by Steve Augarde
The second book in the trilogy that began with The Various
is an unusual sort of sequel. Instead of picking up where the first book left off, Celandine goes back several decades, to the early 20th century, when Europe was on the brink of the First World War. But in a really weird way, it does connect with the events of The Various
, particularly as the farm girl Celandine Howard has unsettling visions of another girl who will live on the same farm...the better part of a century later.
These arent Celandines only weird experiences, though. She senses a dog is dying merely by touching it. She has unsettling premonitions, and shows signs of having the healing touch. All of these things make her a social outcast, a target of bullies, and an object of suspicion to the teachers and staff at the boarding school Celandine is forced to attend after a set-to with her governess that, believe me, you would rather read for yourself than have summarized to you. Things are nearly as bad at home, where her father and oldest brother are unsympathetic, her Austrian-born mother is ostracized by a society at war with her homeland, and her closest brother is rushing headlong into danger on the battlefield.
With all these things against her, it is no wonder that Celandine keeps her strangest gift a secret. For she also knows about the little people who live on the wooded hill on her familys farm. To the Various, Celandine is a fearsome giant, the only one of her race they have ever befriended. When the terrible events in Celandines life trigger a major crisis, her secret becomes her refuge. But just when it seems she could go on living with her earthy little friends, another crisis comes from outside, one that will force Celandine to choose between facing her problems in the outside world and being completely destroyed. For a long-lost tribe of winged warriors is about to arrive and stir things up on Howards Hill, led by a crafty devil who is willing to shed any amount of blood necessary to get the power that he wants.
Once again, Augarde has woven a fascinating blend of adventure, tragedy, terror, beauty, and magic, this time adding a thread of historical color. It is interesting, and at times agonizing, to experience the fear, anger, hatred, and anxiety of a country at war, a page in history that has been overshadowed by more recent events. The misery of Celandines school days is a study in changing attitudes toward childhood discipline and psychic powers, and of the unchanging nature of human beingsbe they little girls or little peoplewhen they are placed together in a tension-filled social structure.
But whether the setting is a rigidly regulated girls dormitory or a wild forest full of otherworldly creatures, this book delivers more than just social criticism. It is full of magical marvels, unsettling weirdness, and nerve-wracking suspense. It is peppered with luscious vistas, gruesome shocks, snicker-inducing pranks, and mysteries that linger even at the end of the tale, so that youre glad theres a third book coming. Plus, Celandine is full of rich, lively characters, memorable dialogue, and even a bit of romance tinted with a touch of sepia-tone melancholy. If you were to read this as the first book in the series, you would find it full of intriguing foreshadowings of things to come in the latter-day adventures of The Various. And it is also charged with enough storytelling energy to send the trilogys third book into orbit!
Recommended Age: 12+
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