The Charm of Urizen by Melaine Bryant

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Rating 8.0/10
An engaging novel that will encourage readers to explore classic fairy and fantasy tales.

His Charm had been destroyed, and the Third Age had begun... He had been created for good. He had been created to stop the Darkness, the destruction, to bring order from chaos. But at the violent end of the Second Age, as dark flames scorched the landscape and the seas swelled, whipped up by icy winds, it became clear that he had failed. He had changed, and he had used his Charm to imprison the races and species of Earde, subjecting them to his laws and cruelty. Now, millennia later, the Darkness is once again spreading across Earde. As the gates by which the non-blinking magical races travel continue to close, as the fairy races continue to disappear at a breathtaking pace, the Light ones face a terrible truth: the Charm of Urizen was not destroyed; the Dark Queen Lucifæra has found it, and it is making her stronger. Lisandra Ackart, now fifteen, discovers an ancient secret: at the end of the First Destruction, a man had been entrusted with something very special by a very powerful group, something that would keep Earde safe, which could only be used by the Gifted One. So, reunited with her companions, Lisandra sets out to find it. As the four friends travel across the continents of their world, still searching for the Keepers of the ancient Prophecy, the urgency of Lisandra's task increases. She must find this infinitely important object before any more species are taken, and she must use it to stop Lucifæra.

The Charm of Urizen is the second in a series of five fantasy books, written for young adults by Melaine Bryant.

This books predecessor, The Prophecy Keepers, was a delightfully constructed tale built around the framework of classic fantasy/fairy tales. Drawing upon the rich sources of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queen, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Dante's Inferno and William Butler Yeats's Kidnappers (to name but a few), Bryant wove an tale of high fantasy that was a joy to read.

Spenser and Yeats's influences are still strong within The Charm of Urizen but it is the Old English heroic epic poem Beowulf and Shakespeare's Macbeth that form the spine of the first half of the book. I was not overly familiar with these two pieces of work so it was fun doing a little extra research and learning more about these great tales.

But is the second half of the book that really sees things come alive…
 
The reason that I enjoyed the second half of the book so much was because, as the quest continues, Bryant focuses the narrative more and more on Arethus. Arethus, although human, was raised at the fairy court and wants nothing more than to become a knight. We learn a great deal about Arethus's childhood spent at the fairy court, and much also of his apprenticeship spent with Sir Redcrosse the fairy Knight. These passages explain why Arethus is who he is and also why Sir Redcrosse betrayed the rightful Fairy Queen Gloriæna to serve her evil sister Lucifæra. The result being that the reader warms more and more to Arethus, a young man who came across as rather ridiculous in the first book. The author also hints that Arethus's future may well hold great things...

Here is an excerpt that describes Arethus's time at the Fairy court:
“Arethus was small for a human boy of eight, but among the fairy children he was simply average. He didn't look much different than his fairy peers, but he had come, more and more, to feel different. As he often did, he was sitting by himself on the school-house grounds, drawing in his journal. He liked to draw and write, and his teacher always praised these abilities. He wished she would bestow the same praise on what he considered the more important abilities, such as speed and strength, but compared with the other children, he lagged far behind in both.
The Charm of Urizen: Chapter 7 - Atonement

As our feelings towards Arethus warm as do the characters' feelings for each other. Arethus and the dryad Æscere are quarellsome yet ultimately tender towards each other; Lisandra and Cærwyn experience mixed and conflicting emotions for one another. Some beautifully moving moment pass between the four friends. 

The Charm of Urizen is a worthy addition to the series, perhaps the narrative and the folklore are not as seamlessly joined as they were in The Prophecy Keepers, but once again Melaine Bryant has written an engaging novel that will encourage readers to explore classic fairy and fantasy tales while also rousing an interest in Celtic mythology. Children and adults alike will enjoy this book and the story finishes on a real cliff-hanger, setting things up very nicely for the third instalment in this highly-promising series.

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Melaine Bryant knew she wanted to be a writer from the moment she learned how to hold a pencil. She preferred writing in her notebooks to paying attention in school, and spent many happy hours composing stories, books and screenplays. Growing up, she immersed herself in The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, the stories of King Arthur, and many other fantasy books by authors such as John Christopher, Ursula Le Guin and Lloyd Alexander. Always an avid reader, Melaine has a background in English and classical literature and languages. She had intended to follow her father's footsteps to a PhD in English Literature, but found that writing The Prophecy Keepers was much more fun.

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