The Telling Pool by David Clement-Davies

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The Telling Pool by David Clement-Davies

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A winning, enjoyable historical fantasy rooted in Arthurian legend and set at the time when Richard the Lionheart is leading crusades. It's a little slow to get going so perhaps more for the fan of the genre than the general reader but junior fantasy lovers of 10 and up will love it.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: August 2007
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 978-0747572893

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Rhodri is a master falconer's son living on the Welsh borders during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There's nothing outwardly unusual about Rhodri; he's a normal little boy dreaming of adventure and travel. The world excites him. Rhodri comes from a solid and loving home and he loves the awesome majesty of birds of prey almost as much as his father does. But then things start to change. A fortune teller at a fair predicts danger for Albion and an important future for Rhodri. The Lionheart embarks on crusade, taking Rhodri's reluctant father with him. And an old hermit show Rhodri the Telling Pool, in which he sees visions of King Arthur's sword Excalibur, and his father in mortal peril. Rhodri's destiny is upon him.

I enjoyed The Telling Pool. Rhodri is a captivating character - in tune with animals, loyal, loving, naive but kind, loyal and courageous. As with all good quest fantasies, he's required to dig deeply into previously untapped reserves of character and to risk all for those he loves. And he comes up trumps without ever being irritating. He is honest, passionate and stalwart, but he also burns with jealousy and anger at times. He thinks war is an exciting and worthwhile enterprise, until he is asked to take a life, and then he realises what it truly entails and rejects it.

This is perhaps a slightly idealised account of life at the time of the Lionheart; serfs like Rhodri have far too much autonomy, Norman lords are too friendly with those who serve them. However, the feel of life is wonderfully evoked. Old religions and superstitions still define daily life even for the devout on crusade. Yet those same religions and superstitions provoke fear and loathing if specifically expressed. So, in this questing picaresque, Rhodri needs to pick a delicate path between these subtle forces before he can truly mature.

Clement-Davies tells a fairly relaxed tale, and The Telling Pool does take a little while to get going. It's past page 100 before we actually get to the Telling Pool itself and so perhaps this is a book more for the junior fan of historical fantasy than it is for the young general reader, who might begin to wonder when stuff is going to start happening. But for those who like to immerse themselves in magical worlds of long ago and aren't too worried about tight tension-building, it makes a wonderfully evocative read and comes recommended by Bookbag.

My thanks to the nice people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.

Stephen R Lawhead's Hood has a similarly questing, magical fantasy twist on the Robin Hood myth and would suit slightly older teens.

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