Continuing what PW called "a romantic royal tale of intrigue in the tradition of King Arthur," which began with The Seer and the Sword, The Light of the Oracle by Victoria Hanley centers on 15-year-old Bryn. This stonecutter's daughter finds that she has certain talents that threaten evildoers who would put the Temple of the Oracle in peril-and she predicts the demise of Lord Morlen, last seen in The Healer's Keep. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Bryn, daughter of a lowly stonecutter, catches the attention of Renchald, High Priest of the Temple, when he notes her ability to "see what others miss." Chosen to come and live in the Temple of the Oracle, Bryn still faces a hard life as those who are from less highly-connected or poor families are taken advantage of by those with more likely connections. But Bryn has gifts that make her unique to the Temple, as does her friend, Kiran, whose ability to talk to animals makes him the Temple horse-trainer. But it is Bryn's courage to support the exiled Selida seer whose visions threatened Renchald's powerthat forces her to choose between the Temple and her friends, between a sure future and one shadowed by doubt. As she struggles to find answers, she is further plagued by the Clea, whose power derives from the god of death. Clea's goal is to curse Bryn in order to control her. This is a strong fantasy novel from an author with a clear sense of her audience and a masterful control of where the plot and the characters need to go within the pages of the story. Recommended. 2005, David Fickling Books, Ages 12 to 16.
Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
An absolutely beautiful cover illustration of Bryn, the main character, will make this attractive to YA readers. It is a fantasy, set in a world not our own, yet it boils down emotionally to a boarding school story; okay, with psychic studies as the main curriculum. Bryn is a stonecutter's daughter (low class) and she is chosen to attend a special school where she immediately becomes the object of hatred from another new student, Clea, a princess. Yes, Clea is smart and talented (psychically), but Bryn is even bettermore reason for Clea's jealousy and bullying. The headmaster (Master Priest of the Oracle) is being corrupted slowly, compromising his principles to retain power. He seeks to destroy any of his young students whose gifts of prophecy are strong enough to threaten his own position. Therefore, the story becomes a plot of rebellion as gifted students, including Bryn and Kiran, the prophet she loves, undermine the power of the Master Priest and rid the Temple of the Oracle of corruption. There are chases, a beautiful horse, a loyal dog, friends willing to die for the good of all, and ideas about dreams, meditation, and prophecy that are New Age compatible. I have not read the companion books, but looking over the reviews of those two volumes, there doesn't seem to be a strong enough connection that would prevent this book from standing on its own. (Companion to The Seer and the Sword and The Healer's Keep). KLIATT Codes: JSRecommended for junior and senior high school students. 2005, Random House, David Fickling, 312p. map., Ages 12 to 18.
Gr 6-9-This companion novel to The Seer and the Sword (2000) and The Healer's Keep (2002, both Holiday House) stands very well on its own. Bryn, a poor stonecutter's daughter, is recruited to become a handmaiden in the Temple of the Oracle. There she will be tutored in the ways of prophecy and might possibly be chosen as a priestess. Entering the Temple at the same time is Clea, a spoiled rich girl who becomes Bryn's nemesis. Kiran, a horse trainer who can communicate with animals and is a priesthood candidate, is immediately attracted to Bryn. To be a priest or priestess, one must first be chosen by a bird. Clea is "bird chosen" by a vulture, which gives her the power to cast curses. Bryn, however, is chosen, not by a bird, but by the wind, which means that her powers of prophecy are great. Intrigue and treachery abound within the Temple grounds. Characters are fully good or evil; the bad guys are mean and hateful just because they can be. In the landscape of this kingdom, there is an extensive pantheon of gods that ally themselves with the mortals and intervene in earthly events. Dreams and visions symbolically reveal the complex inner workings of the characters' minds. When an exiled priestess finally unravels the evil plotting of the Master Priest and his henchmen, the story builds to an exciting climax. This is a fast-paced, well-written fantasy in which adventure and suspense take center stage, with just a touch of romance for good measure.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Stock characterization and puerile romance dull a promising fantasy. Dreamy Bryn, a poor stonecutter's daughter, expects splendid adventure when she is chosen to serve in the Temple of the Oracle, but her impulsiveness and naivete lead her afoul of its strict rules and her snobbish fellows. Even after being "wind-chosen" and granted special gifts in prophecy, she makes friends only with other outcasts-especially Kiran, the straightforward acolyte who can speak to animals. But Bryn's remarkable powers plunge her into the murderous intrigues of both priesthood and nobility, and soon not only her own life, but the fate of the entire kingdom, is imperiled. While setting this in the same world as her earlier efforts, Hanley shows none of their structural complexity or moral conflicts. The rich possibilities of the setting and characters are left unexplored in favor of endless scenes of Bryn being picked on by mean rich girls, Bryn mooning about Kiran's feelings, Bryn and her friends gossiping, fixing their hair and swooning over popular troubadours. Too little suspense, depth, or wonder, and far too much teen soap opera, make this misfire eminently skippable. (Fantasy. 12+)