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Child of the Prophecy    by Juliet Marillier order for
Child of the Prophecy
by Juliet Marillier
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Child of the Prophecy brings Juliet Marillier's remarkable Sevenwaters trilogy to an outstanding conclusion. The author's previous heroines, Sorcha and Liadan, have been incredible young women, and Fainne continues this trend. She is the granddaughter of both Sorcha and her evil nemesis, the sorceress Oonagh. In a complex mesh of relationships, Fainne's father is Sorcha's half-brother Ciaran, and her dead mother Niamh was Liadan's sister.

Fainne is raised, and trained in his arts, by her sorceror father in the Honeycomb, a network of caves on the Kerry coast. It is a lonely and austere life, whose yearly highlight is the summer visit of the travelling folk, bringing with them Fainne's only friend and seasonal companion, Darragh. They 'explored the rocky hillsides, the clifftop paths, the hidden bays and secret caves together' and every year Darragh's farewell was 'Goodbye Curly ... I'll see you next summer. Keep out of trouble now, until I come back.'

Fainne grows up, able to summon fire at will, and learns the craft from her father - to use the Glamour to change her appearance, to transform others, and to move objects through space. She knows that she has evil blood and comes of a forbidden union, but orients to the 'ways of light'. When she turns fourteen, her father informs her that he is sending her to her relatives at Sevenwaters, and that her grandmother is coming to teach her proper conduct. Ciaran leaves Fainne to her grandmother's not so tender mercies.

Oonagh is a cruel teacher who attempts to break Fainne's will, using pain and threats against those she loves in at attempt to enlist her granddaughter in a new (and final plot) against Sevenwaters and its Otherworld allies. She gives Fainne an amulet 'to protect you from the wrong sorts of influence' and forces her into actions with evil results. Shy Fainne journeys with the travelling folk to Sevenwaters and learns to appreciate their company, especially that of Darragh.

Fainne impulsively invokes her craft for good, and tries to resist the evil orchestrated by her grandmother, while knowing that it has tainted her. She warms to her young cousins and is devastated when one of them becomes a victim of Oonagh's plots. This is a complex character who fights the darkness of her heritage, while convinced that it is hopeless. She balances a tightrope - conciliating Oonagh to protect those she loves, while trying to limit the damage that her grandmother forces her to inflict on her own family.

Characters from the previous books are prominent here also, in particular Conor the Druid and swan-winged Finbar (Sorcha's brothers), Liadan and her family, and Eamonn who still seeks revenge. So are the otherworldly creatures - the Fair Folk and Old Ones - who await the ending of the Prophecy to decide their own fate. As the owl-creature that she rescued tells Fainne 'Man ... can no longer hear the heartbeat of the earth, his mother ... he cannot see what lies beyond the veil of shadows' but it is 'the unseen that must endure' and Fainne's actions will determine whether that happens or Oonagh's evil prevails.

But as she is reminded early on, Fainne has two grandmothers, and she inherits from Sorcha the will to endure through great pain and suffering. She achieves an ending on the Needle, that finally warms her heart and fits her talents. The Sevenwaters trilogy is the best of recent fantasy. If you haven't read the first two in this series, rush to get hold of them. I, along with countless other fans, found the trilogy enthralling, and eagerly await whatever Juliet Marillier sets her pen to next.

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