Hanley, Victoria. The Seer and the Sword. Holiday House, 2000. ISBN 0-8234-1532-5. $17.95. 341 pp. A 6-10 FI Reviewed by Rachel Wadham After defeating the peaceful kingdom of Bellandra, King Kareed returns with spoils of war the magic Sword of Bellandra and sundry gifts for his only child, Princess Torina. Among her gifts are a magic crystal and Landen, the exiled prince of Bellandra, to serve as her slave. Kind-hearted Torina immediately frees the boy, who becomes part of the King’s household, leaving behind his peaceful heritage to train as a warrior. Over time, Landen and Torina form a close friendship, and Torina learns to see the future in her magic crystal. Things change when the Captain Vesputo, groomed to be King and Torina’s fiancé, seeks power and becomes vicious and murderous. Soon both Landen and Torina are forced to escape the country. As they both try to forge new lives for themselves, both Landen and Torina become players in a complicated political plots that vests Vesputo against the High King Dahmis. Hanley’s high-fantasy tale is full of romance and intrigue. Built on the vast Arthurian fantasy tradition, The Seer and the Sword develops a strong sense of place that surrounds the varied characters and pulls readers into the conflict where they will be held until the climactic end. The strong, vivid, realistic characters are intriguing, even if some are developed less clearly than others. The strong plot, although not evenly paced, will keep readers guessing even when they may think they have anticipated the plot’s twists and turns. While the novel’s theme and other small items such as the exact nature of the magic Sword of Bellandra are vague, they do not detract from the overall excitement and fun. Fans of Sherwood Smith, Tamora Pierce, and Robin McKinley will find much to enjoy in this novel.
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