Reviewed by Wendy Hawkin
We often hear of English historical exploits, but less often from the cultures overtaken. Spirit Sight opens a unique and colourful window into Wales 1282—a historic moment when Edward Longshanks, the English king, is bent on destroying the Cymry (the Welsh) and taking control of their land. Powell’s sensory description takes us there and keeps us there with emotional moments, adventure, romance, and an interweaving of history and imagination. Though marketed for young adults—as is the case with all excellent YA fiction—it will be of interest to an adult audience too. And the cover is beautiful.
The first book in the “Last of the Gifted” series, the tale is told by duelling teen protagonists—Hyw and Catrin—a brother and sister separated by war for much of the book. These two are the “last of the gifted” as both have supernatural powers. Hwy’s ability to merge his spirit with animals and birds makes him both a horse whisperer and a unique spy for the Cymry. As a hawk, Hwy is able to gain insights and strategies unknown to others. Inherited gifts from the maternal line, Hwy’s Uncle Gawain, has a similar ability with horses. At first, Hyw only sees through the hawk’s eyes, but as his gift develops, he is able to physically shift with a “grinding of bone on bone” and transform physically.
Cat is a clairvoyant who can see the future in a drop of water. Her alarming psychic visions speak of the genocide of her people. A strong rebel warrior in the making, she gathers her girlfriends together to dress as boys and learn to fight outside the castle gates. Together, this brother and sister hold the key to squelching this impending terror. Their interweaving stories are colourful, emotional, and riveting, and we want to see more of them.
These are the days when the Prince of Wales was a true Prince of Wales. Llewelyn ap Gruffydd united the country and was given that title in 1267, though Edward, the English king, continued to terrorize the Welsh people and castles. In 1282, Llewelyn’s younger brother, Dafydd, fought back and his attack escalated into a war. With plenty of action, we see Arthurian shades in the characters, culture, and quests.
In an initial heartbreaking scene, Llewelyn is executed on the battlefield. Hyw runs to him and while staring eye to eye in a last breath, the prince’s spirit merges with the boy. And so, we share both point of view throughout the tale. This “circle of three” forms a powerful union to fight against the invading English.
Marie Powell is a professional writer, editor, and journalist with a long list of published books for children and young adults. Well researched and beautifully written, Powell keeps us riveted with this, her debut historical fantasy. History and magic are intertwined effortlessly to cast a spell over the reader. At the end, we are left with a castle under siege and a craving to read Book Two: Water Sight. Look for more at mariepowell.ca where you can watch a wonderful book trailer and learn more about “The Last of the Gifted”
Spirit Sight is published by Wood Dragon Books.