________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 17 . . . .April 13, 2007


Nightwalker. (The Warlocks of Talverdin, Book One).

K.V. Johansen.
Victoria, BC; Orca, 2007.
196 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55143-481-0.

Grade 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Janet Margaret Johnson.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



"They'll be safe," Romner said, not looking at any of us. "That foolish dog of the human's is a herd dog. He'll be perfectly happy staying with the horses, thinking he's in charge of them. If we don't come backing a few days, they'll know to make their own way home." Then he did look at me. "But I expect at least some of us will be coming back," he said. I thought it plain he hoped that some us would not."


Nightwalker, the first book in "The Warlocks of Talverdin" series, is a fast paced adventure story in the "other world" tradition of the fantasy genre. Johansen has succeeded in creating a believable world complete with a geographically detailed map of this other world which is inhabited by two historical enemies, the human Dunmorran and the wizardly Nightwalkers. Ever since the creation of Hogwart's and the sleepy academic world in Pullman's epic, educational institutions such as universities and private schools have invaded the Medieval landscapes which have always been predominated by castles and fortresses as fit settings for fantasy tales. The dark and twisting basements of Fowler Green Grammar School at the University of Cragroyal in Dunmorran provide a dramatic setting for the chase between our hero and the school bullies, and the darkness of the tunnels allows him to blend into the shadows and introduce the reader to his special magical power and pull the reader into the story very quickly.

     The theme of this novel, according to the definition on the title, is prejudice, and the author manages to convey this theme through the voices, habits and descriptions of the events and characters naturally. On a simpler level, the story is conflict between the goodies, the wizards of Talverdine, and the baddies, the blond humans of Dunmorra. Both races have a long history of hating each other, and the reader is made aware of this by the effects of prejudice on Maurey as he recounts the tragic and mysterious story of his birth and how, all his life, Maurey has had to hide in the Talverdine blond society as a 'foreigner.' Maurey, our hero, is subject to prejudice because of his pale skin tone, straight black hair and dark eyes that people connect to the magical race of Nightwalkers, another race of people confined to the mountains of their island.

      When the story begins, Maurey, robbed of any opportunity to get an education, literally runs into the King and the Chancellor of the College in the subterranean corridors of the college. They discover that Maurey is wearing rings around his neck, rings which belonged to his dead mother, and they take them. The Chancellor, recognizing the link between the rings and the King's mother, persuades the King to have Maurey submit to a test of philosopher's fire to determine if he is a wizard. Maurey is rescued by Annot, the Chancellor's ward, who persuades him that they must run to Talverdine and seek sanctuary with the Nightwalkers.

      The main characters, Annot and Maurey, are multidimensional, and their identity and personalities develop along with the story and should appeal to readers of either gender. The Chancellor of the College where Maurey works as a servant to pay his way after his benefactress dies is consumed with hatred for this race of people. King Dugald, who is one of the most interesting characters in the story, is a weak ineffectual leader who cannot stand up to the machinations and influence of Chancellor Holden. The Baroness, the Chancellor's ward, was brought to court to marry the King although she can see through the Chancellor's plotting. Though the story is not a vehicle to advance the equality of women, Annot's character is portrayed as strong, confident and resourceful. Her horsemanship skills and loyal dog Blaze are interesting and useful companions for Maurey. The title indicates that this is the first book in a series, but it seems to me that this story is complete in the one book. Does Annot marry Maurey? I don't think this is nearly as important as the general outcomes for the success of the story. The conclusion promises a much brighter future for the people of both countries, happiness for the individual characters and retribution to the villains.

Highly Recommended.

Janet Margaret Johnson is a librarian and member of Children's Research Centre for Young People's Text and Culture at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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