11 July 2010


The Curse of the Bond Riders 1
by Karen Brooks

Random House Australia Books. Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, Australia. Paperback rrp $ 27.95

From the very first page my heart raced with the Bond Rider as he fled along the Limen borderland, chased by the Morte Whispers. When he threw the swaddled baby through the mist and into a confused peasant’s arms, this reader hurtled headlong into the world of La Serenissima too.

Tallow grows up to become apprentice to the candlemaker, Pillar. But Tallow is not like other children and when the extent of this difference was finally revealed, I was caught completely unaware. I don’t want to spoil the many such twists and turns but I can tell you this much: Tallow is an Estrattore, able to extract and transfer feelings from people and animals around him. The Estrattore were supposedly all wiped out in a religious purge and Tallow is only safe in hiding. But with adolescence, it is not so easy to control his increasing Estrattore talents and feelings seep into the candles he makes. People start to ask dangerous questions.

When Katrina, another Bond Rider, arrives from the Limen to help train Tallow, his world falls apart at a breath-catching pace. It is hard to tell who is friend and who is foe. And who might have changed sides. Tallow has to grow up quickly and the process is a painful one. It will cost belief, friendship and the promise of true love.

Tallow’s world has a marvellous medieval feel, alien but familiar. Serenissima is old world Venice in another time and much darker place. I could see myself walking the streets, loitering in the market square and boating on the canals. But the mists of the Limen and the over-the-sea court of the Queen of Farrowfare are lands of pure imagination.

The narrative switches from third person to first person through Tallow’s eyes. Interestingly I found that this did not make me feel any particular empathy with Tallow. The greater story of politics, myth and prophecy is as riveting as the personal struggles of the main character. Tallow is a story of great complexity and scope and as a reader I wanted to view it from a distance, from the widest possible angle. I suspect another reader might react differently. This is a book of many layers open to many perspectives.

Although a substantial C format (larger size) paperback of 411 pages, I looked up only once - because I had to sleep, work and feed the family. But as soon as I could I returned to Tallow and I didn’t look up again until the very last page. Now I am eagerly awaiting Votive, the second book in the series.


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