________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV . . . . August 31, 2007

cover

The Feathered Cloak. (Trilogy of the Tree, Part 1).

Sean Dixon.
Toronto, ON: Key Porter, 2007.
143 pp., cloth, $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-55263-936-8.           

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Lisa Doucet.

** /4

Reviewed from Uncorrected Proof.

excerpt:

"A skier," said the king to all those assembled: "I am expected to fear a skier. My name is Erik Blood- Axe and the Tronds of Trondheim expect me to be afraid of a man with sliding feet. How shall I respond to these Tronds of Trondheim and their new, just king?

He mused for a moment.

"This is what I think: a man who walks with sliding feet, like a falcon without his feathers, is weak."

Then he spoke directly to the falcon. This was something he did not normally do. In fact, the bird had been given a name by King Erik's father, but Erik had long since forgotten what its name was, if he ever knew in the first place. Such minor matters as the proper names of creatures held no interest for him.

"You have served me longest falcon, and my father before me-fifteen years or more. No longer do you have the eyes of a falcon, or the beak of a falcon or the coat of a falcon. And that, as far as I can tell, makes you not a falcon, or hardly one at all."

And then the king did a terrible thing. With a great cry that made the Bikki tremble, the messenger quake, and even the groom stir a little, Erik seized the hooded bird and tore the feathers from his wings and his back.

 

The story begins with Freya, a young girl who has grown up in a small village near Trondheim in the northern region of Norway. She, her father and her brother were poor but happy, in spite of the fact that they never quite seemed to fit in with their neighbours. The only shadow in their otherwise peaceful days was Freya’s mother: the girl had never known her mother and had learned very early in life never to even mention the word ‘mother’ in her father’s presence for it so deeply upset him. Yet that aside, she and her brother Rolf enjoyed a carefree, contented childhood.

     Then things changed. Suddenly Rolf began to grow. And he grew and he grew and he grew…to an impossibly huge size. Now he made a very poor playmate indeed, and Freya often found herself short-tempered and impatient with him. And, as if that weren’t enough, her father also began to change, growing increasingly distant and melancholy, and making references to a huge battle in which he had lost everything that ever mattered to him. Life was no longer blissful and Freya became sullen and angry.

     Then the narrative shifts, and we meet cruel King Erik Blood-Axe. When a messenger arrives bearing the news that Erik’s kind and peaceful brother Haakon has been declared King of Trondheim, Erik seethes with anger. Lashing out viciously, he brings down his wrath upon an unfortunate creature, Morton, the hunting falcon that had been in his family for years. Showing the signs of his advanced age, Morton finds himself the victim of King Erik’s rage as the evil tyrant savagely rips off Morton’s feathers and sends him as part of a message declaring war on his brother. When Morton escapes en route, he meets Freya and the two discover that their destinies are intertwined.

     This first book of the “Trilogy of the Tree” provides an interesting glimpse into Viking lore and legend as the narrator, who tells us that he/she knows these things from having been there, introduces us to such folk as the winged Valkyries and to ancient tales of the race of giants.

     Written in the style of a traditional folk or fairy tale, this story draws readers into a time long, long ago in a land of ice and cold, evil kings and courageous deeds. Unfortunately, however, the story has a very meandering plot in addition to the rather dense prose. While the subsequent volumes in the trilogy may address some of the questions that this book raises and, in the process, may employ a brisker pace, this one will be unlikely to hold the interest of those expecting an action-packed adventure. Although the language and style of writing lends itself well to the fairytale quality that the author has evoked, it also manages to make the prose feel somewhat overwrought, making it less appealing to younger readers. Older readers, on the other hand, will find the characters young and the overall feel of the book too juvenile, hence the audience for the book may be limited.

Recommended with reservations.

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.

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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