted more. Searching her site I came across this book and was taken with the description. This book is very different from Geist, but I have to say I loved the writing and the tale she wove. By page nine I was hooked on the writing style. The words flowed smoothly for me and sounded poetic in their form. This is one talented author, and one to keep an eye on, I can see many great and different pieces of work coming from her in the future.

    I'm going to start right off and say I loved this book. If William Shakespeare was could read of this fey filled, adventurous, heroic side of his life, he would be flattered and love it too.

    This book takes place in both the Fey realm and Human realm, along with the in between of the veil. This book isn't really about William Shakespeare as it is a tale spun with the fey and how they touched his life and he theirs. The story here is one of an evil presence trying to eliminate all the realms connected, for itself. There is love and lose here also.

    I loved the way the fey where portrayed and the growth of their kind and the characters. In the beginning they are the fun loving fey who are created to make music and dance. They are naive and ignorant to the mortal ways, feelings, and such. Then I was moved by them through their happenings, more through Sive and Puck. And later in the book by Aberon, Sive's king brother, in how he shows the contrast of the way Sive once was and how much she changed along with himself. Then I realized along the way, they where stronger than thought and I loved them, not wanting to see them fight a war to the death for their home and the destruction of another realm. One that the Queen now loves with all her heart, thanks to her lover.

    In the end, I had an idea where the story would go at the close of a life. But it still brought me to tears.

    I enjoyed this book very much for many reasons. I would definitely suggest this read to anyone who enjoys the fey and a little Shakespearean twisted in. But, don't go in looking for a Midsummer Night's Dream tale as that's not what lies between these covers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A fun foray into Faery

    I enjoyed reading this novel. I heard an excerpt read on the Celtic Myth Podshow and it lead me to purchase and read the novel. The foray into faerie and the intertwining of historical characters was fun. The novel was suspenseful and dipped into romance on occasion, without becoming overly cloying. I thought the writing was strong and the story was original. I would enjoy reading more work by Ballantine.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2011

    Barely 2 stars

    I have been trying to get into this book for 6 months, I just can't do it, the pacing just does not work for me. I feel like someone took 2 unrelated stories & tried to smoosh them together.

    What was the edito thinking?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 22, 2012

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    Posted February 19, 2012

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    Posted June 12, 2011

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    Posted April 25, 2010

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