Ill-Made Mute: The Bitterbynde Book I

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This first novel is also the beginning of new series of fantasy adventures. A young woman is given the gift of speech and decides to travel to a distant city in search of a wise woman who can further improve her life. She believes the stories of monsters and evil spirits along the way to be legends, but they turn out to be all too real. Fortunately, a ranger named Thorn stumbles across her at the right time and decides to become her protector, accompanying her until she acheives her goal. But their journey is not...
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Overview

This first novel is also the beginning of new series of fantasy adventures. A young woman is given the gift of speech and decides to travel to a distant city in search of a wise woman who can further improve her life. She believes the stories of monsters and evil spirits along the way to be legends, but they turn out to be all too real. Fortunately, a ranger named Thorn stumbles across her at the right time and decides to become her protector, accompanying her until she acheives her goal. But their journey is not to be an easy one.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
The Ill-Made Mute: The Bitterbynde Book One is a first novel from Australian author Cecilia Dart-Thornton. She has created a world whose human inhabitants are both aided and tormented by magical creatures called "wights." To avoid coming into contact with malicious, or "unseelie" wights, the people exchange trade goods on windships that sail through the air. The ships travel between, and dock at, tremendously tall towers that are inhabited by a few privileged families and the hundreds of servants who toil for them.

The central character is a mute, hideously scarred foundling who stows away on a windship to search for something that will trigger a memory of who it is, or where it is from. Along its journey, it encounters pirates, monsters, treasure hunts, treks through wight-haunted forests, true friendship, and its first stirrings of love.

Once I had enough information to form a mental image of the mute's world, I found the tale thoroughly engrossing and entertaining. (Kim Corradini)

Don D'Ammassa
For fans of mainstream fantasy, this is likely to be one of the high marks of the year.
Science Fiction Chronicle
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The world of Erith, a strange, wild land filled with humans and fey creatures called wights, has its charms, but unfortunately a lack of underlying depth weakens this first novel from Australian Dart-Thornton. To Erith comes a poor unidentified soul who cannot speak and has lost all sense of self, including all memories of a past. This creature without a life has also become shunned by all after being horribly disfigured by an encounter with a poisonous plant. As the plot slowly, disjointedly spins out, the creature acquires a name Imrhien and a new identity as a girl. Her story is full of little adventures and unrelated incidents, but the author provides almost no foreshadowing or any real idea why Imrhien has lost her voice and her looks. The girl's travels, which carry her from one end of Erith to the other, include encounters with wights, which can be "seelie" (mostly not harmful) and "unseelie" (evil), and with Sianadh, a friendly man who gives her not only her name but the chance to seek pirate treasure. Later Imrhien and Sianadh's niece try to find Maeve One-Eye, a carlin who might help her recover her memory. Nasty folk try to thwart her, but their motives are never explained. Hopefully future installments will supply more background, but this initial volume makes a decidedly shallow start. (May 23) Forecast: With a blurb from Andre Norton likening this book to Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring, as well as a plug from Elizabeth Hand, this novel may attract a lot of initial attention, but the sequel is going to have to be stronger to sustain interest. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
The foundling with no voice, no memory, and a badly disfigured face is a servant in a relay station used by Stormriders and Windships until he steals away on a Windship. The ship is waylaid, and the is foundling rescued by Sianadh, a trader temporarily turned pirate. Able to provide the foundling with the first piece of his identity—he is really a girl—Sianadh gives her a name, Imrhien, and becomes her guide and protector. Together they journey to discover the treasure-filled galleries of Waterstair. Along the way, Sianadh teaches her handspeak, enabling Imrhien to communicate, as well as the lore of the supernatural wights, so that she can survive. More adventures follow as Dart-Thornton guides readers through an imaginary world that draws much from Celtic folklore. Her language is poetic, and although there is much action, the joy of the story is in her rich descriptions and the fullness of her created world. At book's end, Imrhien's face is healed, although she is parted from Thorn, the skilled woodsman with whom she has fallen in love. She still has not regained either her speech or her memory. Evil, unseely wights are gathering to begin an assault against the civilized world. With so much left unresolved, one can only hope that the sequel will follow soon. Recommend this debut novel to readers who like well-crafted epic fantasy on the order of Tolkien's stories of Middle-Earth. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P J S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2001, Warner, 437p, $24.95. Ages 12 to Adult. Reviewer: Libby Bergstrom SOURCE: VOYA,February 2002 (Vol. 24, No.6)
Library Journal
A misshapen girl, unable to speak and scorned by those who dwell in Isse Tower, makes her escape into the world and seeks a destiny beyond her allotted fate. As the mute Imrhien learns to speak with her hands, she also discovers a deep love for the ranger Thorn even as she plunges into a deadly war against forces of evil. Dart-Thornton's first novel depicts a world that borrows from Celtic mythology but adds a few unique and refreshing twists. Featuring a courageous and unusual heroine, this series opener belongs in most fantasy collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Into Isse Tower stumbles a youth with no memory, unable to speak, wearing a face horribly disfigured from exposure to poisonous plants. Becoming a lowly, abused drudge, the youth learns about windships (they sail through the air, thanks to "sildron," the antigravity metal), the "unstorms" of eerie magic blown in on the shang winds, the flying horses called Eotaurs, and the servants' incessant tales of wights both seelie and unseelie. Unfortunately, the youth comes to the attention of Mortier, Master at Swords, who requires a servant. The youth, aware of Mortier's terror of the unstorms and consequent involvement with horrid magic, and previously flogged by him for an imaginary infraction, stows away on a windship despite knowing a stowaway's usual, grim, fate. Unearthed, the youth must toil as a deckhand-until pirates attack the ship. To avoid capture, the youth jumps into the sky, only to be saved by Sianadh, not a pirate but a treasure-seeker with a map and a sildron belt. Sianadh names the youth Imrhien and instructs the mute in sign language. Together, they survive cruel hardships and dreadful creatures to reach Waterstair. Believed by Sianadh to be a sildron mine, Waterstair turns out to be far more wonderful. Buoyed by their discovery, the two travel to Sianadh's home, whence Imrhien, resolving to recover face, speech, and memory, sets off for a whole new set of adventures. With deep roots in folklore and myth: tirelessly inventive, fascinating, affecting, and profoundly satisfying-and Dart-Thornton has plenty in reserve for sequels. A stunning, dazzling debut.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446610803
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/28/2002
  • Series: Bitterbynde Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 4.25 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Read an Excerpt



Chapter Two


THE HOUSE OF THE STORMRIDERS: Tale and Travail


Unremembered, yesterday is extinct.
Without yesterday, today has no meaning.
Who are you, if forgotten?
Who are you, but the sum of your memories?
'


Despite being immured within the dark, airless, walled spaces of the Tower, despite the fact that he was badly informed and struggling to comprehend his plight, the foundling came to understand that in some way the existence of Stormrider Houses revolved around horses. The sound of horses echoed from unexpected directions in the dominite cavities, the warm scent of them wafted suddenly to the nostrils from Outside, along with a thicker, avian odor as of caged birds. Horses were hoisted up and down the towers in lift-cages, and horses were kept in stalls in the upper stories. When he began Outside work, the newest and most lowly menial of the House was able to divine their purpose.

One morning the foundling was sent Outside to a balcony, to trounce the dust from floor-rugs. Flat-based cumulus clouds floated tranquilly like latherings of soap bubbles on invisible water, their frayed rims gilded by the dawn. Viewed from high on the balcony, the clouds were almost at eye level. This was the first time the boy had ventured into the open air, and excitement made him shiver.

Leaning over the battlements and looking far down, he could see the demesnes laid out like a map - the kitchen gardens, the neglected flower gardens, the stables and training yards, the wizard - s hall, and bits of the rutted road between the trees that over-hung it. Horses roamed the meadows,hattockingtracks, training yards, and stables below. They all seemed to be burdened with pairs of panniers slung on either side of their flanks, but what those baskets contained, the watcher could not tell from a distance.

On the other side, a wide, flat expanse of water - Isse Harbor, shimmering like rose-and-gold silk in the morning. From the shore projected a pier on marble stanchions, reaching far out into the bay, with docks and wharves set at intervals along its length. Still standing firm after uncounted centuries, Isse Harbor's wharves had proved a marvel of engineering, a reminder of the lost skills of glorious days long past. Here anchored Waterships of the seasplendid lily-winged birds of the deep, come from the outland runs to roost at this haven, if only for a while. They brought tidings and trade, their cargo was rich with barrels of pickled meats, fat flavescent cheeses, bales of cloth, sacks of flour and beans, casks of wines and spirits. There were stone jars brimming with honey, preserved and dried fruits, salt meat, sainfoin, stockfeed, leather, pots and porringers, pitchers and porcelain, fragrances, essences, spices, saffron, scrim, shabrack, musk, muslin, madder, purpurin, talmigold, tragacanth, wax, and all other manner of provisions.

The youth's goggling eyes traveled to the north and west. Here, wooded hills rolled gently away to a horizon wrapped in a niveous haze. Beneath the innocent roof of leaves, it was said, roamed all manner of eldritch wights both seelie and unseelie, but although the boy searched, he could see no sign of such incarnations. He had heard that a haunted crater-lake lay nearby to the northwest, and to the east, two miles from the sea, a puzzle most curious - the ancient remains of a Watership, its back broken, wedged in a cleft between two hills. Were such a legend true, the Empire of Erith must indeed be wondrous and perilous.

A satin scarf of a breeze floated up from the forest. In the south, gulls circumaviated Isse Harbor. Dust motes swarmed from the patterned rugs as the youth beat them, causing him paroxysms of sneezing. Reeling, he leaned against the parapet to recover. At that moment his watering eyes saw a sight that assured him he had sneezed his wits out through his nostrils.

At first it seemed to him that high and far off the dark shape of a large bird - an eagle or an albatross - was flying out of the sky in the southeast. Yet, as it approached, the silhouette resolved itself into the shape of a winged horse and rider galloping through powder-puff clouds toward the fortress. The youth blinked and shook his head. A second look cleared any doubt that the vision not only existed, but was closing in rapidly. The rider's head was the skull of a monster, or else he wore a winged helmet with a faceplate. Saddlebags bulged behind his thighs; his cloak billowed. The bird-horse moved fast, but with a strange and unnatural gait, placing its hooves with quick, mathematical precision just below the clouds' condensation level, simultaneously beating its wings in long, graceful arcs.

Sagging against the parapet, the foundling stared. Blood drained from his head. Almost, he fainted. Surely the world must be turned upside down if a horse possessed wings to fly! As he gaped, looking like some rooftop gargoyle, a fanfare issued from silver trumpet on the ramparts, cleaving the morning air with long, ringing notes. The aerial cavalier reached an upper story of the fortress and entered in at a platform jutting from the outer wall. His heart jumping like a scared rabbit, the youth sank to his bony knees. Then, recalling his task and how he would be beaten more vigorously than the carpet if he were discovered idling, he hastily returned to pounding mats, invoking dust, and sneezing.

Now at last he could make sense of the term he had heard so often - "eotaur." The word referred to the mighty, horned Sky-horses, the pride of the Stormriders. And it was not the last marvel he was to discover. Being shunned and ignored was not without its advantages. It meant that the lad was able to go about the mazy ways of the Tower largely unnoticed. He began to ascertain that insignificance was, in many ways, advantageous to his education.

In one instance, he had managed to elude Grethet and find an unobtrusive pantry-nook to doze in, when he was roused by a sound like the cooing of two doves. Within earshot a chambermaid was seated on a cider-barrel, her young child nestling on her lap.

The two were conversing.

". . . brought news from Namarre," said the mother softly. "I heard one of the upper-level chambermaids say so."

"Where is Namarre?" asked the child, snuggling her downy head closer to her mother's shoulder.

"It is very far away."

"The eotaurs must be truly strong, to be able to gallop from very far away."

The mother shook her head. "Even the greatest among them has not the strength to come all the way from Namarre without resting. Letters and other air cargo must be relayed. Isse Tower is a Relay Station."

"What is a Relay Station?"

"One of the staging posts where inland and outland runs meet. At Relay Stations, incoming mounts and Relayers interchange with fresh couriers. Messages and payloads are transferred."

"Oh," said the child, sounding disappointed. "Are there many Stations? But I thought Isse Tower was important."

"Of course it is important. It is part of a network of Relay Stations and Interchange Turrets. They are the crossroads for communications networks spanning the countries of the world, far above the perils of land roads."

The child digested these facts in silence. Presently she said, "And Stormriders — they are the most important lords in all of Erith, are they not? Aside from the King-Emperor, I mean."

"They are aristocrats, yes," replied the mother, caressing the child's hair. "But there are other nobles at the court of the King-Emperor who are considered to be equally as important. Yet, hush now, for we must not talk so about our betters."

By now the foundling had learned that the Stormriders were indeed peers of the realm — an exclusive caste born and trained to become masters of their profession. Without them, messages could not be Relayed. Without them, valuable small cargoes could not be forwarded across the country, among cities, mining-towns, and larger villages. The Stormriders' trade was exacting, he knew, and it belonged exclusively to the twelve Houses.

However, the fact that his masters traversed the skies of Erith meant very little to the new servant-lad. Between the mortar of daily drudgery and the pestle of pain, life went grinding on. There was no shortage of provender in the Tower, but he did not receive a great deal of it. His ration, although insignificant, was often withheld or stolen. Emptiness always pinched at his insides, like tiny clockwork crabs.

Some of his fellow servitors shunned the nameless lad. Most ignored him. A few nursed a strong antipathy to him. No matter how obedient he showed himself, no matter how hard he tried to please, they discovered fault. These punished and bullied him continually; he feared them with every fiber of his being. When they came near, he shriveled and trembled to his bones. There was no appeal against their abuse and the pain they inflicted; it had to be endured, that was all. He became accustomed to the constant tenderness of flesh brought on by bruising and the cuts that occurred when he fell or was thrown against some unforgiving object.

Because it seemed obvious that the newcomer was a half-wit, no effort was made to communicate with him, let alone teach him. None offered kindness, save for the daughter of the Keeper of the Keys, who was powerless to help him substantially.

Her name was Caitri, and she was very young - perhaps twelve Summers old. She had encountered him once when he was at his work - waxing the aumbries and weeping, so that the wax mingled with his tears. She, like the rest, had at first recoiled from his ugli-ness - yet, after the shock of first sight, she looked upon him anew, and her gaze softened as though she viewed him not as a deformed idiot, but as an injured animal in need of succor.

"Why do you weep?" she asked. He could only shake his head. She perceived the way his belly hollowed beneath his tunic, and sometimes she brought him hunches of stale bread or withered apples. She was the only one who ever really talked to him. It was she who explained to him about Windships, the majestic vessels that sailed the skies and sometimes berthed at Isse Tower. However, Caitri's duties kept her away from Floor

Five most of the time, and he met her infrequently, only accidentally. Over time, by way of eavesdropping and osmosis and rare acts of kindness, the youth learned more from those who lorded him. Most of it he gleaned in the evenings, for that was when the servants would often gather and tell stories. In this way the unworthiest among them began to discover the nature of the perilous and wondrous world beyond the Tower.

The servants' kitchen, Floor Five, was a spicery of sage and wood-smoke. Evening brought tranquillity to the bustling chamber.

Fireplaces big enough to roast an ox glowed with the last of the day's incandescence. In the chimney corner leaned one of the battered straw targets that, when soaked with water, was used to shield the spit-boys from the fierce heat of the fires. Lamps flickered with a dandelion light, describing various implements: copper pans, stoneware jars - gray hens and gotches, skeins of thyme and lemongrass, garlic, hams, onions, turnips, and cheeses hanging like comestible jewelry from blackened roof beams. Beside a set of scales, an empty one-gallon blackjack stood on a wooden bench, its leather seams reinforced with brass mounts and studs. Brass mote-skimmers, basting ladles with handles over a yard long, ale-mullers, and skillets dangled against the walls. Someone had left a warming-pan sticking out of a copper-bound wooden bucket. Caudle cups, posset pots, and pipkins lined up on a shelf beside a gristmill and a meat mincer.

Alongside brass chamber-sticks, their candles drip-ping yellow tallow in turgid formations, the table supported several pitted pewter tankards and a large brown spike-pot with a miniature spike-pot mounted in its domed lid. Shadows distorted themselves into uncanny shapes. Dogs and small capuchin monkeys sprawled before the open hearth, scratching their fleas. Like restless bees, scullery maids, flunkeys, cooks, and a few children congregated in buzzing groups, drinking from wooden porringers of steaming spike-leaf and medlure. The thin figure that slipped in at the far door and huddled in the corner beside a food-hutch went unnoticed, being among grotesque shadow-shapes of its own ilk.

Softly, a sweet young voice was singing some kind of incomprehensible lullaby:

Sweven, sweven, sooth and winly, Blithely sing I leoth, by rike. Hightly hast thou my este, Mere leofost.

The song ended. As the chief cellar-keeper cleared his throat and spat precursively into the fire, an expectant hush settled over those assembled. Brand Brinkworth held the respected and well-deserved position of oldest and best Storyteller at Isse Tower. As a jongleur, he had traveled Beyond; his own life and adventures had already passed into legend, and he still wore about his neck the copper torque shaped like a snake — his most prized possession, the sigil of a bard, a lore-master.

Many traditional gestes had been passed down through the generations, and newer ones had been imported to the Tower by sailors, aeronauts, and outland road-caravaners. Most had been relished many times without losing their savor and garnished a little more with each recounting.

Stories of Beyond were, more often than not, stories of eldritch wights. Yarns were told about wights of the seelie kind, who wished mortals well and even gave them supernatural help or who merely used them as targets for their harmless mischief. Then there were the tales of unseelie things — wicked, fell wights of eldritch, the protagonists of nightmares.

Those were dark tales.

"Speaking of unseelie wights," began Brinkworth, which he had not been doing, "did I ever give out about the time the Each Uisge happened by Lake Corrievreckan?"

The servants shuddered. The stories described many different types of waterhorses haunting the lakes and rivers, the pools and oceans of Erith, but of all of them, the Each Uisge was the most ferocious and dangerous.

It was one of the most notorious of all the unseelie creatures that frequented the watery places, although the Glastyn was almost as bad. Sometimes the Each Uisge appeared as a handsome young man, but usually it took the form of a bonny, dapper horse that virtually invited mortals to ride it. Once on its back, no rider could tear himself off, for its skin was imbued with a supernatural stickiness. If anyone was so foolish as to mount, he was carried with a breakneck rush into the nearest lake and torn to pieces. Only some of his innards would be discarded, to wash up later on the shore. The occupants of the kitchen waited. They had heard the tale of Corrievreckan before but never tired of it. Besides, Brinkworth with his succinct style had a way of refreshing it so that it came to his audience like news each time.

"'Tis a very old story - I cannot say how old, maybe a thousand years - but true nonetheless," said the old man, scratching his knee where one of the hounds' fleas had bitten him. "Young Iainh and Caelinh Maghrain, twin sons of the Chieftain of the Western Isles of Finvarna at that time, were hunting with their comrades when they saw a magnificent horse grazing near Lake Corrievreckan."

"Where is that?" interrupted a grizzled stoker.

"In the Western Isles, cloth-ears, in Finvarna," hissed a buttery-maid.

"Do you not listen?"

"I thought the Each Uisge dwelled in Eldaraigne."

"It roams anywhere it pleases," said Brand Brinkworth. "Who shall gainsay such a wicked lord of eldritch? Now if you don't mind, I'll be on with the tale."

The other servants shot black looks at the stoker from beneath lowered brows. The stoker nodded nonchalantly, and the Story-teller continued.

"They saw a magnificent horse grazing near Lake Cor-rievreckan," he repeated, and as his pleasant old voice lilted on, there unfolded in the minds of the listeners a place far off in time and space, a landscape they would never see.

A white pearl shone like an eye in a hazy sky. The sun was past its zenith, sinking toward a wintry horizon. It cast a pale gleam over the waters of the lake. The entire surface was lightly striated with long ripples, shimmering in silken shades of gray.

Through a frayed rent in the clouds, a crescent moon rode like a ghostly canoe, translucent. A flock of birds crossed the sky in a long, trailing V-for-mation. Their cries threaded down the wind - wild ducks returning home.

Dead trees reached their black and twisted limbs out of the waters, and near the shore, long water-grasses bowed before the breeze, their tips bending to touch their own trembling reflections.

Tiny glitters winked in and out across the wavelets. The play of light and shadow masked the realm that lay beneath the lake. Nothing could be seen of the swaying weeds, the landscapes of sand and stone, the dark crevasses, any shapes that might, or might not, move deep beneath the water.

As the wild ducks passed into the distance, the tranquillity of the lake was interrupted. Faint at first, then louder, yells and laughter could be heard from the eastern shore. A band of Ertishmen was approaching.

Eight of them came striding along, and their long, tangled hair was as red as sunset. They were accompanied by dogs, retrievers wagging feathery tails. Baldrics were slung across the shoulders of the men, quivers were on their backs and longbows in their hands.

At the belts of some swung a brace of fowl, tied by the feet. Already they had had a successful day's hunting. Buoyed by success, they were in high spirits. This last foray to the eastern shores of the lake was considered no more than a jaunt - they did not intend to hunt seriously, as was evidenced by the noise they were raising. They chaffed and bantered, teasing one another, sparring as they went along. All of them were young men, hale and strong — indeed, the youngest was only a boy.

"Sciobtha, Padraigh," laughed the two eldest, slapping him on the back as he ran to keep up, "ta ocras orm! Tu faighim moran bia!" The looks of the two Maghrain brothers were striking - tall, copper-haired twins in the leather kilts and heavy gold torcs of Fin-varnan aristocracy. Their grins were wide and frequent, a flash of white across their brown faces.

"Amharcaim! Amharcaim!" Padraigh shouted suddenly, pointing to the black and leafless alders leaning at the lake's edge. The men halted and turned their heads.

A shadow moved there. Or was it a shadow? Gracefully, with arched neck, the stallion came walking out from among the trees. Clean were his lines, and well molded; long and lean his legs, finely tapered his frame. He had the build of a champion racehorse in its prime. His coat was sleek and glossy as the water of the lake, oil-black but highlighted with silver gray where the sun's diffuse glow caught the sliding of the muscles.

Clearly, here was a horse to outrace the wind. The men stood, watching in silent awe. The creature tossed his beautiful head, sending his mane flying like spume. He too stood still for a moment, then demurely, almost coquettishly, began to walk toward the huntsmen. The stallion seemed unconcerned by their presence, not frightened at all, but friendly and tame. They were able to go right up to him - he did not shy away but allowed them to stroke the midnight mane and marvel at the grand height of him, he sheer perfection of his contours and the power implicit therein.

Then, in their own Ertish language, Iainh Maghrain spoke huskily, from the back of his throat. "That is the finest steed in Aia," he said, "and I shall ride him." His brother threw him a swift, hard glance. "I, too," he said immediately, not to be bettered.

Fearless, these two - and competitive. It did not enter their heads that appearances might be deceptive.

"Easy now, easy, alainn capall dubh," said Iainh, caressing the elegant arch of the neck. The stallion stood as steady as a corner-stone, almost as though he were encouraging a rider to mount. His eyes were limpid pools, fringed with lashes as a pool is fringed with reeds.

But young Padraigh was wary.

"Don't do it, Iainh," he said. "See how the hounds droop their tails and slink away? They are afraid of him, for all that he is so fine."


Indeed, the retrievers were cowering in the shelter of a clump of tall rocks at the lake's edge, a hundred yards away.

The brothers paid no heed to the youngster's warning. In a trice, Iainh had vaulted up on the horse's back, and in the next instant Caelinh was up behind him. Still, the stallion appeared unperturbed. At the touch of Iainhs boot-heel he trotted amicably in a circle.

"The fine one is as quiet as a lamb!" cried their comrades. "Hey, make room for us — why should you two be having all the fun?"

One by one the other youths mounted. Like all Ertishmen, they were proficient horsemen and had been able to ride bareback since they could walk. They sprang with ease onto the stallion's back.

Meanwhile Padraigh hung back cautiously - prompted by some inner caution, he had decided to be last.

It seemed apparent, as he watched each man jump up, that no space would be left for the next. Yet each time a new rider took his place, there was still enough room for another. Padraigh's eyes strayed to the horse's croup. Something unusual about it disturbed him. He thought that under the satin hide, the bones of the skeleton were shifting in an odd way, and the sinews were - the only way to describe it was lengthening.

The last of his comrades leaped onto the horse. Now seven were seated there, laughing, jesting, and beckoning to him from atop the friendly steed.

"Come on, Padraigh mo reigh," they cried. "Get up and let's see how he gallops!"

A flash of understanding scorched the boy's brain.

In horror, Padraigh realized that the horse had grown longer to fit all its riders. Utter terror seized him, and his voice choked in his own gullet. Too frightened to scream a warning, he ran to the lofty boulders that stood at the lake's edge and concealed himself among them, with the cringing dogs.

Black against the silver-gray ripples of the lake, the horse turned its long head. It looked toward the rocks. Dark lips curled back from teeth as square as tombstones. An utterance issued like fumes from that aperture.

"Come along, snotty-nose, do not be left behind!" A voice to corrode iron-cold, unforgiving, appalling.

The boy did not move.

The seven mounted men abruptly fell silent.

Then the horse came after Padraigh among the boulders, dodging this way and that, flinging the riders from side to side, and all the while they were screaming, unable to tear their hands off its back. Back and forth they ducked about among the monoliths, and the hounds fled, howling, and Padraigh's stricken gasps tore at his chest like claws, and the pounding of his heart thundered in his skull as if his brain would burst; but the boy in his desperation proved too nimble for the Each Uisge. At last it gave up and tossed its stormy mane, and with a snort like laughter it dived into the lake and under the waters.

The last echo of their screams hung over the place where the men had vanished. Padraigh stared at the ripples spreading slowly from that center. He was shaking so violently that he could scarcely stand. Sweat dripped from his brow, but his flesh was cold as a fish's.

He listened.

Nothing reached his ears but the fading staccato plaint of plovers on the wing, the sough of the wind bending the long water-grasses until their tips kissed their own reflections, and the lap, lap of wavelets licking the shore.

When the white sun sank into the mists on the edge of the world, he was there still, his face bloodless; listening, unmoving.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2006

    Purple Prose No Plot

    A young person, without power of speech, and with a horribly scarred face, falls upon mishap after mishap, for no apparent reason. She (the clumsy use of gender-neutral language gives away the early 'secret'--that the mute is not a he but a she) lives in a world of Celtic lore, where the moronic susceptibility of humans to illusion leads everyone to danger after danger. This should give us, as readers, pause: if everything goes wrong in this book because people are too gullible to see though illusion, maybe we should take the hint and just put the book down. The world it describes is flat, the lack of a plot makes reading tedious and insipid. You're better off re-reading a book you like than picking up this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2004

    OVERWRITTEN

    I had to give up barely halfway through due to the fact that this book was simply overwritten. I counted three times when the author took AN ENTIRE PARAGRAPH to list items present in a room. Overblown language and a plodding and confusing plot made it hard to not have to read sentences two and three times just to grasp the concept. My major beef with this book, however, is the point of view in which the story is told. It is third person (but, yikes! she actually reverts to second at times! who was her editor?!) but she switches back and forth between the minds of the mute and the ship-captain (I forget his name) that it is actually too hard to completely understand what either of them is going through. I thought this story would have been much more powerful had it been told in first person, directly, and only, through the eyes of the mute. I felt terribly disconnected from her, not sympathetic at all, therefore I never really had the impetus to keep reading when I grew tired of it. Also, the fact that the reasons behind the wights' tricks was never revealed bothered me. There was the point when I just wanted to say 'Enough already with the explanations of the wights' tricks! I get the idea! Move on!' Unfortunately I did not move on and I chalk this book up as a serious disappointment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Bitterbynde Book I

    Cecilia Dart-Thornton's writing style takes some getting used to. She uses a surfeit of words where a handful would do and puts polysyllabic phrases in the mouth of her mentally handicapped protagonist. These stylistic tendencies are so aggravating, in fact, that I almost put the book down several times. But then, unexpectedly, the story began to shine through its clumsy writing, and the writing itself became a waterfall of rich sensory detail oddly suited to the world it describes. The story Dart-Thornton begins in The Ill-Made Mute makes use of a wealth of mythology and folklore, combining fey creatures with a quest and a romance for a compelling, if slightly disjointed, adventure.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2008

    wonderful

    I really enjoyed the trilogy. The series kept me on the edge of my toes till the very end. A beautiful love story filled with lots of excitement. Cant wait to read all of her books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2005

    One of my favorites

    This is definitely one of the best books I've ever read. I agree that some parts of it are thick with Tolkienesque description not strictly necessary to the story and that some parts of it can be skipped (that just means you'll have something new to find the second and third times through). Meanwhile, those descriptions - and everything else - are so beautifully written that the book in many places ends up as much poetry as prose, which gives the entire novel an ethereal feeling in keeping with the subject and setting Darton's words are as exotic and surprising as the 'wights' populating the realm of Aia. The entire series is worth a read even if you found this one a bit tedious, the next two books have a quite different tone and character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2005

    Remarkable

    I agree with most viewers that this book is a bit slow at first and that it did take a long time to get strait to the point in some cases, however, this book has amazing detail that can rarely be found in other stories. It takes patience and a little more attention to the sentence structure, but overall it is an amazing story that should be given more of a chance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2005

    Don't give up

    I'm not surprised so many people gave up on this book--the first two chapters or so are *very* slow, but not TOO vital, so don't feel guilty about skimming a little--if you read the dialouge, you'll be OK. The glossary is a help at first, but don't get overwhelemed by negativity. It's only a page long, not like the Wheel of Time's glossaries! After a few chapters, you don't use it much. The book, once it got going, was full of ups and downs, and the ending! I don't believe in spoiling it, but it was a VERY good way to end a book. Give yourself the time to get into the book, and you'll love it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2004

    One of my favorites

    I love this book! It is so different than anything else in the fantasy genre. The mixture of Celtic folklore with modern day fantasy is wonderful and gives you just enough feeling of the familiar to make the twists and turns in the story even more interesting. I turned every page with a feeling of astonishment at the almost seemless integration of a wonderful 'adventurous journey' tale with the richness and depth of dark fairy stories. Truly one of my favorite books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2004

    I hated this book!

    I find it a bit discouraging when I am reading more of the glossary than the actual pages of the book. The names and meanings of the words were too confusing, and this is from a person that speaks 2 languages fluently! Book is too slow, I gave up after chapter 4.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2003

    A very good book.

    I think this book is exceptionally written. The first two chapters start out slow and might cause some readers to give up the book altogether. but after that the book is very interesting and you will have to read the sequels.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2002

    A Wonderful Contribution to Fantasy!

    I picked this book up expecting very little and was completely and wonderfully surprised. The story takes many twists and turns and unfolds for the reader the same way it unfolds for protagonist. While the language is a bit dense, the story will appeal to teens and adults.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2002

    It's not a bad story, but...

    As I read this book, I had the feeling throughout that Cecilia Dart-Thornton wrote it with a thesaurus next to her at all times, using impressive-sounding words from it whether they fit the flow of the narrative or not. She tried too, too hard to sound intelligent, and the writing suffered for it. Labored metaphors, outrageous similies, and ridiculous imagery (at one point she describes silence 'gushing' out of a cracked whip, which I thought was a bit much) all serve to undermine the actual story, which had merit in itself. However, it takes a seriously long time to get that story underway. The first half of the book is a series of events that serve to give the reader background into Dart-Thornton's world and history, but do almost nothing to further along the plot. I wondered over and over whether the book was actually going to HAVE a plot. I would have found the book much more compelling had she intertwined the background with plot-moving action. Her use of traditional fairy and folk tales was also disappointing...I would have been much more interested had she made up more of her own to flesh out her world. But it was the ending that bothered me the most, more so than the tortured writing style or the stagnant plot. Without giving too much away, I think the story would have been much, much stronger if her lead character had remained consistent, still struggling with the main attributes that comprised the character itself. The character was made up of these traits throughout...there isn't really much else there. So, on the whole, I would say that this series has some promise, but I was rather disappointed with this first volume.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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