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3.7 4
by Jean Thesman

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Gwenore's mother is the evil Rhiamon, whose thirst for power transcends any morality. For years, Gwenore has lived in terrified captivity, not understanding why her mother so loathes her. Then she manages to escape, along with her longtime nursemaid and a mysterious enchanter-priest. First Gwenore is hidden at an abbey where she learns to read and make music. Then


Gwenore's mother is the evil Rhiamon, whose thirst for power transcends any morality. For years, Gwenore has lived in terrified captivity, not understanding why her mother so loathes her. Then she manages to escape, along with her longtime nursemaid and a mysterious enchanter-priest. First Gwenore is hidden at an abbey where she learns to read and make music. Then she is discovered. Her name and appearance changed, she is moved to the women's healing community of Blessingwood, and is taught medicine and herbwork. But then tragedy strikes again, and she must leave. As Mary Singer, she becomes nursemaid to the children of the magical king of Lir-until the king marries Rhiamon. Singer knows that her mother will try to kill the children. What can she do to save their lives-and her own? Based on the classic Irish folk-tale "The Children of Lir," this swiftly paced fantasy will keep readers turning the pages.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Thesman's (The Other Ones) compulsively readable and satisfying medieval fantasy opens with an adrenaline-pumping scene: 12-year-old Gwenore escapes from her mother, the wicked witch Lady Rhiamon (who combines the nastiest qualities of Snow White's stepmother and Lady Macbeth). The heroine's first refuge is an abbey run by resident nuns, a haven for 700 women and girls: "Refugee daughters, runaway brides, wives escaping brutal husbands... women who did not find that their homes were safe places." At the abbey Gwenore learns to read and write, and begins composing and singing her own songs. But the ever-present fear of her mother's vengeance forces Gwenore to move on again, this time to Blessingwood, gracious residence of four accomplished women, widowed when their husbands were killed in a Crusade. There Gwenore adds gardening, medicine, and surgery to her accomplishments. Outside this gentle, feminine oasis of learning and culture the world seems a brutish place indeed: vagrant knights rape local girls, mutilate old men and harass the villagers, while bullying husbands look forward to replacing their wives with younger women. Yet it's a breathtakingly magical world as well, in which tapestries foretell the future, animals speak to those who can hear them, and the shape-shifting Fair Folk dwell alongside the human race. Eventually Gwenore plays out her destiny; perhaps even more significantly, she comes to terms with an ugly childhood and grows into a compassionate, accomplished young woman. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-Gwenore is only 12 when she escapes from her mother, the evil witch Rhiamon, who both hates her daughter and covets the mysterious magical powers symbolized by the birthmark on the girl's wrist. Gwenore travels through medieval England and Wales under secret identities for several years, learning the arts of healing, gardening, and singing. Eventually, she arrives in the Irish kingdom of Lir, where she becomes the beloved teacher and companion of the king's four children. When her power-hungry mother marries the king and turns the children into swans, Mary Singer, as Gwenore is now known, must vanquish Rhiamon and save the children. Loosely based on the Irish folk tale "The Children of Lir," this engaging, well-written novel features a blend of historical fiction and high fantasy that will appeal to fans of both genres. Gwenore's flight from one hiding place to another, under constant threat of discovery by Rhiamon, makes for a dramatic read. Particularly interesting are her experiences in two communities of independent women: first an abbey that functions as a shelter for abused women of all ages, then an estate run by four sisters whose husbands died in the Crusades. Recommend Singer to readers who enjoyed Kevin Crossley-Holland's King of the Middle March (Scholastic, 2004); while that book offers an unforgettable depiction of soldiers' and embattled civilians' lives during the Crusades, Thesman brings to life the everyday struggles of commoners in the years after these bloody wars.-Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A gorgeous fantasy by a veteran maker of worlds who offers her own version of the events surrounding the Irish legend of The Children of Lir. The drama is almost wholly interior, but it is mesmerizing. The girl, Gwenore, is hated by her mother, Rhiannon, a vicious and terrible Welsh witch. She escapes through those who love her and the Fair Folk to Blessingwood, a place where women study and heal, and where, renamed Mary Singer, she finds magic in the study of healing and the making of music. Readers learn all these things through Mary's own thoughts, as she puzzles out her life and the birthmark, red and shaped like a teardrop, on her wrist. The implacable Rhiannon's search for Mary Singer leads to flight again as well as the destruction of Blessingwood. Singer comes to Lir where she learns to love Lir's royal children, but Rhiannon marries their father and arrives to destroy both the children of Lir and Singer in a final climax that mixes pity, horror and hope. Not for every reader, but richly rewarding for those caught in its spell. (Fantasy. YA)

Product Details

Viking Juvenile
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

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Singer 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
cinthylo More than 1 year ago
From starting to read the book, to ending the book Singer written by Jean Thesman I just couldn't put it down! The way that the author describes what's going on, it's so wonderful. I was able to imagine everything that was going on, it was literally "visible" in my head. Very good descriptive words and "tone" for this book. Another thing is how the main character Marie Singer (which her real name is Gwenore) and the second main character Simon give a really good interesting hook that make you keep on reading this book. Another thing about the way how Jean Thesman writes this book is how, some events just catch you by surprise that you just have to maybe even re-read that whole section...well that's what I had to do anyways. Last of all, I would have to say that this is a really interesting book to read but you might be disappointed if you are one of those people that reads books really fast...like me. :( Unfortunately, I finished this book really fast and wasn't really able to appreciate all of the events that happened in this book. The story of this book is about a girl who was "sort of enchanted" and had a blood mark on her wrist and because of that, she was able to know and see other things that regular kinds of people couldn't see. She lived with her dad and her evil step-mother who wanted to kill her because of the blood mark even though. The contradicting thing about this though, is how her step-mother enchanted her before she was born and that is why she seems to have the blood mark on her wrist. Even though this happened, one day the pope of the place helped her escape and she was told that her new name was going to be Mary Singer (her real name was Gwenore) and she was taken to live with her "auntie" on a faraway place. I have to admit that I while I was reading the start of the book, I was really confused because there were a lot of things going on, but after everything got settled down, I started to understand what was going on better. I also had to re-read major events that occurred in the book because they just seemed really shocking and I wasn't expecting them either. Now, I would really like to tell you the ending of this book but it wouldn't be right, so I am just going to go ahead and talk about how this book was "constructed" or how it was written. The author, Jean Thesman is really good at being able to throw into the book some really out of place events, without disrupting your reading. What I mean by saying this is that, there are some events in the book that are really shocking and unexpected, but it doesn't really throw you off the book and say that this book is not worth reading. I would have to say that she does this, so that you stop reading and think about what is going on; this way you will understand the book more and not be confused by what's happening. Another interesting characteristic about the book Singer is how it was named after the new name that was given to Gwenore; which is Mary Singer. At first glance, I thought that the book was titled like this because the person on the book cover was a person who sang really pretty...I know, how original. Well, another thing about the title is how you will discover how it is actually related to that, but there are many more things that are happening in this book too, that make it even a more interesting read. Well hope that you go ahead and read this book! Trust me, you will like it very much!! :D
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that this book was very good and interesting, although it was boring sometimes, you couln't put it down, or i couldn't put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was extremely disappointing. Not only were certain issues left unresolved, but the climax was, in one word, horrible. Thesman brings up issues of romance and how the main character longs for it, yet never gives the girl either rejection or acceptance. Come on, resolve it already! This girl spends the entire novel thinking of how she can defeat her mother and ends up watching as someone else kills her mother! Sad, very sad. The climax lacked quite a bit, and I put this book aside feeling as though someone had chopped the last few pages out of it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Had a great plot, concerning the evil mother and the confused, yet powerful, daughter. Singer asks others to help, but never really takes control herself until the end. She seems a little weak and I understand that with her terrible upbringing, but come on, give the main character a little backbone! Other than that, this book was pretty good. It was interesting to have background stories behind the main one to keep you interested. I was a little disappointed with the ending though.:>