The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo and Sophie Blackall
|The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo and Sophie Blackall|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Come here for a thoroughly charming quest, where the strangest collection of characters travel in support of a girl who might just be the subject of a prediction that has left the country's king quaking.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: September 2021|
|Publisher: Walker Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Stories have joy and surprises in them, we are told here. And none more so than in this wondrous story, which feels an instant classic with the freshness and the agelessness it has in equal proportion. We start with a group of monks, the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing, and the demonic goat that loves nothing more than upending, trampling on and biting the poor Brothers. Things change drastically when the beast takes a totally maternal approach to a homeless girl, one who has survived some trauma that has blocked her past from her memory. Elsewhere sits a King in his castle, desperate to find the girl, for it is prophesied that a young child can unseat the throne and cause great change. Who foretold that revolution but the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing? But how can a simple, amnesiac lass ever prove a threat to anyone?
What follows is a thoroughly classy fantasy quest fairy tale, one full of the peculiar, but the peculiar played to perfection, with full conviction and nowhere to be seen a mere quirk for quirks' sake. The narration is ideal, dropping in rhetorical questions, and matter-of-factly delivering this with all the style of an aged legend newly refreshed for a modern audience. There is also a theme of the power of words and literacy, when the monk who discovers the girl of the title asleep under the care of the goat finds that she can read and write. Previously, only those in power were gifted the knowledge of letters, and that never included the female of the species.
Truly the closest comparison to be made with this is The Wizard of Oz, for while the questors on these pages don't all have a specific intent and it's not just finding one man that will help them all, the disparate bunch of characters grouping together to travel the land is seldom as diverse as here or in Oz. Now, of course Mr Baum went ahead and produced a whole shelf full of Oz stories, and while I can certainly see scope for many more adventures in this world, I can't quite see it happening. I would certainly relish a return to these characters – the goat is such a fiercesome presence you are duty-bound to enjoy it, but it's not just the people we're introduced to here that are memorable. It's the way this has the feel of lore, of a definitive telling of some mythology, and of how this seems it could have been written any time in the last century. Oh, and the way it feels over much too soon when you get to the final page.
We've long enjoyed Kate DiCamillo and all we've read from her. More recently, Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep by Philip Reeve has been an eye-opening fantasy drama for tweenaged audiences, likewise from a master wordsmith.
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