The City in the Lake

The City in the Lake

4.0 5
by Rachel Neumeier

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THE KINGDOM’S HEART is the City. The City’s heart is the King. The King’s heart is the Prince. The Prince is missing.

Ever since the Prince disappeared, nothing has been right in the Kingdom. Something has disturbed the strange, old magic that whispers around its borders . . . something cunning and powerful. And the disturbance extends to the

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THE KINGDOM’S HEART is the City. The City’s heart is the King. The King’s heart is the Prince. The Prince is missing.

Ever since the Prince disappeared, nothing has been right in the Kingdom. Something has disturbed the strange, old magic that whispers around its borders . . . something cunning and powerful. And the disturbance extends to the farthest reaches of the Kingdom, including the idyllic village where Timou is learning to be a mage under her father’s tutelage.

When Timou’s father journeys to the City to help look for the Prince, but never returns, Timou senses that the disturbance in the Kingdom is linked to her—and to the undiscovered heritage of the mother she never knew. She must leave her village, even if it means confronting powers greater than her own, even though what she finds may challenge everything she knows. Even if it means leaving love behind.

This breathtaking first novel spins a web of magic, bravery, and the power of love.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Starred Review, Booklist, May 15, 2008:
“It’s the poetic, shimmering language and fascinating unfolding of worlds that elevates this engrossing story beyond its formula.”

Publishers Weekly

Neumeier weaves an elaborate, albeit slow, tale of magic, legitimacy and love. The Kingdom is in great despair after Prince Cassiel mysteriously disappears. When the King also goes missing, the Queen accuses Cassiel's half-brother and the King's illegitimate son, Lord Neill, of kidnapping them to gain the throne. Meanwhile, on the other side of the forest, Timou's father, a gifted mage, journeys to the City ("I think it is with the heart of the Kingdom that this trouble lies," he tells Timou. "I think perhaps the heart has been... lost"). When he doesn't return, Timou, who has unique magical abilities, leaves her new lover, and sets out to find her father. Instead she meets her half-brother and learns the terrible truth about her sorceress mother and the power of the City in the Lake. Neumeier creates explosive and dynamic female characters, but unfortunately, some story details are not clear. A slow pace and repetitive lyrical language also make it difficult to follow the complex plot. Ages 12-up. (July)

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KLIATT - Aimee Cole
Reflections and magic are everywhere in Neumeier's fantasy. Readers are introduced to this magical landscape by following the life of a young girl, Timou, who is training under her father to become a mage. Timou becomes adept at finding truth in nature and people, so when the kingdom changes and Timou's father goes missing, she sets out to help. Far from her village, the story of Neill, the unfavored eldest son of the King, is also revealed. Neill and Timou come together in a search for the missing prince, the true heart of the Kingdom, who has been captured in a reflection of the city. Literal layers of the Kingdom exist, just as Neumeier explores the layers of feelings and words. The deep and confusing layers behind love are explored as Timou must sacrifice her feelings for Jonas to try and save the city and Neill must come to grips with his brotherly duty and love for his younger half-brother, the true prince of the city. Readers will not only enjoy the magical world here that has been crafted with descriptive language, but they'll also learn about the depths of meaning in our lives. Reviewer: Aimee Cole
Children's Literature - Amie Rose Rotruck
The Prince has vanished from the Kingdom and everything seems wrong. While many search for him, he is nowhere to be found. People begin to suspect that Neill, bastard son of the king, has something to do with the disappearance of the prince. Meanwhile Timou is studying magic under her father's tutelage in a far-away small village. Timou's father journeys to the city to investigate the rumors, but never returns. Now Timou must leave her village and travel to the city to find what became of the prince and her father. When she reaches the city, she comes face to face with strange powers, intrigue, and the secret behind her long-lost mother. This engrossing tale is told in a lyrical language, very evocative of traditional fairy tales. While Timou's quest is more gripping than the answers she finds, the story is still magical in its dreamlike tone and plotting. Reviewer: Amie Rose Rotruck
School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up

King Drustan's heir has vanished. With Prince Cassiel missing, nothing is right: the trees do not bear fruit and babies are stillborn. Attempting to unravel this mystery is Neill, the King's elder son known throughout court as "the Bastard," and Timou, a 17-year-old mage who has learned her art from her father. Though Neill and Timou have never met, they share a common origin: an enigmatic woman with pale hair and dark eyes who bore them to their respective fathers before vanishing. When she does return, this powerful sorceress is bent on using her offspring and her magic to seize control of the Kingdom. This poetically written tale follows its multi-threaded story line through sinister forests, mazes of light, and numerous worlds, including a different facet of the Kingdom-a perfect realm frozen in time and reflected in the lake surrounding the City. Though the how and why of all of this is sometimes vague, Neumeier spins a good tale of two young people coming to terms with a sinister heritage. Give this one to readers who enjoy the dark, dreamlike fantasy of Neil Gaiman.-Christi Esterle, Parker Library, CO

Kirkus Reviews
A lyrical fantasy weaves several threads and layers together. In the City, mirrored by a parallel, timeless City below the lake, the Prince is missing. The Prince is the heart of the King, the King's the heart of the City and the City's the heart of the Kingdom-so the whole Kingdom is cursed. Mages search behind every slant of light, but the Prince has vanished. Across the countryside, every human and animal baby is stillborn. A young woman named Timou follows her father from their village through an enchanted forest to the City. Lord Bastard, the King's non-heir son, searches for the Prince, but the narrative keeps him at arm's length from the reader, his intentions unknown. Neumeier lovingly details the village scenes with tender simplicity. Unfortunately, intermittent surreal passages that include a thunderous Hunter in the sky and a river of blood flowing through a maze of light slow the plot down. Inconsistently paced, but thoughtful and lovely. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

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Read an Excerpt

The City is beautiful at sunset, almost as beautiful as the Lake itself. The waters of the Lake run with crimson and flame-orange and deep lavender as the sun sinks beyond its farther shore, colors pouring across the water all the way to Tiger Bridge. At that moment the exotic lilies carved into the Bridge, crumbling with age, look whole and alive in the moving light and cerulean shadows.

But after darkness falls, it will be the tigers of the Bridge that look real and alive. They shake themselves out of stone and come down from their pedestals, the lambent fires of sunset in their eyes, to stalk on great velvet paws through the night—so it is said.

At the moment between sunset and dark, the wind off the Lake sometimes dies and the air becomes utterly still. If that pause lasts long enough, it is said, the water becomes a mirror in which a man may see his true face reflected, as well as the reflection of the eternal City. Few would linger at Tiger Bridge to look into the still Lake at that moment, both because truth can be a dangerous thing and because of the tigers that wake out of stone in the night. But that is the story that people in the City tell.

That, at least, is a true story. The Bastard, who did not fear velvet-footed hunters, came to Tiger Bridge sometimes to watch the sun set and look into the glass-still Lake. The face he saw in the water was indeed not the face the simple mirror in his Palace apartments reflected. The Bastard could not have explained even to himself where, precisely, the difference lay. But it was to try to find out that he came to Tiger Bridge.

The Bastard had a name: Neill. He had a place in the court as elder brother to Prince Cassiel and son of Drustan, who was King. But he was not the son of Ellis, the Queen. The Bastard’s mother had been a woman who had wandered into the City and the King’s bed from some far country beyond the shores of the Lake, beyond the farthest borders of the Kingdom. She had given her son her fine ivory skin, her ash-pale hair, and her dark secretive eyes. And she had given him a heritage that ran outside the bounds of the Kingdom, a mixed blessing at best.

The woman had lived in the City for a season, for a year—long enough to carry and bear the King’s son. Then she had walked out of the City. Though I go, this child will keep my presence always near you, she had said to the King, laying the baby in his hands—so the tale went. May he flourish in this Kingdom.

Possibly the King did not appreciate reminders of his dalliance, especially once he married his Queen. It was well known he did not favor his illegitimate first-born son. Still, if he did not love Neill, he acknowledged him and kept him close to power. Kings have no need to be ashamed of the evidence of their indiscretions as other men may, and more than one royal bastard has grown up to rule when all the children born on the right side of the blanket have been sickly, or girls. From childhood, then, the court had called the boy Lord Neill to his face with careful deference, and, behind his back, sometimes with no less respect, Lord Bastard.

When the Bastard was twelve years old, the true Prince was born, merry and bold even as a baby and beloved by all the City. By that time, folk in both the Palace and the City had learned well the habit of respect toward his elder half brother. The Bastard, even as a child, had a way of keeping his own secrets while finding out the secrets of others, and although he spoke softly, he never forgot a slight. So people said in the court. And that story, too, was true.

The Bastard watched the sun sink below the Lake, sending fire across the water, and waited for the wind to die. But the quiet on this night did not last long enough for the waves to grow still, and so the Lake did not turn into a mirror. The Bastard was, however, philosophical about small disappointments. He turned away from the Bridge, pausing for a brief moment to study the stone tigers before walking away. They were still stone under his gaze. After he turned his head . . . who knew what they might become? The Bastard walked back across the City to the Palace. Once he might have heard the soft pad of a great cat, but though he stopped in the street to look patiently into the dark for one shadow softer-footed and more dangerous than others to separate itself from the night, he saw nothing.

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