________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 21 . . . .June 24, 2005


The Warding of Willowmere. (Willowmere Chronicles).

Alison Baird.
Toronto, ON: Penguin Canada, 1983/2004.
243 pp., pbk., $18.00.
ISBN 0-14-301529-X.

Subject Headings:
Witches-Juvenile fiction.
Reincarnation-Juvenile fiction.
Occult fiction.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Saache Heinrich.




They had come to the river; it was a large one, too deep for her to see through to the bottom. They both stood on the mossy bank, gazing into the water. After a moment Claire said, "Just for once it'd be nice not to feel limited, though. You told me a human can do anything on this plane, Leo. What kinds of things could I do here?" He made no reply, but grinned his playful grin. As she watched, his human shape shifted and flowed into another form a white stag, tall and splendid with antlers like branching candelabra of ivory.

"You see?" said his silent voice inside her head. "Now you try it."

"I don't know how."

"Your body is not really here. The body that you seem to see and feel is only a projection of your mind. Transform it as you wish; it has no physical reality."

She looked down at her legs and arms, her jeans and long-sleeved T-shirt, and willed them to change. This is not real, it is only a phantom, an image in my mind She closed her eyes and imagined another form, a doe as white as the stag, slender and graceful. She looked down again. In place of her own body, now there was a pale, softly furred breast and two slim forelegs ending in cloven hooves. She moved what should have been her right arm and saw the right foreleg bend at its knee joint. She moved her legs and knew by the feel of them that they had changed, become the curved hind limbs of a deer. Her eyes had more peripheral vision than before, while her ears had become sensitive, muscular organs that swivelled to and fro, seemingly of their own will. She swung her elongated neck around, saw a white back and the cottony tuft of a tail.


The Warding of Willowmere begins where the previous "Willowmere Chronicle," The Witches of Willowmere had left off. Claire Norton is alone in the Willowmere mansion after being attacked by ferocious wolf-dogs and their masters, the warlock-shamans led by Klaus van Buren and his nephew, Nick, along with her classmate and nemesis, Josie.

     In the first Chronicle, Claire discovers that she is a revenant, or reincarnation, and once lived in the 17th century as noblewoman Alice Ramsay, condemned to death for witchcraft. She continues to learn more about her past through her strange memories, and she discovers that she also lived as Flower-in-a-Drought in Africa, 100,000 B.C. Claire further develops her relationship with Leo, a familiar or daimon (a spirit guide in an animal's body) who has guided and protected her throughout the ages, appearing in many different forms. With his guidance, Claire develops the ability to explore alternate dimensions, adding an interesting element to this story.

     The owner of the Willowmere estate is Myra Moore who has become a friend and surrogate mother to Claire as her own mother has left her and her father under mysterious circumstances. For most of the story, Myra is away on business and has entrusted Claire to look after Willowmere. However, her eventual re-appearance and involvement shows that her role in Claire's life is of no small coincidence, and the connection between the two is quite interesting.

     Baird weaves a good fantasy story with a strong female protagonist. Claire is a strongly independent girl with a real sense of duty and purpose to her life. Baird further develops the basis she formed in the first book in this series of good versus evil, and, while she neatly ties up the main story-line, she has left a few things that cleverly beg resolution in the next installment of the series. By addressing the happenings of a normal teenage girl who faces everyday issues such as bullying, a school crush, and living a single-parent family, Claire is someone whom the reader can identify with even though the majority of the story is fantasy.

     Because the story opens in Africa 100,000 B.C., then shifts to the present day and also mentions 17th Century England, I was quickly confused. I would, therefore, strongly recommend reading Witches of Willowmere prior to The Warding of Willowmere. This is one such case where the sequel does not work as well as a stand-alone book. The wicca and magick subjects are appealing topics for teens and nicely tie in to Harry Potter fiction as well as the Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer television shows.


Saache Heinrich is a librarian for the Saskatoon Public Library in Saskatoon, SK.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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