On the spell-crossed Phaer Isle, teenage Xemion dreams of being a great swordsman. When he finds a blade-shaped stick, he fashions it to look like a real sword. Knowing that the laws of their cruel Pathan conquerors would require a death sentence for possession of such an object, his friend Saheli demands he destroy it. He agrees, but insists on performing just one sword ceremony. When his mastery of the weapon, a skill long forgotten, is witnessed by a mysterious man named Vallaine, the two friends are invited to join a planned rebellion. At first they refuse, but when a sadistic official discovers their transgressions, they are forced to flee their home and embark on a dangerous journey to the ruins of the ancient city of Ulde, where rebel forces are gathering.
Armed with only their wits and the painted sword, they face Thralls, Triplicants, dragons, rage-wraiths, and a host of other spell-crossed beings. As they approach the Great Kone, source of all spell-craft, Saheli's fear of magic and Xemion's attraction to it bind them in a crossed spell of their own — one that threatens to separate the two forever.
"Robert Priest, in writing his second fantasy book for young readers, has crafted a great adventure-fantasy tale in the tradition of the classics. However, in following the familiar formula of quest and tests, Priest has succeeded in creating a highly original tale. Instead of the typical cast of elves, trolls, dwarves, and goblins, there exist thralls, triplicants, and wraiths of various kinds, as well as countless other beasts and beings who are all as strangely beautiful and bizarre as the spells that created them ... a remarkable first book to a promising series which will surely entertain and fascinate readers of every age. Highly Recommended."
- Andrew Laudicina, CM magazine
"I haven't enjoyed a fantasy novel as much as this in a long time. The characters are realistic and engaging and none of them are so goody-goody as to recall either Harry Potter or Cinderella. We believe in their interactions and we sympathize with their tribulations so that first off this is a story about real people coming of age. But Priest's magical system is also a stunner. He has invented a mechanical way of casting a spell - spell kones - cone shaped devices which are turned by crank handles. These stem from the great Kone itself a giant ancient paper cone upon which the foundational spells of the world are written. I found this whole system fascinating and original. Plus I love a good love story. The main character, Xemion, is a bit of a romantic despite himself and this gives the intense feeling of the novel a good grounding in his sometimes poetic musings. The overall effect of this is that of a literary novel full of colorful language, fine invention and quite believable human struggles and interactions with never a moment of pretention. Like Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Priest has left book 1 on a cliffhanger but not without giving us an initial sense of completion in the 1st stages of the love story. This is a real page turner and I eagerly await book two. 5 stars."
- Adam Warlock, Netgalley
The Milton Acorn Memorial People's Poetry Award, 1989
Special Choice Award, Children's Book Centre, 1993
Socan Airplay Award, 1994
Chalmer's Award, Theatre for Young Audiences, 1998
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