________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 9 . . . . January 6, 2006


Talisa's Song. (Tales of Three Lands, Book II).

Linda Smith.
Regina SK: Coteau Books, 2005.
282 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55050-327-8.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4


Talisa dodged a cartwheeling acrobat, then darted around a clump of men who stood, ale mugs in hand, laughing uproariously at some joke. She needed to reach her inn. To get away from this tumult. To let her bitter tears flow.

She rounded the corner into Fallmart Square and stopped. The streets she'd just walked through were packed, but they were nothing compared to the wall of people and noise that met her here. How was she to make her way across the square to the streets on the other side that lead to her small, solitary room?

She should never have come here. ...

Why had she come here? To this land of Freya, where wizards and courtiers hated Uglessians and hatched plots against them? To this city of Freyfall, where noise assaulted her ears and it seemed that more people jammed into the streets to celebrate Midsummer than existed in all of Uglessia?

She knew the answer, of course. She had come for the music competition. She had wanted to impress others. To impress herself. To prove that she had a gift. Not the one she wanted, but a gift.


Talisa's Song carries straight on from where The Minstrel's Daughter, Book I of this “Tales of Three Lands” trilogy, concluded, but with a different protagonist. Talisa, the only Uglessian she is aware of who has no talent for magic, has triumphed in the music competition, only to have this triumph overshadowed by the discovery and disarming of a plot to kill the Freyan queen. A chance acquaintance, Cory, saves Talisa from being the flash point of a potentially nasty racial riot as false rumors link the Uglessians to the attempted assassination. Talisa arranges to stay in Freyfall to study music but finds herself, an outsider in this rich and cultured city, more and more drawn to Cory who, through poverty, is also an outsider. When he is linked to an act of arson and murder merely through his being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Talisa is able to save him temporarily by taking him with her back to Uglessia.

     Here we have two races with superficial physical differences and rather more fundamental cultural ones; they are not exactly antagonistic, but each is very ready to jump to negative conclusions about the other. One country is full of handsome and rich people, cultured and despotic, but with a dark side of poverty and neglect. The other land is poor, but all the persons living there are equally so, and they are governed totally by consensus. Is it possible for such diverse cultures to cooperate? To compromise? Or would Uglessia's acceptance of Freyan help in increasing their one valuable agricultural export at the expense of having to import most of their food supplies mean subjugation and exploitation? Talisa sings so convincingly against what she perceives as a takeover that the Uglessian congregation rejects the idea, to the distress and annoyance of both Talisa's sister and the Freyans who had been promoting the idea. And that triggers events that bring Freyan soldiers to Uglessia, hunting for the arsonist, for Cory.

     The physical characteristic that distinguishes Uglessians from Freyans is not the former's almost universal ability to perform magic---only Talisa seems to lack this ability---but the fact that they have six fingers on each hand. Garth, the reluctant sorcerer of Book I, now a music student studying with Talisa's master, is quite envious of this extra finger because it is useful when playing stringed instruments. There does not seem to be any prohibition against marriage between the two races, but the extra finger leaves me with a biological question. Is the sixth finger a dominant gene, so that a child either has it or does not, or is it something like skin colour that grades gradually from black to white? Not something that seems to bother Talisa as she sets out to return to Freyfall to sing a song that she hopes will convince Cory's captors of his innocence and win back his freedom, but I do wonder. Perhaps the third book will reveal all. Or perhaps it won't. Either way, I can't wait. Linda Smith tells a great story!


Highly Recommended.

Mary Thomas is presently on leave from her job in Winnipeg elementary school libraries. Instead, she is revelling in life where Hogwarts, a.k.a., Christ Church College, Oxford, England, is just down the street.

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

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