Star Dancer by Beth Webb

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Star Dancer by Beth Webb

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A rewarding and complex but accessible read in the vein of Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness. Highly recommended for all junior lovers of historical fantasy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: May 2007
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0330445702

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On the night Tegen was born, the Goddess made the stars dance across the sky. Her birth is part of an ancient prophesy that one called the Star Dancer will save the Goddess' people from a coming and terrible evil. The druids spells and castings are telling them that this evil is drawing close, yet they cannot bring themselves to accept that the Star Dancer is a woman, not a man. And so Tegan is brought up with her silversmith father Clesek, her reserved mother Nessa and Griff, her "halfhead" foster brother and the druids continue to search for a saviour. But Tegen's destiny cannot be denied...

I love books that blend ancient history, mythology and magic. I loved to read them as a child and I love to read them now. My son is just the same. The worlds they create swirl with mystery and drama, yet they are also recognisable. Star Dancer is set in Iron Age Celtic Britain. It's a little later than Michelle Paver's books about Torak and the soul eaters, but it's in very much in the same vein. It's awesomely researched and the wealth of minor detail about the way people lived is endlessly fascinating. It isn't anachronistic. And it's exciting.

Tegen is torn between her family and her destiny. She isn't quite a reluctant heroine, because the pull of magic, religion and fate is strong within her. She's young, afraid and confused, but she's also brave, determined and powerful. She's just the sort of central character children love to read about and admire. Over the course of the book, she is asked to gain maturity, make painful decisions and to bear terrible loss with fortitude. She more than matches up to the task.

These worlds of the deep past allow writer to create stories about realistic people with realistic lives in a past in which the supernatural is accepted as a part of daily life. Star Dancer is full of that Celtic notion of an Otherworld that is present in all that we see and all that we do. Somehow, this makes the fantasy all the more believable. It also brings the past to life in a way that text books simply can't manage. And in turn, this connects children to the oldest stories of all; those in the oral tradition.

I really enjoyed Star Dancer. Beth Webb writes about courage and tenacity, magic and history, love and loss in way that will entrance all junior ancient history buffs of about ten and up.

My thanks to the kind people at Macmillan for sending the book.

Children who like this blend of fantasy, mythology and history will also enjoy Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness and Katherine Langrish's Troll trilogy.

You can read more about Beth Webb here.

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