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Angel Isle    by Peter Dickinson order for
Angel Isle
by Peter Dickinson
Order:  USA  Can
Wendy Lamb Books, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Angel Isle, Peter Dickinson continues to weave magical adventures into the world of The Ropemaker, a couple of centuries after the events of that story. This sequel is another hero quest, involving twelve-year-old Maja, her older cousin Saranja, and miller Ribek, who are seeking to restore the magic that has long protected their valley from invasion by northern horsemen and armies of the southern empire, but that recently failed. What they end up doing is something even more significant.

Both Saranja and Ribek have inherited magical talents from their forebears - Ribek can listen to water in any form, and learn a great deal from where it's been. The perpetually angry Saranja uses information from a story she's never believed, as well as a golden feather and a twist of golden hair to transform a lame horse into a glowing winged stallion she names Rocky. And it turns out that Maja, who was badly abused by her aunt and has been raised to think poorly of herself, has a strong sensitivity to any form of magic - this has its uses but is also very dangerous to her.

There is a power corrupts premise to the magic in this world, as well as a cost for any use of magic. Before he disappeared two centuries ago, the now mythical Ropemaker established magicians to oversee magical use in the Empire. But these new Watchers, have become 'an embodied lust for domination', who release demons against their enemies. They seek out any use of magic and either destroy the user or force a joining with them. Peter Dickinson has also created, as an underpinning to his story, 'a magical equivalent of the laws of physics' that is intriguing in itself, as are all his analogies for how magic feels.

Pursued by Sheep-faces (invaders from overseas who have advanced technology but no magic) our three reluctant heroes meet Fodaro (a mediocre magician but a brilliant magical mathematician), his powerful nephew Benayu, and Jex, a talking lizard from a parallel world who exists simultaneously in two places. When the Watchers sense them, Fodaro sends them on, erasing signs of their presence. Benayu and Jex thus join the quest which heads to Tarshu, where Sheep-faces and Imperial magicians are in dire conflict, to Larg, a city kept free from the Watchers by the presence of a potent Sleeper, and into Jex's seven-dimensional universe.

In Angel Isle, Peter Dickinson gives us an epic quest, a coming of age for both Maja and Benayu (who grow in magic, maturity and confidence), several unusual romances, conflicts between different kinds of powers, and appropriate and satisfying endings for his seemingly ageless Ropemaker as well as this engaging new set of heroes and heroines.

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