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Book Review: The Bookminder by M.K. Wisman

More than anything, Liara just wants to belong. As an orphan “fey” child in the seventeenth-century, she has been a ward of the Church for ten of her sixteen years, taken in and cared for by Father Phenlick, Rome’s designated protector of Dvigard, a city in the Limska Draga Valley, but most of the villagers want her gone. The product of rape by a magical creature, she is imbued with magic and in many ways IS magic itself. Her progenaurae, the wizard who created the creatures who attacked her mother during their destruction of the valley, knows nothing of her existance because Father Phenlick enlisted the help of Nagareth, the wizard of the woods, to shield Liara and the village from further attacks all while outlawing the very power he is secretly trusting. At St. Sophia, Liara is safe until she steals from the village busybody. When Liara’s extensive hidden stash is discovered  in a “magicked” hollow tree, the Venetian soldiers who protect the valley force Father Phenlick to ostracize Liara. Abandoned by even her friend Kresimir, Liara is taken in by Nagareth, who promises Phenlick that he will not teacher Liara his craft, and even though Liara begs Nagareth for instruction, he only allows her to care for his extensive magical library. Gradually, Nagareth sees great potential in his new ward, but when everyone in Dvigard is killed by a mysterious plague, he begins to fear that he can’t protect her from her powerful creator who will want her powers for his own. Liara cannot see the danger around her, and as her own magical knowledge grows through her maintenance of Nagareth’s books, she can only see her own need for revenge against her father. As her abilities grow so does her anger and confusion at the only person standing between her and distruction. 

Liara is a complex, dynamic character. Her history gives her more than the normal teenage problems. Liara’s mother was driven crazy by her rape and was never able to truly care for and love Liara, eventually dying and leaving Liara to the cruelty of the villagers. Without Father Phenlick, Liara would never have survived, and though he tries to give her a home, he isn’t able to fill the emptiness of her life. Liara desparately needs something and somewhere of her own, which is why she steals–to fill her life with things that are her own. In creating her hollow-tree hiding place, she creates that place where she isn’t afraid to be herself. Though she is unaware of her own magic, it is as much a part of her as her history. In the beginning, all Liara wants is to grow that power. She desires the very thing others accuse her of having to give her what she has never had, but it’s a double-edged sword. She is hated for her supposed abilities even before she shows evidence of magic, but when she finds the magic she wants so badly, it will define her. That is all she will be, not a real person. She wants others to see she has feelings and dreams, but in the very thing she wants most, this undeniable power, people will ONLY see that. She limits herself to this magical creature, and that drive quickly becomes an obsession. Only too late does she see Nagarath’s minimal use of magic isn’t a waste. She almost allows her prejudiced idea that magic should be grandios to cloud the important lesson she learns about living simply, living for love and not power. As she grows through her relationship with Nagareth, she learns what magic should truly be.

The evolving bond between Liara and Nagareth is a beautiful story. Only nine years Liara’s senior, Nagareth sees Liara as child in the beginning, but over the novel’s development, he begins to see Liara as a true companion. The joy she brings to his life, the peace she makes him feel, even the annoying insistence that she teach him become invaluable to the lonely wizard.

He wants to make sure she has a life of stability, not fear. As he opens himself up more and more, he becomes her friend. He realizes she has given him more than he has returned and relents in his promise not to teach her. Nagareth grows as much as his precious ward.

The magic of this fantastical history will charm the reader and leave them wanting more.

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.

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