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*The Prophecy* by Hilari Bell - tweens/young readers book review


The Prophecy
by Hilari Bell
Grades 6-9 208 pages Eos August 2006 Hardcover    

Prophecies are the stuff of legend, the Bible, and great fairy tales. In her latest novel, Hilari Bell writes of a prophecy well worth being put between the covers of a book - of a dragonslaying bard, a unicorn so pure “its tears can cleanse the blood of dragon’s wrath,” and the magical Sword of Samhain. The hero of the book is Prince Perryn (a.k.a. Perryndon) of Idris, a bespectacled teenager who loves reading books much more than learning combat skills from his fighting instructor, Cedric. He’d much rather attend a university and become a scholar, but he also desperately wants to please his father, King Rovan, who seems cold, uncaring, and unloving ever since his wife died in a tragic avalanche which he believes he caused.

Is The Prophecy a good book? Very. Hilari Bell’s engaging story flows in the Disney vein of fairy tales. Perryn is on his way to the castle’s library tower at the beginning of The Prophecy, but before he can get there he is spotted by the bane of his existence, Cedric. Perryn wants to know if his father is home from “riding the borders,” but Cedric won’t answer him, only saying “Your Highness needs some exercise.” Perryn can’t wear his spectacles and his helmet at the same time, so has to fight without them on. The only “exercise” that happens is one in intense humiliation as Cedric knocks him to the ground and the king’s guardsmen laugh at Perryn. Cedric is the human villain of The Prophecy, plaguing Perryn at every turn and trying to stop the prophecy from coming true.

Perryn discovers what the titular prophecy is one day in the library tower, which is made up of room after room of books and parchments; Perryn has turned it into a study just for him. Put simply, the person who slays the dragon “must be a true bard, one who sees and sings the truths that are hidden in men’s hearts.” Also, he must have a unicorn as described above, and the Sword of Samhain, “whose steel, tempered with courage, can withstand the dragon’s flame.” Perryn finds all of these requirements easier said than done. Bards are fewer, a unicorn will be difficult to locate (though one of his books has pictures of their tracks in it). But the sword - that might not be too hard. Perryn recalls it is in the tomb of one of his ancestors, King Albion, the twenty-seventh king of Idris. If he could just locate the tomb and get out of the castle despite his father’s refusal to let him go and Cedric’s barring the door of his room....

All of this makes for an entertaining tale of a boy striving to prove his worth to his father and show he’s growing into adulthood and the ability to handle the problems of the kingdom - though in his own way. When Perryn learns, through the magical talking Mirror of Idris, that Cedric is really “Cerdic of the Red Boar,” a Norseman and spy working in league with the dragon, he wants to go to his father with this information. But his father is too drunk at the time, and Perryn knows it would ultimately be his word against Cedric’s. He decides to escape from the tower room he’s found himself imprisoned in and take matters into his own hands.

The Prophecy should appeal to its intended audience very well, and it’s a book that parents shouldn’t have any quarrels with, as well. The unicorn’s name is Prism, and one Disney-esque aspect of the book is that the animal talks, as do the Mirror of Idris, the Sword of Samhain, and the black dragon, and each becomes a vital character in The Prophecy. With its mix of fantasy and adventure, and because it is a parent-friendly read as well as being appealing to children, I recommend The Prophecy to kids of all ages.

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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