From School Library Journal
Grade 6-10–Gwenore is only 12 when she escapes from her mother, the evil witch Rhiamon, who both hates her daughter and covets the mysterious magical powers symbolized by the birthmark on the girl's wrist. Gwenore travels through medieval England and Wales under secret identities for several years, learning the arts of healing, gardening, and singing. Eventually, she arrives in the Irish kingdom of Lir, where she becomes the beloved teacher and companion of the king's four children. When her power-hungry mother marries the king and turns the children into swans, Mary Singer, as Gwenore is now known, must vanquish Rhiamon and save the children. Loosely based on the Irish folk tale "The Children of Lir," this engaging, well-written novel features a blend of historical fiction and high fantasy that will appeal to fans of both genres. Gwenore's flight from one hiding place to another, under constant threat of discovery by Rhiamon, makes for a dramatic read. Particularly interesting are her experiences in two communities of independent women: first an abbey that functions as a shelter for abused women of all ages, then an estate run by four sisters whose husbands died in the Crusades. Recommend Singer
to readers who enjoyed Kevin Crossley-Holland's King of the Middle March
(Scholastic, 2004); while that book offers an unforgettable depiction of soldiers' and embattled civilians' lives during the Crusades, Thesman brings to life the everyday struggles of commoners in the years after these bloody wars.–Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT
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Gr. 5-8. As the story begins, Gwenore is a young girl, the daughter of Rhimaon the witch, who wants nothing more than to kill her. So starts a series of adventures that finds Gwenore fleeing for her life, taking refuge with a group of wise women who nurture her talent for healing, and then undertaking a perilous sojourn in the kingdom of Lir, where she becomes a beloved teacher to the king's four children. When the king marries Rhimaon, Gwenore must use her ever-growing powers to face down her mother. The story winds its way through many magical moments, and even though the expanse of time it covers is wide, Thesman's artful storytelling will hold readers' interest. There are two particularly memorable elements of the book: a talking cat, whose sharp, incisive comments contrast nicely with Gwenore's more-muddled thoughts as she tries to discern her life's purpose; and Thesman's description of Blessingwood, the community of strong women where Gwenore resides. A satisfying story based on the Irish folktale "The Children of Lir." Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved