________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 4 . . . .October 14, 2005


The Wyrd of Willowmere. (Willowmere Chronicles, Vol. 3).

Alison Baird.
Toronto, ON: Penguin Canada, 2005.
253 pp., pbk., $18.00.
ISBN 0-14-301531-1.

Subject Headings:
Witchcraft-Juvenile fiction.
Friendship-Juvenile fiction.
Fantasy-Juvenile fiction.
Fate and fatalism-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Saache Heinrich.

*** /4

Reviewed from uncorrected and unpublished proofs.



Claire closed her eyes and concentrated. To visit the daimons' dimension, you had to reach out with your mind; it wasn't a real place, but a sort of shared dream realm. People had reached Pandaimonium in olden days by meditating, fasting, standing in frigid water, and finding other ways to free the mind from the demands of the body. Claire was a revenant, though between incarnations she had spent a good deal of time in Pandaimonium as a disembodied consciousness, and it was almost like a second home to her. It was a curious dimension, full of countless simulated environments, some so convincing in their detail that you would swear they were real when you were in them, though in truth they existed only within the daimons' imaginations. Many contained simulacra, forms of living things that were actually only part of the setting. Other figures you encountered there were daimons wearing the forms of people and animals. In Pandaimonium all daimons were as one, minds touching and blending, sharing their ideas and impressions and feelings with one another, plying together in their fantasy worlds. In recent times some daimons had learned to cut themselves off, shutting others out of their thought processes. But most of Pandaimonium was still open to other minds, and as she lay on her bed Claire visualized the simulation she wanted to visit: the "Ideal City," based on a painting by that name by Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca. Soon she saw buildings take form in her mind: Italian Renaissance-era structures, with a round, two-tiered building in the centre of the city. The Rotunda.


Our heroine, Claire Norton, is a seemingly regular teenage girl with an extraordinary history and gift. She combines forces with others to conquer the evil that has followed her through her two past lives and the current one. The third and final installment of the "Willowmere Chronicles" begins ominously with a meeting between three men, all of whom readers have been previously introduced to in earlier books. Nicholas van Buren is addressing his uncle, crippled from a recent stroke as well as Mr. Thorpe, a board member from Van Buren Enterprises. As the story unfolds, the reader is privy to what Van Buren Enterprises does and how this fits with the grander scheme of evil in the "Chronicles of Willowmere." Baird nicely reminds the previous readers of this fantasy reality with witches, shamans and familiars (spirits that accompany witches and shamans), while giving a good introduction to the series premise to anyone new to this series. Along with Leo (Claire's familiar), Myra Moore and several new friends, Claire takes on the evil forces of the Legionaires led by Probetor (who wants to take over the world), in a final and exciting showdown.

     Having introduced Claire's the ability to travel outside of her body and into another dimension in book two, The Warding of Willowmere, Baird further develops Claire's mind-travels into much greater detail in The Wyrd of Willowmere. As a revenant, Claire uses her ability to mentally visit Pandaimonium, a daimon dimension (and pun on the word "Pandemonium"). Not only does Claire visit Pandaimonium in an attempt to seek answers to how she can defeat her enemies, but several times she also comes under attack in this world. The story begins its climax in this dimension, but, as Claire battles the evil forces, she is pulled back into our world where the story reaches its final climax and resolution.

     This novel has a decidedly darker tone to it than the previous two. Seventeen-year-old Claire Norton is now very comfortable in her role and has accepted her gifts. She has embraced her memories of her two past lives as Flower-in-a-Drought and Alice Ramsay and awaits her destiny in this life. Not heavily involved in the previous two novels, her dear friend and mentor, Myra Moore, is very much present in this final Chronicle, and, with a supportive and mentoring role in Claire's life, there is no denying the tight bond between the two. Mentioned in the two previous installments, Barbara Norton's mysterious disappearance four years earlier has left the reader anxiously awaiting her possible return into the Nortons' lives. Baird doesn't disappoint. The author also believably portrays a single-parent home with a father who does his best at providing as warm environment as before his wife left and a daughter who longs to share her special gifts and experiences with a mother who understands.

     Claire, an 'old soul' from her previous lives, has been quite a loner in the past novels. Here though, Claire, at last, has found acceptance in Brian Andrews' clique. Baird believably relates Claire's happiness at finally making friends while questioning her own feelings towards Brian. Although still welcome, she eventually learns that her presence in the group is hurting one of the other girls who has strong feelings for Brian. In this situation, Baird once again creates a story based on the fantastical more plausible to the reader by making Claire someone with whom teenagers can easily relate.

     Baird's "Willowmere Chronicles" is a three-part tale of good versus evil that is wisely woven over three books and grandly brought to a climax and resolution in The Wyrd of Willowmere.

Highly Recommended.

Saache Heinrich is a librarian for the Saskatoon Public Library in saskatoon, SK. While not normally a fantasy reader, she has found enjoyment in being challenged to review a series based on alternate dimensions!

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

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