Solstice at Stonewylde by Kit Berry

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Solstice at Stonewylde by Kit Berry

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Reviewed by Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Summary: A satisfyingly epic conclusion to the thrilling events built up in the previous two books, Solstice at Stonewylde makes for compulsive reading, but isn't quite as brilliant as its predecessors.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: July 2011
Publisher: Gollancz
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0575098879

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Yul's odyssey culminates in an epic final conflict and destiny appears to be on his side. The Villagers are ready to rise against the oppression that Magus has built upon them so skilfully over the years that they weren't consciously aware of it until recently. However, Magus is still a brutal force to be reckoned with and he is more dangerous than ever in his desperation.

Left at the brink of death in Moondance of Stonewylde Yul somehow manages to survive, due to the timely intervention of his mother and the Villagers who recognise him as their figurehead. At the Winter Solstice Yul will be 16 and the binding restraints that Mother Heggy put on Magus in order to protect Yul from him will no longer be effective. Nonetheless, Yul believes that it is his destiny to overcome Magus on the day of the Winter Solstice, and thereby secure a better, fairer future for Stonewylde. However, Magus' ability to manipulate cannot be underestimated and he has one more trick up his sleeve, and that is to turn Sylvie against Yul. Furthermore, Mother Heggy is now haunted by premonitions that seem to indicate that there will be five deaths on the solstice; she is desperate that Yul or Sylvie won't be one of the casualties. The theme of events going full circle is prominent, with prophecies being fulfilled, characters finding redemption, and revenge being dealt out. The winter solstice, the longest night of the year, is an apt setting for the final confrontation between Yul and Magus that has been 16 years in the waiting.

Kit Berry manages to sustain the high level of intensity and tension from the ending of the second book through to the first part of this, the third book set in Stonewylde. The author is very liberal in her use of language and although her vivid imagery and descriptions are always well thought out, it did slow down the pacing, particularly in the middle section which dragged a little. Perhaps this is also due to the fact that Sylvie is given the brunt of the narrative during this section, and her voice is less charismatic than Yul's. Furthermore, I was unconvinced by how easily Magus managed to twist her onto his side once more, as she has not only been treated brutally by the tyrant in previous books, but should also be well aware of his legendary cunning and untrustworthiness by now.

I do appreciate the fact that Kit Berry hasn't made her protagonists infallible. Sylvie struggles to remain loyal and in touch with her integrity as Magus plays his manipulative mind games on her, while Yul is forced to deal with the possibility that he isn't immune to the corruptive effects of power. Magus is as repulsive an antagonist as ever, but his desperation is now tangible as he realises that his reign is coming to an end. Although it is hugely satisfying to finally see Magus shaken and no longer able to maintain his confident cool persona, I actually missed the supreme confidence that made him such a brilliant villain in the previous two books.

The conclusion is a little predictable and orthodox, but is nonetheless hugely satisfying and very intense. I particularly enjoyed the skilful way in which the author integrated the motif of five deaths into the climax, which really upped the tension.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Catherine Fisher's Incarceron is a fascinating dystopian novel that also explores themes of authoritarianism and corruption. Triskellion by Will Peterson might also be worth a read if you enjoyed the Stonewylde books.

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