WHISPERINGS OF MAGIC

cover of Whisperings of Magic by Karleen Bradford
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Summary ~ Reviews ~ Excerpt

  • Canadian Children’s Book Centre Our Choice 2002

  • Nominated for the Ontario Library Association Red Maple Award 2002

SUMMARY

The second book in the Taun Series

“You have been summoned, Dahl,” said Catryn, Seer of Taun. It has been three years since the two friends last met. Dahl has done much since then, is no longer the nameless boy called from his hiding place on earth to defend his homeland against the Usurper. He is now, rightfully and proudly, the King of Taun, a confident and sure ruler who has grown into his kingship and brought hard-won peace and prosperity to his realm. But Catryn, too, has grown and changed in the last years. Once merely a spirited servant girl, she is today the Seer of Taun, a shapeshifter whose alternate bodies are cats and who is possessed of extraordinary powers of magic. She is also the messenger of devastating news: the peace Dahl fought so hard to win for Taun is crumbling, stealthily unravelled by a dark force once thought vanquished.

Only Catryn knows how very real this danger is. And only Catryn can lead this battle. But has she learned enough? Will Dahl put aside his crown and follow her? And, her worst fear: are she and Dahl strong enough, even together, to win over the evil again?

HarperTrophy Canada, 2001

REVIEWS

Books in Canada, July 2001

“Bradford has created an intriguing fantasy world that comes alive in the pages of both Dragonfire and Whisperings of Magic and woven a suspenseful and satisfyingly rich story.”

Reviewed by Jeffrey Canton

Children’s Book News, The Canadian Children’s Book Centre, Summer/Fall 2001

“It has been three years since Dahl, with the help of his fiery-haired friend Catryn, overcame the evil Usurper who had brought misery to the people of Taun. Dahl has grown into his role as King, and Catryn has spent these years refining her powers of magic and becoming the revered Seer of Taun. As this new installment of their story begins, Catryn arrives with a summons for Dahl and the grim news that there is a terrifying new evil to be vanquished in the North. While their love for one another is still strong, will they be able to work together to protect their people?

“Like its predecessor, Dragonfire, this book is an original and compelling tale that gives the reader much to think about. Readers will be swept up in the drama and excitement of the story’s soul-stealing dragon and revenge-seeking villain. More importantly, they will identify with Catryn’s internal battles. For all her powers, Catryn is still afraid of admitting weakness to Dahl, jealous of his friendship with Bruhn and reluctant to trust in her friends and their abilities. Perhaps the greatest strength of both Whisperings of Magic and Dragonfire lies in the creation of truly fantastical situations peopled with protagonists who share the same struggles as real-life boys and girls, men and women.”

CM (Canadian Materials), Volume VIII Number 5, November 2, 2001

“In this gripping fantasy novel, a sequel to Dragonfire, readers are re-introduced to the characters of Dahl and Catryn, his high-spirited friend. Dahl, Dragonfire’s hero, has capably assumed the challenges of his role as the rightful King of Taun and has wrought many wonderful changes as he has restored peace and contentment to the land of his birth. This story, however, is Catryn’s tale. In these recent years, she has, herself, been hard at work studying with the Elders and learning how to use her magical gifts. She is now the awe-inspiring Seer of Taun, and, in this role, she comes to Dahl to warn him of a new evil gathering in the north which they must together overcome. In spite of Catryn’s misgivings, Dahl is determined that his trusted friend, Bruhn, shall accompany them on this terrible mission. These three, along with their old friend, Sele the Plump, set out on a perilous journey that will ultimately lead them to Caulda, the Dragon’s lair, in their effort to prevent the enslavement of all the people of Taun.

“Readers of Karleen Bradford’s first novel about Dahl and Catryn will not be disappointed here, while newcomers will quickly become caught up in these, their latest trials. Like its prequel, Whisperings of Magic is a fine example of all that is compelling about the very genre of fantasy literature. The story is fast-paced and suspenseful right to the end, and it is peopled with intriguing characters, such as the Sele, a race of peace-loving creatures whose role in ensuring Taun’s safety is not small. The villains are frighteningly cold and mercilessly evil, and Bradford’s introduction of a soul-stealing dragon adds a new element of horror to ponder. Yet I believe that what truly sets both of Karleen Bradford’s fine fantasy novels apart is the way in which the main characters manage to be convincingly heroic and yet remain completely real and human in their imperfection. In spite of her magical powers, Catryn is beset with doubts and insecurities about her ability to protect Dahl and his people. Perhaps more importantly, she is afraid to admit her weaknesses to him. And throughout this tale, Catryn’s greatest struggle is to trust, to let go of her own will and believe in those around her. Gifted and powerful though Catryn may be, readers young and old can identify with the internal battle she wages. She is a satisfying and worthy heroine!

“I was, however, disappointed with the depiction of the secondary characters in the book. Bruhn, Dahl’s dear friend, was curiously one-dimensional, and his role in the story was a little too predictable: I had really hoped to be surprised by him. Also, the boy Norl, although a critical figure, didn’t ever really come to life. But the language and tone of the story are strong and help create, from the very first page, a sense of the great import of Catryn’s announcement. It is, without a doubt, a captivating tale that leaves readers with lots upon which to reflect and even more to look forward to in a third installment.”

Highly Recommended.

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

EXCERPT from WHISPERINGS OF MAGIC

The land over which they flew was night-black. Here and there a flickering light spoke of an isolated dwelling or two. Catryn pressed close to the warm body of the horse and kept her eyes fixed on the darkness below. She allowed herself to hear nothing but its wingbeats, feel nothing but its heartbeats. She was shocked at how easily she had allowed herself to be lured into danger. She grasped the horse’s mane more tightly.

It will not happen again, she vowed grimly. Then, in the distance ahead of them, she saw a clustering of lights: a village. It was time she took matters back into her own hands.

“Alight,” she whispered into the horse’s ear. “At the village edge.”

The animal circled, then landed soundlessly in a copse of wood just beyond the village green. “Furl your wings,” Catryn commanded.

The mighty wings rustled as they settled into its body. Catryn leaped off and threw her cloak over the horse’s back to conceal them. “Wait here for me,” she said softly. The horse tossed its head. She reached out to caress it and scratch its forehead. It made a low snuffling noise and pushed its head into her hand. She rested her own head against its muzzle briefly, feeling the softness of it. Then she turned and walked toward the nearest light.

It was an inn. As she approached, the door opened and a few men strode out. They left the door ajar. Catryn shrank back into the shadows and waited until they had made their way down the path toward some houses. Then she drew into herself. Her body shimmered silver for one brief instant in the moonlight-and dissolved. A ragged orange and brown striped tabby cat stood in its place.

Catryn turned her head to survey this new self. A furball near her tail caught her attention and she pulled at it with her sharp little teeth until it came loose. Spitting the fur out, she washed down the spot with her rough tongue until the pelt lay smooth again.

No need to look too shabby, she told herself. Then she became still and let her cat senses take over. Smells of cooking meat and firesmoke filled the air around her. She cringed as the overpowering scent of humans swept along in their wake. She was still not quite used to the odor her own kind gave off-a smell she never noticed unless she was in her cat form. She set herself to listening, each ear covering a different sector. Sounds, too, were much more distinct and much louder. Learning to separate them and not let them overwhelm her had taken months of training. Finally, whiskers twitching, she stepped delicately toward the open door and slipped in. There were but a few men inside and no one noticed.

Keeping a wary eye out for dogs, although she could not catch a whiff of one, she slunk along one wall. Snatches of conversation drifted over to her. She listened until an angry sentence caught her ear.

“Never heard another thing from him. Promised he’d send for me, but he never did. So much for trusting a man-even your own brother.”

“Went north, did he?” another voice asked.

The two speakers were sitting at a table near the fire. Catryn curled herself up on the hearth near them and began to purr. It was odd that she had never had to be taught that. She had been able to do it from the very first time she had shifted, but she still didn’t know how. It just happened.

“Old Tom did the same thing,” the second speaker said, his voice equally indignant. “A friend of his sent a note to him saying there was work to be had cutting wood up there. He off and left and told me he’d send word back to me if it was true and there might be something for me there, too. Never heard another thing from him. I figured he hadn’t made out so well, that’s all, and didn’t want to admit it. Still, he could’ve let me know.”

“Hardly see anybody from those parts down around here nowadays, do you?” added the first man. “That’s another odd thing. Used to be travellers coming by all the time, now-no one.” he paused to light his pipe.

“You’re right about that,” the second agreed. Then both men lapsed into silence.

Catryn lay where she was for a time longer, but when they began to talk again it was about village affairs. She was almost hypnotized with her own purring by now and the warmth of the fire was making her sleepy.

Time to move, she thought. She stretched, a long, sinuous cat stretch, then began to circulate around the room, but could hear nothing else of interest. Still, what she had heard had been significant. There was indeed something going on in the north. It could not be good. Strange it was, too, that there were so few men at the inn. And, now that she took one last look around and thought on it further, that they should all be so old. Where were the young men of this village?

She slunk out the door when it opened to admit another man, then trotted back to where she had left the horse. Safely out of sight, she allowed herself to return to her own body. This was something she must discuss with Dahl, but the night was early yet. There was time, still, to explore farther.