________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 10 . . . . January 4, 2007

cover

Lyranel’s Song.

Leslie Carmichael.
Austin, TX: Blooming Tree Press, 2005.
338 pp., pbk. & cl., $13.00 (pbk.), $20.00 (cl.).
ISBN 978-0-9718348-6-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-9718348-5-9.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Libby McKeever.

*** /4

excerpt:

It was dark when Lyranel woke. She hooked a finger over the edge of her bed curtain and peeked out. Shadowy lumps filled her room, slowly  growing in familiar shapes of chair and dressing table in the purple-gray  predawn light from her window. She thought she has heard someone calling her, but there was no one there.

Lyranel pulled the heavy velvet curtain aside, letting in a gust of cold air. She shivered as she struggled into her fur-lined robe and then reached for her crutches. Shoving her lumpy feet into thick felt slippers, she rose, then hobbled across the room.

She frowned. Was something moving outside? Her bay window, on the castle's second floor, looked out over the enclosed courtyard with its dormant apple trees and snow-covered gardens. She knew the servants were usually up before dawn, but surely no one would be out in the bitter cold.

Perhaps it was only the darkness playing tricks on her.

Lyranel unlatched the left-hand pane and opened it. Icy air swirled in as she peered in to the courtyard. There was nothing there. She lifted her gaze and stared toward the east, where the sun was just now rising, turning the world pink with promise.

She gasped. A surge of something rippled through her.

As the sun lifted its pale head above the horizon, the Song burst out of her. It had no words, but she knew that it was a Song of welcome for the morning, a quiet, joyful melody that grew from deep inside. The world brightened as she sang. A small clump of fir tees in one corner of the courtyard seemed to take on a green hue, and the snow sparkled like diamonds. A few green buds even popped out on some of the apple trees.

Lyranel lapped one hand over her mouth, cutting off sound. She swayed, then half-fell into the cushioned seat below the window. She had cut the Song off as soon as she realized what she was doing, but it was too late. She knew what it meant. She was a singer.

"Oh, warts,” she said.

 

For many years, Singers were revered throughout the Kingdoms of Trioste, Siella, Vierre, and Candelo. These magically gifted people were honored as healers and valued for their ability to maintain the equilibrium between nature and man. Nevertheless, after the Duchess of Trioste, a talented Singer, was killed under unexplained circumstances, her husband the Duke, in his anger and grief, banned all singers from his Duchy. 

     Lyranel's Song opens years later when Duke Trioste's only child, Lyranel, wakes on her twelfth birthday to discover that she, like her mother, is a Singer. Her brief unbidden song is witnessed by Paul, the kitchen boy, and although frightened at the thought of her father's anger, Lyranel is confident that her secret is safe with her loyal childhood friend. Lyranrel, though encumbered by club feet since birth, is a strong-willed, energetic girl who, despite her status, finds friends and admiration amongst those who serve her. Lyranel is aware that crops have failed in recent months and that game has been growing increasingly scarce. But now her father informs her that a mysterious plague has blighted the earth and animals and even people are becoming sick and dying. The Compact formed between the four duchies has communicated these growing concerns to each other and are formulating a plan to combat their shared ills. 

     The news of this latest threat coincides with Lyranel's twelfth birthday and the day that all of the Ducy will celebrate her coming of age and her acceptance of the title of lady of the castle and future Duchess of Trisote. Lyranel is very concerned that her new abilities may show themselves during the ceremony. The evening runs smoothly until a caged bear is brought into hall. When goaded, the bear breaks from its confines, injuring people and threatening Lyranel's father. Without a thought, Song pours from Lyranel, soothing the bear, and, in effect, rescuing her father. Amongst the subsequent furor, a familiar cloaked person reveals herself to be Old Cate, the storyteller that Lyranel visits in the mountain cave that she calls home. Old Cate informs the startled audience that she is a Singer and was Lyranel's mothers' former teacher. Rather than Lyranel’s being banished as she feared, her father concedes to Lyranel’s wish to travel to Candelo where she can attend a school to help Singers perfect their gift.

     The Duke of Candelo's brother, Lord Evander, suggests that he accompany Lyranel, Paul and Old Cate on their journey to Candelo. The Duke felt secure in knowing that they will be traveling with this  nobleman, but this confidence is ill-placed as the group is soon attacked and captured by bandits. Their captors are a band of people whose livelihoods have been taken away as a result of the effect of the plague. Elsie, a rough spoken bandit-girl, a little younger than Lyranel, shows she has the gift of Singing as well. Elise is fascinated with Lyrenel's skill at storytelling which enables the listeners to see the story unfold in front of then. Elsie's wish to hone her craft emboldens her to help Lyranel escape and to inform Lyranel that Lord Evander is behind their capture.

     Reuniting with Paul, they become aware of the growing dangerous force that is threatening the kingdoms. Both Paul and Elsie refuse more advantageous positions to stick by their friend, assisting her in her quest to seek out and banish the evil that is killing their land. Throughout the story, the thread of friendship binds these young adventures to support each other to an exciting climax.

     Author Leslie Carmichael has created a strong female lead and endearing supporting characters in her medieval fantasy, Lyranel's Song. Similar in theme to Kate Constable’s more mature “Chanters of Tremaris Trilogy,” this book will appeal to younger fantasy readers of admirers of Tamora Pierce and who enjoy a determined female protagonist. The themes of good versus evil and benevolence versus greed are played out when unexpected characters reveal their dark side to challenge Lyranel's burgeoning powers, thereby creating an exciting climax and a rewarding conclusion. The illustrations on the cover and inside the book may deter more mature 10-to-14 year-olds who may think the book is perhaps a little junior to their tastes.

     Lyranel's Song is Leslie Carmichael's first novel. She has written other short stories and enjoys writing comic interactive murder mystery plays. Carmichael is currently working on a time travel novel involving ancient Egypt.

Recommended.

Libby McKeever is a library technician who works in the Whistler Secondary School Library in Whistler, BC.

 

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

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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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