Juliet Marillier,
Child of the Prophecy
(Tor, 2002)

In this, the compelling final volume of the Sevenwaters trilogy, Marillier draws together the plot-threads laid so meticulously in the first two novels, while also crafting a suspenseful story that can stand alone -- no mean accomplishment.

When Child of the Prophecy opens, Fainne is a solitary girl living with her father, the ex-druid Ciaran, on the Irish coast, teetering on the edge of puberty and beginning to wonder about the wider world, even as she tries to please her loving but austere father by undertaking the lonely discipline of learning to be a sorceress. Her only friend is the gentle Darragh, a boy of the traveling people with a knack for taming animals and playing the flute. Things change quickly for Fainne when her father announces that he wants her to go and live with her kin -- the family of Sevenwaters, whom she has never seen, and whom she still resents for driving her mother Niamh away, many years before. At the same time, a new presence enters her life -- her grandmother Oonagh, who steps in to complete Fainne's training, with a purpose of her own: to bend Fainne to her will and force her to destroy Sevenwaters from within, as she herself failed to do many years before.

However, Fainne's task is made more complex as she grows to care for her new family, especially the young daughters of the household, who quickly adopt her as an older sister. Despite her affection, Fainne fears the consequences for others that she loves if she defies her grandmother. Only after her actions cause a catastrophe does she find the resolve to beginning playing a dangerous double game -- convincing Oonagh that she is still within her power, while secretly aiding the people of Sevenwaters.

Meanwhile, under the leadership of Johnny, Liadan's son (see Son of the Shadows) Sevenwaters is planning the final assault on the isles held by the British Edwin of Northwoods, and which, according to the prophecy, must return to the guardianship of Sevenwaters in order to preserve magic throughout Ireland. It is during this assault that Oonagh plans to strike. Will Fainne's resources be enough to defeat her grandmother and save the child of the prophecy?

As in the previous two volumes, character development is an essential ingredient in the novel's success. Although Child of the Prophecy is primarily the story of Fainne's coming of age, as Daughter of the Forest and Son of the Shadow were Sorcha's and Liadan's, Fainne's allegiances and motives are more complex than theirs, and her choices fraught with danger and pain. However, this seems to make her journey all the more compelling. In addition to the human characters, this book contains a new element; the increasing involvement of the Tuatha De Danaan, who care deeply for the land and its magic, but have no qualms about arrogantly manipulating humans to serve their ends; and of the Fomoire, older and more elemental, driven underground by the Tuatha, but emerging to offer their earth-wisdom to Fainne, their descendant.

This is a decidedly darker and more suspenseful book than the previous two, and Marillier throws at least one highly unexpected plot twist. Child of the Prophecy is a worthy conclusion to the Sevenwaters trilogy; my only quibble is that the ending, although efficient and logical, almost seems too quick and neat to be fulling satisfy. Still, it's a minor flaw, and I look forward to see what Marillier's inventiveness will produce in the future.

[ by Erin Bush ]
Rambles: 7 September 2002

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