________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 3 . . . . September 29, 2006


Behind the Sorcerer's Cloak. (The Summer of Magic Quartet, Book Four).

Andrea Spalding.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
227 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55143-627-2.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Lisa Doucet.

*** /4

Reviewed from prepublication copy.


"Hush, hush. You are safe, courageous boy. I have you," said a voice as velvet as midnight, as sweet as honey.

Adams' head and mind hurt. He felt bruised, body and soul. The tortured muscles in his arms shrieked with pain, and his fingers cramped and ached. He groaned, wished he was dead and realized he was still alive. Adam opened his eyes.

A smiling young woman, her face and shoulders framed by an untamed cloud of curly dark hair, leaned over him.

He lay on a soft wrap at her feet.

Despite his pain, Adam's breath caught. She was beautiful, and as she moved her gown rippled like molten silver. She leaned over and dropped another wrap of exquisite softness over him. She made stroking movements in the air above his body and the pain dulled.

Relief and gratitude swept over Adam. He'd been rescued. This amazing woman had snatched him from the terror of the Dark Being. His eyes closed. He was so exhausted he couldn't think clearly, but he tried to lift his head to thank her.

A new wave of agony hit. He whimpered and fell back.

This fourth and final volume in “The Summer of Magic Quartet” picks up precisely where book three left off - with Adam lost through a magic portal. Their previous adventure had required him to make his way through a special labyrinth at Glastonbury Tor and then to reclaim Myrddin's staff from the Crystal Cave. Adam had successfully accomplished these tasks, but when the Dark Being's emissary, Zorianna, nabbed the staff and darted through the magic portal, Adam bravely grabbed her cloak and plunged headlong after her. Now his little sister Chantel and their two cousins are consumed with worry and fear. While they long to finish helping the Wise Ones reclaim their Tools of Power and to prevent the Dark Being from wreaking havoc on gaia (ie. Earth), their biggest concern is to get Adam back safe and sound. Meanwhile, Adam finds himself in the last place he would ever have wanted to be - in the clutches of Doona, the Dark Being herself!

     In this dramatic conclusion to the series, tensions mount and preparations are made on both sides for the inevitable confrontation between the forces of Light and Dark. The children and their adult companions make their way to the Isle of Man and, in a dream, Holly witnesses the burial of the Lady and the breaking of her magical beaded necklace many, many years ago. As they prepare to make their stand against Doona and her minions, it falls to Holly to restring the ancient beads in the proper order and to waken the sleeping Lady. More importantly, she negotiates the necessary outcome to this final, climactic encounter.

     Behind the Sorcerer's Cloak provides a fitting and satisfying resolution to the saga which began with The White Horse Talisman. The Wise Ones are reunited with the children who have grown steadily in confidence and in their acceptance of their special, sacred obligations as magic children. Holly encourages them to call upon Earth Magic as they seek to be true instruments of the Light during these increasingly dark times. As all the people around them become more noticeably hostile and argumentative, the children struggle to keep their hearts free of the Dark Being's negative influence. However, the long-awaited confrontation yields a result that is both appropriate and potentially unexpected for young readers: the Light does not conquer the Darkness, but rather balance is restored between the two. "Light and Dark, Dark and Light. You are magical twins. Your role is to balance one another." This is a healthy, positive message, the idea that Doona the Dark Being has as important a role to play as her sister, the Lady. The fact that Holly points out the Lady's errors illustrates that neither character is completely blameless and shifts the focus from Light triumphing over the forces of Darkness to an appreciation of the dialectical relationship between the two.

     Once again, the author vividly evokes the ruggedly beautiful setting for this magical tale and weaves the fantastical strands of the story seamlessly into the everyday realities of the children's lives. For example, despite Adam and Chantel's wishes, their parents do not reconcile and live happily ever after. On the other hand, their father overhears them discussing the fact that they refuse to be separated and agrees that they can stay together and be involved in the decision-making about how their lives are going to change once the divorce goes through. Light and Dark, Dark and Light at work in their own young lives. Overall, it is a well-crafted novel that draws the various plotlines to a close, and it is a lovely quartet that deserves to be read and savored by elementary aged readers.


Lisa Doucet is a children's bookseller at Woozles in Halifax, NS.

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

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