From the Publisher
"A rich medieval fantasy, a splendid weaving of bright and dark threads, constant surprises and startling turns of events; of brutalities and beauties, terrors and triumphs . . . a remarkable achievement."--Lloyd Alexander
[star] "Stunning, lyrical prose . . . Carey smoothly blends many traditional fantasy tropes here, but her telling is fresh as well as thoroughly compelling."--Booklist (starred)
Carey (Wenny Has Wings) has written a romantic fantasy steeped in the Arthurian tradition of knights, dragons and lost kingdoms. After eloping with an outlaw, King Arthur's sister, Evaine, is banished to Wilde Island. Merlin, however, foresees a prophecy regarding the 21st queen in her future lineage: "She shall redeem the name Pendragon. End war with the wave of her hand. And restore the glory of Wilde Island." Centuries later, Queen Gweneth (the infertile queen number 20) devours an egg stolen from the dragon, Lord Faul, in an attempt to conceive. When she does give birth, her daughter, Rosalind, is born with the "devil's mark": her left hand bears a claw in place of one finger. Rosalind hides her hands underneath golden gloves and Queen Gweneth repeatedly commits murder to preserve the secret. The lonely princess doubts any man will ever marry her, but when she meets Kye-a young knight who vanquished a female dragon that has plagued Wilde Island-she falls in love. Soon after, Rosalind is captured by Lord Faul (her true father) and becomes nursemaid to his offspring, known as pips. When one of the pips drowns, Lord Faul's tears quench his "inner fire," killing him and ending Rosalind's capture. She returns to Wilde Island to claim her rightful place as queen, and though she is put on trial for being a witch, Rosalind's "curse" ultimately becomes her triumph. Fantasy lovers will readily empathize with this brave heroine who learns to be true to herself. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Dawn Talbot
Princess Rosalind was born with a dragon's claw, disappointing her mother, who expects nothing less than perfection. Merlin has prophesied that Rosalind will one day restore her family to its rightful throne, but Rosalind's destiny seems to be denied her when she is abducted by a dragon. Carey's writing style is beautifully expressive. In describing dragon scales, Carey writes, "Stuck to the shell, they were the size and shape of rose petals." Scales are "bright as rippling water"; wood is "bleached . . . bone white"; and gray hair lifts "like cobwebs in the breeze." There is wonderful depth in the story because of the rich language. The complicated relationship between Rosalind and her mother sparkles. Especially in the second half of the book, Rosalind learns that there are many sides of her mother that she did not know. Part of Rosalind's interesting journey includes facing the truth about who her mother really is, a difficult task. Rosalind also develops a unique, complex relationship with her dragon jailer that drives the story forward in unexpected ways. In addition to the writing, the fantastically multifaceted relationships among the main characters make this novel one that will easily hold readers attention.
Rosalind is a beautiful princess with a bright destiny. It has been prophesied that she would bring peace and restore the honor of her people. But Rosalind also bears a curse, a dragon's claw. Rosalind's mother forces her daughter to wear gloves to cover her devil's mark, even killing to hide Rosalind's curse. But fate overtakes the young princess when she is kidnapped by Lord Faul. Rosalind learns the truth behind her curse and struggles to learn who she truly is. Carey spins a story of magic, destiny, treachery and love that is exciting and emotional. Readers will identify with Rosalind's attempt to discover who she is and where she belongs. The book is appropriate for middle and high schoolers. Reviewer: Karolinde Young
KLIATT - Cara Chancellor
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2007: All her life, Rosalind Pendragon and her mother have kept a secret, one that has kept her from a royal marriage and from fulfilling the prophecy surrounding her reign as the 21st queen of Wilde Island. Whereas the rest of Rosalind's hands are a royal, alabaster white, the fourth finger on her left hand is a shimmering, metallic dragon's claw. In a kingdom in which people have been burned for witchcraft for far less, Rosalind is forced to hide her flaw under golden gloves that never leave her hands. When the omnipresent marauding dragon turns its attention on Rosalind's village, it sets off a chain reaction no one could have foreseen. The dragon hunters arrive, including a young man named Kye who makes Rosalind wish in earnest that she could marry. When the dragon is killed, though, it is only the beginning of Rosalind's misery. Its mate arrives to claim Rosalind as the new nursemaid for its pups, and she discovers the horrible secret behind her claw. As the sole human resident of Dragon's Keep, the island home of the dragons, Rosalind learns several surprising truths that make her wonder if it is her race or the dragons' that is really more "human" and whether or not she will ever fulfill the destiny that was foretold to her. Carey's novel is enjoyable, fast paced, and easy to read. It will have obvious appeal to YAs who feel like "outsiders," and Rosalind has the perfect balance of honor and personality flaws to make her both likeable and credible. The book is at times graphiccharacters are burned alive, dismembered, eaten, strangled, drowned, and druggedbut Carey presents her tale in a medieval context that makesits adult themes less disturbing than they could be. On the whole, the novel projects a theme of embracing one's differences that is undeniably pertinent to the 10th and 21st centuries alike. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) Reviewer: Cara Chancellor
In 1145, on Wilde Island, Rosalind counts the days by the saints and once a week has her mother the queen trim the dragon claw that is the third finger of her left hand. Told in the first person, Rosie's story unfolds slowly. Her mother has kept Rosie's claw hidden from the dragon-ravaged populace, always wearing golden gloves so her daughter's will not be questioned. The dragon comes to feed as dragons do, and is slaughtered by Lord Godrick and his son Kye. The dragon's mate, however, comes to rescue his eggs and takes Rosalind as servant to tend them. Rose learns from the dragons, believing that the key to her birthright is found in the children's chant, "Bright fire. Dragon's fire. Broken sword. One black talon ends the war!" Wonderfully imagined dragon lore and an elegant backstory connection to the Arthur Pendragon legend are woven with rich strands of mother/daughter, child/nursemaid, friend/companion resonance, and the dark-skinned, blue-eyed half-Muslim Kye is a worthy hero. The weakly melodramatic climax is the only flaw, and it's balanced by a sweet denouement. (Fantasy. YA)
Read an Excerpt
The Queen’s Knife
WILDE ISLAND AD 1145
MOTHER PULLED OUT HER KNIFE. We were alone in her solar.
“It’s time,” she said. “Give me your hand.”
I drew back. “It’s not yet Sunday eve.”
“We’re together, Rosalind, and the door’s well locked.”
“Tonight.” Then softening her voice she said, “Come, Rosie, take off your gloves.”
Her blade flashed in the firelight and sent a russet glow across the room. She was ready for the ritual. I dreaded it.
“Take yours off first.”
Mother placed her knife on the table and bared her hands. Queen Gweneth’s fingers were finely tapered as candles, her skin milky as the moon. It was a shame for her to wear golden gloves, but she’d donned them at my birth to protect me, and worn them ever since.
“Now you, Rosie.”
I bit my lip as she removed my right glove. Pretty hand that never saw the sun; the skin was soft and creamy not unlike her own. Mother kissed it. Then taking my other hand in hers, she peeled away the left glove. None but Mother and myself knew what hid underneath.
My throat tightened as we looked at my fourth finger. The horny flesh. Blue-green and scaly as a lizard’s hide. Claw of the beast with a black curving talon at the end.
I rubbed the scar at the base of my claw. A wound I’d made myself the night of Nell’s witch burning. With her cunning craft Nell had lured folk into the woods and fed them to the dragon. Of this she was accused, and too she had a devil’s mark on her back. I’d seen the mark myself before they burned herit was nothing compared to mine.
With Cook’s sharp knife I’d stolen to my room to try to cut off my cursed part. The wound was deep and the blood had drenched my kirtle before Mother caught me.
The queen was peering at my claw now, working her face to hold back a sickened sneer, but with all her trying, her lip still tightened. “The sorrow of it,” she whispered. “That it should be your wedding finger.”
“No man would marry me unless he was a leper.”
“Rosie. Don’t say such things.”
“Then say it isn’t true.”
Mother pulled out her silver vial, sipped the poppy potion, and closed her eyes. The fire crackled. When the lines around her eyes and mouth grew smooth she capped the bottle and set her jaw. “Now.”
I hid my hand behind my back. “It will hurt.”
“I’ll cut with care.” Tugging my wrist close, she used her knife to peel the black talon as a fletcher sharpens an arrow.
Curled bits of hard black nail fell to the floor. Sparks flew and a trail of smoke rose as she trimmed the nail. It was a wonder we’d shaken our heads at. For what kind of talon hides a spark?
Scrape. Scrape. I closed my eyes and smelled the odor of ground bone and, stranger still, a scent of rusted metal. The stench filled me with shame.
I waited for her to finish, taking slow breaths to calm myself. Then I felt a sharp prick.
“Too close to the quick!” I drew back and blinked away the tears.
“Done,” said Mother, sweeping the broken bits of nail into her hand and tossing them in the fire.
Gently now, she slid my golden gloves back on and put her cool hand on my cheek. “This secret is heavy between us,” she said. “But don’t cry, Rosie. I’ll find a way to cure you. I swear it on my life.”
Copyright © 2007 by Janet Lee Carey
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