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Priestess of the White

by Trudi Canavan

(Orbit, £7.99, 656 pages, hardback, published February 2006.)

Review by Ann Moore

cover scanPlot: The Chosen One

This book is 650 pages long. Tom Holt has expounded in great detail on the art of watching paint dry. It has to be more interesting than reading this book. There are probably more characters than in the Bible, the writing is not brilliant and there is as much excitement and tension as in a letter box full of junk mail.

The story -- Auraya is chosen by the gods to be one of the five White immortals who directly represent them in an unnamed world where everyone seems to be able to do some magic. The White follow the Circlian religion. As well as the White and their priests, there are also other magic workers, the Dreamweavers. These are condemned by the gods, although they have healing skills. This is so manifestly unjust that the author has trouble making the reader believe that it could be any cause of tension, especially as the gods are supposed to be "good".

The first part of the book is a guided tour by Auraya around some of the places in the world (my subconscious keeps throwing up Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea) on the pretext of trying to get them to join with the Circlians to fight a battle again the Pentadrians who are black clad and believe in five Black gods and are about to attack them.

Auraya has since childhood been friends with a Dreamweaver and before she goes on this trip she takes him as a lover. You would think that this would have been a real point of built up tension. It is totally unexciting. The rest of the White do not even seem to care that much. The dreamweaver is possessed by the spirit of another dreamweaver whom the White killed some unspecified time before and they spend a lot of time arguing.

At some point on her trip, Auraya meets the Si, who are Hobbit sized winged creatures and the gods give her the gift of flight so she can communicate better with them. They join up as allies and they all go and fight the Pentadrians. By this time you will not care who wins or who loses.

The sub plots are actually more interesting. A woman who is a dreamweaver, but also immortal, has some adventures escaping from the Circlian priests, and the Si develop weapons that can be used in flight.

I, who can usually read anything, struggled with this book. To finish it and find that there are two other volumes to the tale and three previously published ones astounds me. A good editorial blue pencil might have cut half the text and improved it no end. I know nothing about the author but it smacks of juvenilia.

It defies analysis, but would be useful if travelling all the way on the Trans-Siberian Railway and you needed something to wedge under the sleeping compartment door to stop it opening. The paper is not soft enough for anything else.

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