||1 May 2005
Barnes & Noble.com
Chasing the Bard
He is born into the human world with a gift; a gift that brings him to the attention of powers both dark and light from the World of the Fey. Sive, the goddess of battle, hopes that he may be able to change the fate of her people.
It was of course a guilty pleasure. When Puck parted the Veil Between Worlds, and stepped into the forbidden delights of the human realm, it was with a delicious shudder of anticipation. If he were found out of course there would be more than the Christian hell to pay for it. He could think of a hundred unpleasant things that Auberon could punish him with, probably even more than the king himself, and yet he couldn’t quite bring himself to step back.
The Fey are dying, killed by something beyond the boundaries of worlds, and Sive will do anything to save them. So she enlists the help of her trickster cousin Puck to guard the child, and watch him grow into his gift. But a dark power imprisoned by human and Fey, plots to destroy both worlds, and unmake all that they have created.
Can one boy stop the destruction, even if he is William Shakespeare?
Finalist in the 2006 Sir Julius Vogel Awards
The wood was so pleasant, and the trees were actually sighing to him as he took his first step into the crisp layer of leaves. Surely the rest were wrong about this human world. Beauty still lingered here— even if his people’s music had faded.
He bent, scooping up a handful of the trees castoffs, and with a little flicker of his Art he formed them into a very passable brown coat which he slipped over his head with an almost giggle. What he wouldn’t have given for a mirror.
The trees whispered again, the slight wind giving them an eager breathy voice, and head cocked, Puck listened.
“Why thank you,” he leapt on light feet to where a sliver of water had gathered between the roots of a grandfather oak. Reflected in nature’s mirror the Trickster admired his handiwork. He flicked his silver white hair out from under his new vest, and grinned. The dark leaves looked good— even on this his smallest, and most childlike form. It still needed something.
Head on one side Puck considered. Another flicker of art bought a sleeping hyacinth out from its hiding hole. He thanked it just as kindly as the tree before plucking it, and putting it behind one ear. He’d just settled down for a decent spell of admiring himself when a smell came to him on the breeze. Something human was plodding towards his little nook.
Quick as a startled squirrel he’d bounded up the tree, and nestled into its friendly crook long before the old woman came puffing around the corner. She paused with a great huffing sigh, and wiped a thread of sweat from her creased face.
Puck had never seen a human so weighed down with objects, a scraggly bag on her back, a sheaf of herbs under one arm, and even more interestingly an oddly shaped stool under the other. His eyebrow went up a notch, and despite not wanting to be seen, he leaned perplexed over the branch for a closer look. The woman passed right beneath him, all the while muttering to herself in a low angry voice.
The Trickster had never been one to resist his impulses, and was not changing that today. Nor was he known for his skill with Art, but even his stern cousin Sive the Shining would have been impressed with the sharp sliver of Art he sent into the human’s consciousness; she didn’t feel a thing.
The old woman’s mind was heaving with anger, all tied up with someone called Joan who had obviously failed in someway, and not aided by the fact that her burden was heavy. This Bess’s bones hurt, her feet were almost worn raw in her clogs, and the path was slippery at this early hour. Still the concern at her slowness was not solely for herself, she had a duty that he had not quite winkled from her brain, but it was what drove her to walk so fast in the chill misty morning. She had a good heart, and he’d always had a soft spot for her sort of humanity, so if he called his Art to strengthen her muscles he wasn’t to be blamed. Sive’s stern look was a whole world away. It was only a moment’s work.
It was gladdening to see her face relax, and her back straighten as the power filled her. It wasn’t his imagination; her eyes did drift to the tree he was hiding in.
“Thank you Lord Callirius,” her voice was very low but his otherworldly ears were equally sharp.
Bess had straightened and moved on by the time Puck recovered. He should have been incensed that she’d mistaken the reprieve as a gift from his cousin, but he was more shocked that she’d named a Fey at all. How extraordinary, thought Puck as he climbed atop the branch, to watch the woman walk away faster, and with a great deal less puffing. Could it be that some of the old ways still remained in the humans even after his kind had forsaken this realm? It would have been remiss of him not to find out.
Fallen Angel Review
In Philippa Ballantine’s Chasing the Bard, William Shakespeare’s bardic gift possesses the power to save his world and the world of the fey.
On the day William Shakespeare was born; his Art called to the world of the fey. Will experiences his Art as ideas demanding to be released. When he learns of its power, he rebels and flees from Sive, his first and only love, to London where his Art is expressed in plays and sonnets. However, an ancient enemy hunts him down and he cannot hide forever.
Sive the Shining chose her cousin Puck the Trickster to watch over Will. She sees the potential in Will to defeat her husband. As Sive guides Will, while seeking to uncover the source of her husband’s evil power, she develops feelings for him. Abruptly, Sive flees her world for the mortal realm and demands that Will embrace his fey heritage. His refusal leaves her frustrated and angry.
From birth Puck has watched and protected Will. His guardianship of Will has forever changed him. He knows that Will would gladly follow Sive to his death out of love, but her arrogance towards humanity drives Will away. Puck watches Sive hide her feelings from Will, and he despairs for their home. Will Puck’s fondness for humanity open Sive’s eyes to haughtiness?
Chasing the Bard is a saga of love and betrayal. In a time when magic is slowly dying at the hand of the church, the fey return one last time for help. Philippa Ballantine expertly describes the life and times of Elizabethan England within a story of ancient magic and power. Chasing the Bard deftly weaves history and fantasy within the mortal and fey world. Maybe he was called the Bard for reasons beyond his plays and sonnets.
Chasing the Bard intrigued and mesmerized me with its tale of heartache and sorrow. Sive and Will’s relationship captured my heart and I longed for them to be together. Will became more than a part of history, he lived in Chasing the Bard and I will miss him. Philippa Ballantine brilliantly exposes the blindness that causes us to believe we don’t need each other whether human or not.
Reviewed by: Dena
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