Monday, December 20, 2010

"Seer of Sevenwaters"

Juliet Marillier's novels include Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows, Child of the Prophecy, and Heir to Sevenwaters.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Seer of Sevenwaters, and reported the following:
Seer of Sevenwaters blends history, folkloric magic, adventure and romance. It’s the fifth book in a series that began with Daughter of the Forest, but it is a stand-alone novel.

The setting is early medieval Ireland. Young druid-in-training Sibeal is spending a summer with her sisters on Inis Eala, a remote island that houses a school of warcraft, before making her final commitment to the spiritual life. When a Norse ship is wrecked off the coast, three unlikely survivors are washed ashore and the calm order of the island community is disturbed.

On page 69, Sibeal has been trying to get through to one of the shipwreck survivors, Svala, who is mute and disturbed. Sibeal approaches Svala on a beach and finds herself seized by the arm and drawn into the water. Note, Sibeal has a very strong ability to empathise with others, to the extent that their emotions sometimes flood into her, becoming hard to bear. She also has a powerful seer’s gift. Here’s a sample:
Now we were in the shallows. Svala released her hold and came to stand beside me with one hand on my shoulder. I stood still, though the sea was washing over my shoes and drenching the hem of my gown. An exercise in trust. She stretched her free arm out toward the horizon as if trying to catch hold of something, something longed-for, something precious. Too far. Too far to reach. The look on her face made my heart falter; the tumult of feelings that coursed through me almost stopped my breath. Loss, bereavement, fury, despair, yearning … I closed my eyes, near-overwhelmed. Images came then: huge seas crashing; rocks looming, their forms those of monsters crouched to spring; dark kelp swirling in a thick mat. And sounds: men shouting, and over their desperate voices the calling of something else, a deep bellow of pain that gripped at my vitals. My heart juddered in my breast. I trembled with horror.
Sibeal snaps out of her vision when Svala’s husband, Knut, approaches down the cliff path. The two women come out of the water. Note, Sibeal can’t understand Knut as he’s speaking in Norse:
Knut’s fair skin was flushed with embarrassment. Avoiding my eye, he came up to Svala, fished out a handkerchief and proceeded to wipe her mouth as if she were an infant that was still learning to feed itself. He spoke to her gently. I guessed he was telling her he’d been worried and was glad he had found her. His glance took in the pile of fish bones, his wife’s wet clothing, the garments she had abandoned on the rocks, her bare feet. It was plain that he wished I had not seen this.
Is page 69 typical of the book? Well, in Seer of Sevenwaters there are two first person narrators, Sibeal and a young man named Felix, who has lost his memory. This section is fairly typical of Sibeal’s voice. She is a composed, self-contained young woman, but her sensitivity to the feelings of others, along with the dramatic visions she’s been seeing since the shipwreck, are starting to disturb her.

Felix’s voice, not heard on this page, is in contrast to Sibeal’s. Because he has no memory his account is in present tense, and its style at this stage of the book reflects both his physical weakness and his mental confusion. The reader can also detect that he is a scholar with a poetic turn of phrase. No single page will give you both voices, and the way they complement each other is an integral part of the book.

This is a novel full of islands, storms and lonely wild places. The snatches of vision on page 69 hint at the dark drama of the story. I hope readers will want to continue.
Read an excerpt from Seer of Sevenwaters, and visit Juliet Marillier's website to learn more about her books and works in progress.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Juliet Marillier & Pippa, Gretel, and Sara.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue