This YA fairy tale describes in verse the story of an old curse that must be undone by righting wrongs.
In a fictional world similar to medieval Europe, Caravaille’s monarch rules so wisely that he’s known as King Sagan “the Fair,” but all is not well in his realm. Ninety-two years ago, Merk the Fierce, Sagan’s ancestor, stole the throne by killing King Daemon. Daemon’s dying wife, Queen Oriana, cursed Merk’s line for “three score years and more” with succession problems that would always lead to war and chaos. The aging Sagan, who has no son, wants to choose an heir among his three nephews, hoping the curse will have expired by now. Javan is the bravest warrior; Cadmon is kind and just; Sky is wise. Sagan’s adviser Lord Shin recommends careful study of Oriana’s entire curse, as does Zagir, an ancient sorcerer queen and the oldest person in Caravaille. Sagan earnestly tries to follow this advice, but each attempt to name an heir results in interference by mysterious animals (kestrel, cat, and wolf), who wreck the kingdom’s ancient symbols of royal rule. These can be repaired only by goldspun weaving, an art lost with Oriana’s death. The sorcerer queen holds the key to restoring this practice and the kingdom’s unity, if the right person can divine the truth. Michaels (The Alchemy of Illuminated Poetry, 2017, etc.) uses quatrains rhyming ABCB, which gallop along at an effective pace. The rhymes work well, and can sometimes be quite clever: Sagan “found himself bemused, befuddled / By the utter lack of deference, / The experience being quite outside / His lifelong frame of reference.” Also striking are the characters’ struggles to interpret the curse—is it a metaphor or what? Fairy-tale elements like a three-part structure and animal helpers provide appeal, while the story also benefits from an original take on the who-will-inherit question. The book is handsome, with appealing typography and illustrations by the author that enhance the tale’s medieval/Elizabethan flavor.
Bringing love and unity to a broken land finds beautiful expression in this engaging fable.