Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Star Dancer - Beth Webb

Beth Webb's Star Dancer is the first book in a quartet of novels set during the Iron Age of Britain. The Goddess has warned the druids of a coming evil, but she has promised that an untimely shower of stars will mark the birth of the one who can stem its tide. Now the druids wait for the prophesied boy, who is their only hope. One night the stars dance across the sky as a child is born, but the child is not the long-awaited boy; instead raven-haired green-eyed Tegen is born and she is the Star Dancer.

Tegen is the daughter of Clesek the silversmith and his wife Nessa. She grows up with her foster brother, Griff, who is a "moon face" who learns to help his father at his trade, but is regarded by most villagers as an idiot. The village is protected by the eldest of the local druids, Witton, and he tests Tegen with fire at her birth, but won't accept she is the prophesied Star Dancer. Tegen grows up untaught but possessing an innate skill for the dancing magic of a Star Dancer. She heals her father after he is burned by silver, but Nessa is terrified that Tegen's talents will attract the attention of evil spirits and is angry at what she does, even though she saves her father's life.

Shortly after saving Clesek's life, Tegen realises that Witton is ill and needs her healing skills. She is afraid of going to help him, since he has already slapped her once, at a big festival, for dancing, so she borrows Griff's clothes and goes to help Witton, hoping her disguise will protect her from both Witton and Derowen, the local Wise Woman who hates Tegen. She succeeds in healing Witton without revealing her true identity, but Witton finds himself acknowledging Tegen's true identity on the night Nessa takes Tegen to him for her true name after she starts her first period. Witton senses that the Star Dancer is approaching and calls out an acknowledgement of the Star Dancer, only to find it is Tegen who is walking through his door. Having freely acknowledged her, he must accept her as the Star Dancer, and so her teaching as a druid begins. However, some of the other druids in the surrounding villages are reluctant to accept Tegen is the Star Dancer, and one, Gorgans, who is a spirit from the Otherworld (Tir-na-nog) in human form, gathers several druids to him and tries to gain power for himself, wanting to replace Witton once the old druid dies. After Witton's death Gorgans insists on testing Tegen, with the proviso that if she fails the test, she will be killed. When Tegen passes his tests, he conspires with Derowen to have both Tegen and Griff killed by the villagers in response to Tegen supposedly setting a demon loose from the Otherworld, a demon Derowen raises. Tegen, who is still only 15, is forced to deal with the demon or see the villagers, including her parents and foster brother, killed by it. Can the Star Dancer succeed in averting the great evil that is threatening her people ? You'll have to read the book to find out.

You can find out more about Beth Webb on her website.

This ARC was supplied by Write Away.

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