Child of the Prophecy (Book Three of the Sevenwaters Trilogy) by Juliet Marillier
List Price: $26.95
Hardcover - 525 pages (March 2002) 
Tor Books, ISBN: 0312848811 
Review by EJ McClure

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The concluding book of the Sevenwaters trilogy did not disappoint my high expectations. In Fainne, headstrong daughter of the renegade druid Ciaran, Marillier has created her strongest heroine yet. Brought up in solitude by her father after her mother's death, trained in the extensive lore of the druids, Fainne does not yearn for husband, hearth or children. She has her father's love to sustain her, the challenge of her lessons to occupy her, and the beauty of Kerry all around her. During the winter, she has the friendship of Darragh, a young tinker with a gift for taming wild creatures. She does not miss the life she might have lead as the granddaughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters, a powerful chieftain of Ulster, and is dismayed when her father informs her that his mother is coming to Kerry to take Fainne's education in hand.

The lady Oonagh teaches Fainne not only the skills proper to a young lady, such as dancing, fine stitchery, and music, but also the art of the Glamour, and the subtle ways of bending men to her will. These skills are essential to the mission Oonagh wishes Fainne to undertake, a mission of deception and revenge against her own kinsmen at Sevenwaters.

But there is a deeper purpose to the old woman's schemes than mere revenge for her son's exile. Oonagh reveals that she is one of an outcast race belonging neither to the Tuatha De Danann, the Fair Folk, nor to the race of men who came after them, but to a mongrel race tainted by an ancient evil. Still a powerful sorceress in her own right, Oonagh is determined to gain the upper hand over the Fair Folk, and thwart their schemes to regain the Islands captured by the Britons years ago. The family at Sevenwaters is at the crux of the Fair Folk's plans, for a prophecy has foretold that from that lineage will spring a child who is neither of Britain nor of Erin, but of both, a child who will lead his people to victory. Oonagh intends to use Fainne to thwart the prophecy, and destroy the Sevenwaters family.

When Fainne balks at participating in the fierce old woman's schemes, Oonagh shows her a vision of Ciaran desperately ill and alone. Knowing that her father will suffer terribly for her disobedience or failure, Fainne reluctantly bows to Oonagh's will and travels to Sevenwaters. There she is welcomed by Lord Sean, Colum's heir, as one of the family. His wife, Aisling, makes her at home, and their six daughters, curious about this newcomer, pester her for stories of her adventures. Only Conor the druid sees the danger Fainne poses, but in hope of saving her from the dark taint of her heritage, he chooses to trust her anyway.

Torn between fear for her father and her growing affection for this exuberant and loving family, Fainne tries to delay her grandmother's schemes with disastrous consequences. All her good intentions are twisted to ill, and she begins to think she is indeed cursed by her heritage, doomed to harm to all those she dares love. But the family of Sevenwaters is allied with the Old Ones of Erin, the Fomhoire, the creatures of rock and water and wood, and as Fainne realizes the extent of her kinship with the folk of Sevenwaters, she comes to understand that she shares in that heritage, too.

She unwittingly catches the interest of Lord Eamonn, the powerful chieftain whose lands border those of Sevenwaters. Her grandmother urges her to take advantage of Eamonn's desire to sew seeds of distrust between the Irish allies on the eve of battle. But Johnny, the charismatic young leader of the Irish forces, decides to trust Fainne, and takes her to his stronghold on Inis Eala. And despite Fainne's rejection, Darragh follows her. There they find themselves drawn into a battle greater than they could have imagined, a battle in which only the rigorous discipline in the craft Fainne learned from her father can save her, and Darragh, and the Islands themselves.

Fainne is an engaging and believable character, even when she is as exasperating as only a teenager can be. I felt real sympathy for her dilemma, and shared her frustration as she tried repeatedly to get free of her grandmother's domination. Though the plot builds on the previous books, Marillier provides sufficient backstory that you could enjoy Child of the Prophecy without having read the other two books of the trilogy, Daughter of the Forest and Son of the Shadows. She weaves the background information deftly into dialogue, so it serves not only to inform the reader, but also to reveal character and build tension. The book is narrated in first person, which Marillier uses effectively to explore Fainne's internal drama as she gropes her way toward adulthood. You can find Celtic fantasies aplenty on the bookstore shelves, but few are as well-constructed and enjoyable as the Sevenwaters Trilogy.

2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu