Gwenore's mother is the evil Rhiamon, whose thirst for power transcends any morality. For years, Gwenore has lived in terrified captivity, not understanding why her mother so loathes her. Then she manages to escape, along with her longtime nursemaid and a mysterious enchanter- priest. First Gwenore is hidden at an abbey where she learns to read and make music. Then she is discovered. Her name and appearance changed, she is moved to the women's healing community of Blessingwood, and is taught medicine and herbwork. But then tragedy strikes again, and she must leave. As Mary Singer, she becomes nursemaid to the children of the magical king of Lir-until the king marries Rhiamon. Singer knows that her mother will try to kill the children. What can she do to save their lives-and her own? Based on the classic Irish folk-tale "The Children of Lir," this swiftly paced fantasy will keep readers turning the pages.
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Jean Thesman lives in Washington State.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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