Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The Magus of Stonewylde


by Kit Berry
ISBN: 9780955143908

I had heard about these books and read the reviews. I bumped into the author at an event and she very kindly autographed this book, and its sequel for me. I was looking forward to reading them.

The first thing I noticed was the number of typographical errors in the print run. I am pendantic about typographical errors because they tend to jar me away from my reverie when reading a good story, and I was struggling somewhat as it was.

The story centres around Sylvie, a fifteen year old girl from the city who goes to live at Stonewylde, and Yul, a villager who has never left the Stonewylde community. Sylvie seems to be allergic to all that she encounters in the city, so when a doctor introduces Sylvie and her mother to the Magus, the head of the Stonewylde community, Sylvie is overjoyed to find her mother agreeing to move to the mysterious community in Devon. Sylvie thrives in her first weeks at Stonewylde, but it is not the idyll the Magus promised. Yul is sent to work in the garden as a punishment and soon he and Sylvie develop a dangerous friendship, despite the Magus' warning.

After years of reading non-fiction titles, I find that I can forsee the twists and turns in this book, which is a shame, because it makes it seem less believable. Little bits of the background story to Stonewylde grated somewhat, too, but this is unlikely to bother the majority of readers.

The only other small quibble I had was the reader is required to read the whole series of books (well, at least the first three), before the main plot is resolved. None of the books are complete within themselves, this being a continuing, serialised saga. That said, having read "Solstice at Stonewylde" there are some conclusions.

Ms Berry excels at making her characters believable and distinguishable. At no time, did I lose track of the personalities involved and her pre-histories are clear and discernable with just a few words. Her ability to set the scene with descriptive prose allows the reader to wallow in the atmosphere of Stonewylde alone, for a few moments before the characters arrive; a rare treat indeed.

For all the criticisms I have levelled at this book, I read it in one sitting. I could not put it down - despite the plotline being easy to predict (mostly because I am a prolific reader and an avid cinema-goer, meaning its hard to surprise me), and the pace a little stilted in places. I couldn't wait for it to all unfold.

I felt the book was aimed at a teenage market, given the age of the main characters and the exploration of sexual themes, but it does appeal to adults as well.

So far, I have read three in the series - each one was read in a single sitting.

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