Fantasy Novels - Various Authors

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The Sacred Pool by L. Warren Douglas

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The Sacred Pool is a complicated combination of magic, philosophy and religion. The story opens as the woman, Elen, is being pursued by superstitious villagers, convinced she is a witch. Her death is witnessed by her two young children, Marie and Pierrette, avoided by her husband, Gilles, and unwittingly assisted by her former lover-turned-priest, Otho. As the children hide from the maddened villagers, Pierrette and her sister receive aid from an unusual creature who knows more about Pierrette than she does herself.

As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Elen truly did possess magic of a very old type and Pierrette has inherited a great deal of it. But the magic seems to be changing. Forced to impersonate a boy to prevent her father’s olive grove from being taken over by the ruler of the area, Pierrette becomes naturally more and more isolated from her family and neighbors. Still a young child, her innate curiosity and intelligence lead her to experiment with her mother’s herbs and powders. Alarmed, Gilles and Marie take her to Father Otho, who agrees to teach her what he can. When her father agrees to take her to the sacred pool of Ma, Pierrette learns even more about her destiny, and possibly, the fate of the world.

Driven by a need to comprehend the visions experienced at the sacred pool, Pierrette embarks on a quest to find the mage Anselm. Exiled from ancient Minoa, Anselm’s fortress seems to occupy a timeless space. Studying under Anselm’s tutelage, Pierrette’s knowledge grows by leaps and bounds, yet still she senses how much more there is to learn. When her sister Marie becomes demon-possessed after a traumatic experience, Pierrette sets out to find a cure and answer the many nagging questions about a magic that seems capricious and illogical.

Douglas’ work is well written and thought provoking. He explores the theories of magic and religion and examines the effects various types of beliefs have on the workings of magic. This is not an action-packed, page-turner of a novel. Rather, it is something to be read slowly and absorbed. The sacred pool of the title acts as a catalyst for Pierrette’s search. The tale is interspersed with Otho’s observations, written long after the action takes place. This gives the reader a different perspective of Pierrette’s growth and the times she lives in. Douglas gives the reader much to think about in this novel. Although I generally prefer a faster pace, Douglas tries to fit so many abstract ideas into one story, I think anything quicker would have soon become a confusing muddle. I understand that, like so many other novels these days, The Sacred Pool is the first installment of a trilogy. Fortunately, it is a very self-contained novel. Like a lot of life’s biggest questions, some of those about destiny and magic remain unanswered, but most of the plot is neatly wrapped up by the end of the story. I suspect that future novels will continue to follow Pierrette’s path towards enlightenment and self-discovery, but The Sacred Pool doesn’t contain any burning questions or cliffhanger endings to compel the reader to continue this series.

Reviewed by Diane

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