CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 3 . . . . September 30, 2005
As “The Summer of Magic Quartet” wends its way towards its sure-to-be-thrilling conclusion, this third volume in the series finds the four cousins once again facing a series of trials and adventures that are both mystical and modern. In the previous two books, as the children learned more about the Wise Ones and their interactions with people throughout England's history, they managed to first help Equus recover his talisman and then Ava her circlet. This time, while Equus and Ava leave the children to go and ready the Place Beyond Morning for the Lady's triumphant return, Mryddin remains on Gaia (Earth) seeking his staff.
And the turmoil that has been brewing in the magical realm is also reflected in the contemporary world all around them, particularly in Adam’s and Chantel's world. Both children are very distraught when they receive a phone call from their mother back home in Canada, advising them that she and their father have decided to get a divorce. The siblings feel angry, hurt and afraid. And not only must Adam come to terms with this news, but he must also contend with the conflicting voices in his head as both Myrddin and Vivienne, the Portal Keeper of the Crystal Cave, try to summon him. Sworn to guard the Portal as a punishment, Vivienne is anxious to trick a child of earth into taking over this role for her. Meanwhile, Myrddin fears for the children, fears that the Dark One is getting too close, and he decides that it would be best for them to all just go home and leave the recovery of his staff to him. However, the children are, themselves, brave, resourceful and growing in wisdom, and Adam stands his ground as he reminds Myrddin that he needs them, and their earth magic, to complete this task. As Adam walks the Spiral Labyrinth at Glastonbury Tor, Holly confronts the conniving Vivienne in her fevered dreams, and together the four children leap through fire to reach their goal.
This book, like its predecessors, brings young readers into the heart of Celtic lore and legend. Children will find themselves transported, both to the English countryside of modern times as well as places of mystical renown such as the Isle of Avalon and the Crystal Caves. The lovely, lilting cadence of the language, coupled with the rich and vivid descriptions, allows the reader to feel fully immersed in the adventures of the four young protagonists, and I think that many youngsters will feel inspired to read more about King Arthur and the great magician Merlin because of the allusions to these characters here. This installment also sets the stage beautifully for the final story in the sequence. It refers repeatedly to the Lady and her necklace and how almost all is now in readiness for her to awaken and all of the Wise Ones, with their tools of power, to be reunited and to confront the Dark Ones. Moreover, the book ends with Adam's whereabouts in question, leaving readers anxious to pick up this story once again in the next one!
The four children remain fairly sympathetic characters: believable as modern youth who bicker with one another, experience petty jealousies and moments of self-doubt, yet who are also open to the magic and mysteries that the Wise Ones represent. Readers will empathize with Adam and Chantel as they grieve over the news of their parents' pending divorce, and readers will also recognize Holly's feelings of resentment at being the only one who has not yet been approached by the Wise Ones, despite her being the oldest. Mr. Smythe and his friend Mervin Green (aka Myrddin) serve as suitably supportive adult figures to whom the children can turn to for help. It was also an interesting plot device that the new agers were able to readily accept the ancient magic at work and were willing to lend their voices to aid the cause. The character of Vivienne may cause some confusion at first, since it takes a while to determine whether or not she is in league with the Dark Ones and what exactly her relationship is to the Wise Ones.
This is another fine fantasy tale, intermingled with strands of history too. Readers who are already hooked on the series will not be disappointed with this offering.
Lisa Doucet is a children's bookseller at Woozles in Halifax.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.