Reviewed by Wendy Hawkin
An evocative epic laced with myth and fact, Water Sight completes the Last of the Gifted Series. In the first book, Spirit Sight, we find Cymru (Wales) hovering on the eve of destruction as the English king, Edward 1, better known as Longshanks, sends his armies railing against the native Celts. Fans of Braveheart, note that Longshanks practiced his brutal conquest techniques on the Welsh before turning his eye northward to Scotland and tangling with William Wallace.
There are several things I particularly appreciate about this book.
The interweaving dual storylines are fluidly crafted. As in Book One, the story is narrated by two protagonists: Hyw (16) and Catrin (14)—a brother and sister with extraordinary gifts. As the war with the English builds, so do their gifts and their need to use them. Hyw is a shapeshifter; Cat a spiritual healer able to lead captive spirits home to their eternal rest in Garth Celyn, a mystical place as legendary as faerie.
Cat shines in this story. Her quest is to reclaim the three relics that once belonged to the murdered Llywelyn—The Crown of Arthur, the Coronet of Wales, and Y Groes Naid (the Cross of Neith)—and give them to his younger brother, Prince Dafydd to rally the people. Though she is in love and betrothed to Rhys, for the most part Cat’s on her own as Rhys is working to protect Dafydd.
Powell’s lyrical writing has a formal tone flecked with Medieval and Old Welsh Gaelic phrases in such a way that they’re contextually definable. The language reflects the culture and reminds us that what was once taken by the English is now alive again. Powerful phrasing, sensory descriptions, and mythical references abound.
There are time-ticking constraints. It’s May 1283 when the story begins and they must rally the people by Autumn Equinox, and win by Nos Galan Gaeaf (Halloween.) When the veils are lowest between the worlds, Llywelyn must leave Hyw’s body, where his spirit has been housed since his murder, and join his Princess Eleanor and the ancestors in Garth Celyn. To be defeated means the soul of the legendary Prince of Wales will be lost forever.
Though the atmosphere is violent, vicious, and grave, Powell finds ways to add comic relief through Hyw’s hijinks as he shapeshifts into various animals: a hawk, a horse, a jackdaw, a mouse, a sparrow, an eagle. His transformations become more rapid as the stakes rise and his responses are comical.
The romance is true and transcends time. Cat and Rhys are destined; while Hyw’s love for James, a boy he grew up with, is sweet, sensitive, and accepted by the culture. “We are meant to be together, Hyw. If you will stay a hawk, then I will become a falconer. But if you would be a man, then come back to me.” Indeed, as they walk through the crowds holding hands, we can only hope for them.
This is a series for young adults and I recommend it to teachers and librarians. The characters face contemporary struggles in a historic setting. The mingling of myth, magic, and adventure will appeal to middle grade and high school students, but also their parents. The Last of the Gifted is a classic.
The Last of the Gifted is published by Wood Dragon Books.