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Celandine    by Steve Augarde order for
by Steve Augarde
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David Fickling Books, 2006 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Steve Augarde's Celandine is a prequel enacted seventy years before the author's debut fantasy, The Various, and is to be followed by a third in the trilogy. Celandine's story is set in Somerset, England, beginning on her family's Mill Farm. She lives with her father, Erstcourt Howard, and mum Lizzie. Brother Thos is fourteen, Freddie is thirteen, and Celandine is ten. It is 1911 and preparations are underway to host a great picnic on ancient Howard's Hill in honour of the Coronation of King George and Queen Mary.

Celandine and Freddie take off on their own to do some rolling down the steep hill. She loses control in one tumble and her head hits a rock. Waiting for transport home, Celandine drifts in and out of consciousness. Dreamily she sees a small figure above her in the branches of a tree. 'Big brown eyes, set wide apart ... fixed, not upon her own, but upon something else close by'. It is a boy with feathers, fur, and 'raggedy bits of cloth', and a voice is calling to him: 'Fin! Drat the young fool - what bist doing now?' Celandine raises an arm and offers him cake, and 'trembling skinny fingers' reach for the offering. When next she opens her eyes, Celandine sees the faces of her parents and Uncle Josef.

In the forest, Celandine meets the little people, several tribes of the Various, alike but yet not. The Naiad, a water tribe, are divided into separate entities in the vicinity of the Howard's property - the Togglers, the Tinklers, and Wisps. Some live in caves, foraging for food and clothing materials, while others live in huts and tend to planted crops. Celandine keeps the secret of the tinies in the woods above the Howard farm, and visits them daily. She gains their trust, reads to them, and teaches them the alphabet. Celandine slowly becomes aware that she has psychic gifts.

World War I is upon them, and underage Freddie joins the army against his parents' wishes. To Celandine's dismay, she is enrolled in a boarding school in North Perron, many miles away from home. Her heart is heavy as she leaves the Various behind for another life. School becomes a trial for Celandine, with a strict headmistress and a stern housemistress (known to the students as Bulldog). A clique of girls consistently plague Celandine and purposefully get her in trouble. They refer to her as a witchi, and a German sympathizer (because of her mum's nationality). Celandine and timid Nina Jessop support each other. Then a letter arrives from her father informing Celandine that Freddie has died in an explosion. An incident at school involving Nina, drives Celandine to plan a third escape (her first two attempts were unsuccessful). She hopes to make a temporary home with the Various.

In a parallel storyline, the author tells a story of the Naiad and the winged Ickri. The Touchstone and its Orbis protected and guided its possessors from Giants and ogres, who once lived in houses set high upon poles. A time came when the Ickri decided to make their home in the cold north, while the Naiad remained in the southern wetlands. The split meant a separation of the 'globe-shaped jasper stone' from the Orbis, in which the Stone revolved. Now, King Avlon, ruler of the Ickri, decides it's time to return to the south, and to find the Naiad and the Orbis. The King's daughter Una, who is a witchi, senses something sinister in the eyes of her father's brother Corben, who commands the King's Guard of archers. Their goal after finding the Naiad is to travel to Elysse, home of all traveling tribes.

Steve Augarde sculpts a lengthy story in Celandine. Yet, it proves entertaining and magical, full of mystery and adventure, fast-paced and compelling. The book ends on an open question to Celandine's decision, forming an archway and background to The Various. Those who have already read the sequel will enjoy traveling back in time to Celandine, while those who have not yet started the series can begin with this fine read.

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