by Paula Brackston
Morgana is mute, and has been for many years. The people of her hometown regard her as strange, but against all odds her mother has found a man willing to marry her. This man is Cai, a prosperous drover from another town who lost his first wife while they were both still young. He doesn't know about Morgana's reputation or the strange things that happen whenever she is upset. At her mother's insistance, Morgana leaves her home and moves to Cai's farm, where she delights in the beautiful surrounding mountains and in his herds of ponies. In her enchanting new home, Morgana's latent magic powers blossom, but prominent residents of the town work to turn Cai against his pretty, silent wife. Will Cai and Morgana find a way to make their marriage work, or will it crumble as bad luck causes one problem after another?
Morgana is a difficult character to like. A mute character is always a challenge, since their inability to speak robs them of precious words to express themselves to others. Morgana is an extreme introvert, always looking inside herself rather than at the outside world. Communicating is a very low priority; although she dreads marrying Cai and has many questions for her mother about the situation, she does nothing to express them. I mean, even if she can't speak she could write them down or sign her fears out – but she does nothing. She just retreats into her head, which is a very lonely and frustrating place to leave the reader. This is compounded by the fact that 'wild child' Morgana is constantly angry at the people around her, and she constantly lashes out. She comes off as extremely childish and rather useless until she finally begins to control her magic rather late in the story.
Cai's a good man – far more patient with his new wife than I think any man would be. He's sensitive to a fault, really; he lets his wife run all over him because he's so afraid of ruining her precious wildness. This makes him seem pretty wimpy at times – not exactly the handsome heroic type.
The villains in the story are pretty predictable: the cruel, bigoted priest and the seductive rival witch who wants to steal Morgana's new husband. They're sketched rather thinly, their characters barely realized. Their story arc was very familiar, like I'd been there and done that many times before in other books.
The book is at its strongest when Cai and Morgana are out in the wilds of Wales, taking care of their animals or just enjoying the natural world around them. Unfortunately, the magic of these brief moments fail to spread throughout the rest of the book.
3 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
2011: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
2010: Author J. D. Salinger Dies at 91
2009: A Monk Jumped Over A Wall by Jay Nussbaum