Last of the Gifted, Book Two: Water Sight
by Marie Powell
Published by Wood Dragon Books
Review by Allison Kydd
$18.99; ISBN 978-1-989078-29-7 (softcover)
Those encountering the world of a Marie Powell fantasy for the first time with Last of the Gifted, Book Two: Water Sight will be impressed by her confident storytelling and vivid characterizations, especially because she combines history and fantasy. The historical setting is 1283, near the end of the second Welsh uprising against Edward Longshanks, the King of England at the time. The fantasy portion involves supernatural abilities, as the title suggests.
Apparently the Last of the Gifted series was inspired by Powell’s visit to Wales in search of her own family story. She doesn’t tell that story this time, but she has done her research, uses the historical backdrop effectively and incorporates local myths and legends where she can. She also takes the time to provide authentic spellings and pronunciation, whether the names are those of people or castles.
Serials are a popular novel form, especially for juvenile and young adult readers. However, the form is not without its challenges, since the author must find the balance between enough backstory and more than enough. Those who have read Spirit Sight, the first book in the Last of the Gifted series, already know the situation, names and relationships. Others, especially if they read fantasies regularly, understand the challenges and the rewards of reading serials, so they will probably persevere. Those who don’t generally read fantasies or serials may have a little more difficulty, but the remedy is the same—perseverance.
The author gives herself some further challenges in her choice of magical gifts for her two main characters, the sister and brother team Hywel (Hyw) and Catrin (Cat). Cat’s “water sight,” or ability to prophecy the future when gazing into water, isn’t without its problems; nor is Hyw’s gift of changing shape. For his sake, the author must devise ways for clothing to be available when he changes back to human form. Fortunately, Powell manages this with minimum awkwardness.
When the reader gets to know them, Hyw, Catrin and those around them are appealing. Sometimes they hesitate, make the wrong decisions or find themselves outnumbered and because of this are unable to meet their goals, but the reader can relate to this. Furthermore, such complexity and failure adds interest, since the world of the fantasy novel is sometimes a world where good and bad are too predictable and success is almost guaranteed. Even in this volume, the English, with the exception of those who have found their spouses among the Welsh, tend to be bad, while the Welsh are good.
Overall, however, though she plays with possibility by introducing magic, Powell contents herself with imagining how events might have taken place and bringing scenes and people to life. She doesn’t attempt to revise the course of history.
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