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Dickinson, Peter. The ropemaker.

DICKINSON, Peter. The ropemaker. Random House, Delacorte. 375p. c2001. 0-38573063-2. $7.95. JS*

O happy reader who is just now discovering Peter Dickinson! Every book he writes--whether a mystery for adults or a story for young people--possesses an unforgettable voice, a distinctive setting, utterly human characters, and a dash of the unexpected to set things moving. Dickinson writes with equal persuasiveness about children in prehistoric Africa (The Kin Trilogy), in ancient Egypt (The Blue Hawk), and in versions of the modern world (Emma Tupper's Diary, AK, Eva, The Changes Trilogy).

Young Tilga's peaceful Valley has been protected for generations from the Empire's tyranny through the nearly forgotten spells laid on its forest and snows. Now, however, the magic is wearing thin. Tilga, her crotchety grandmother, the boat-boy Tahl, and his blind grandfather risk traveling through the Empire to ask the magician Faheel to keep the Valley safe once again. The Ropemaker aids them through his special powers to loosen anything from hair-ties to the ropes of time, but it is Tilga's shameful disability--her immunity to magic--and her steadfastness that ultimately carry the little band through all harm.

The Ropemaker observes the rules of a classic fairy-tale quest--a young hero undertakes a dangerous journey and is befriended by companions with unusual powers in unlikely guises; after many temptations and ordeals, their kindness, humor, and cleverness disarm the villain, and the beloved is saved. Dickinson works out the magic technology with great ingenuity, but the strength of his imagination shows itself best in creating a peril that seems all too possible in our own world: it is treason to die without the Emperor's permission--and if your grandparents die without paying the permission fee, you get sold into slavery. As in all the best fantasies, the real magic here is in the characters, their moral dilemmas, and the author's writing. A wonderful book, for every library. Karen Reeds, Princeton Research Forum, Princeton, NJ
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Author:Reeds, Karen
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2004
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