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Martine Bates.
Red Deer, AB: Red Deer College Press, 1992.
183pp.,galley, $14.95.
ISBN 1 0-88995076-8. Distributed by Raincoast Books. CIP.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up

Reviewed by Alison Mews.

Volume 20 Number 4
1992 September

The Dragon's Tapestry is a well-developed fantasy that is beautifully written. It poses a rare dilemma for a reader - the story's original concept and plot compel you forward quickly, but Bates' magical use of language casts the lingering spell of good poetry.

Marwen of Marmawell knows well the value of tapestries. As an apprentice Oldwife, she will be responsible for weaving and interpreting the treasured tapestry that each Vean child receives at birth. Believing that she has no tapestry of her own, however, she is considered soulless by the villagers, and she has no symbolic guidance to her own future. Orphaned at birth, she has neither awareness of her magical heritage nor any foreknowledge that her destiny is interwoven with that of dragons and wizards. Her strong belief in herself and in the choices she makes are therefore remarkable in the face of the suspicion she unwittingly engenders in her world.

Martine Bates weaves numerous themes in amongst the threads of her story. Death assumes a persona known as the Taker, who is aged and blind and therefore is impervious to both youth and beauty as she exacts her harsh justice. But Marwen's perception of the Taker changes considerably throughout the novel, and she realizes that death is sometimes a kindness, a necessary part of the design. It is the dragon who is the villain in this story, and to vanquish him Marwen must learn to control the power and the magic within herself.

This novel is an excellent exploration of the internal quest that most young people undergo. Bates has created a credible world in Ve with its folklore and cultural traditions. The excerpts from Vean songs and poems that begin each chapter foreshadow the events about to occur and help to sustain the legendary nature of Marwen's journey. This book will delight fantasy lovers and may hook new converts to the group.

Highly recommended.

Alison Mews is Co-ordinator of the Centre for Instructional Services, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, Newfoundland.
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