CM . . . . Volume XX Number 3 . . . . September 20, 2013
Seventeen-year-old Gwen Carlisle was looking forward to starting over in Oregon and beginning her senior year. But it wasn't meant to be. On her way to school on her first day, she meets Kian and her world is turned upside down. Kian tells her that in her past life she was one of seven magical Celtic warriors who sacrificed their lives in an ancient war fought between their tribe and three evil magicians. Now, she's in terrible danger as the magicians are alive and well and want to steal her magic to rule the world. In order to stop them, she must find others like her and recover their memories to unlock their magic. Together, Gwen, Seth, Garrison and Moira begin to uncover their past lives and slowly come into their powers. As they do, they struggle with their past and fight off attacks from the magicians.
The story is written from the first person narrative of Gwen Carlisle. In Gwen, Leiderman has created a likeable character: her skepticism of her circumstances reveals a pragmatic voice; her boldness in her interactions with Kian shows a self-confidence and budding sensuality; while her feelings of remorse at her past deeds and concern for environmental issues render her a down-to-earth and thoughtful protagonist. It is through her that the reader catches glimpses of their mysterious Celtic past. Gwen's memories and experiences are visceral, recalling the gore of war and hinting at sexual violence. She demonstrates her strength, maturity and self-reliance through her efforts at coping with such experiences and flexing her magic. Gwen's character demonstrates the author's skill and ability in character development. Thus, it is disappointing that the remaining characters are not nearly as well formed.
For example, Kian's character is set up to serve as a love interest and archetypal mentor, someone to help the newfound heroes reacquire their magic and serve as a guide as they reacquaint themselves with the world they left behind. His austerity and stoicism call to mind the image of a brooding and enigmatic sage. However, this image is quickly dashed by his stunted dialogue which reveals that, not only is he humourless, but also impotent; he doesn't know how Gwen can initiate her memories, find her powers or how to control them. As the only character outside of the magicians with their memories fully intact, it was disappointing that Kian wouldn't provide further depth to Gwen's memories early on by furnishing them with details of the history of their tribe, their way of life or the heroic deeds Gwen and her companions had previously accomplished which made them the chosen heroes. As such, by the time Kian explains his motivations and why he was so tight-lipped near the end of the novel, it is too late; the reader is too detached from his character to feel dismay for his actions or interest in his explanations.
Perhaps what was most disconcerting throughout the book was the absence of information about the antagonists - the three magicians. While the reader is made aware of their presence through environmental disasters and Kian's reiterations of their menacing power, the reader is not given any backstory about the novel's primary villains - their names, their motivations and the acts they've committed to legitimate the claim that they're evil. This lack of information dampens the tension in subsequent conflicts and made it difficult to inspire fear and apprehension in the reader. This was further reiterated by the comical names attributed to them: Bald Man, Smooth Voice and Third Magician.
Despite these issues, the novel is still a welcome reprieve from the vampires, werewolves and zombies that run rampant in young adult fare. As this book is the first in a series, one hopes that the paucity of information will be filled in subsequent novels. Hopefully, the following books will delve further into the story with details about the Celts, more substantial characters and a tighter plotline.
Recommended with reservations.
Jenice Batiforra was previously a Branch Head Librarian at the Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.