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A Telling of Stars
Caitlin Sweet
Penguin Canada, 336 pages

Martin Springett
A Telling of Stars
Caitlin Sweet
Caitlin Sweet is a graduate of McGill University. She taught English in southern Mexico from 1994 to 1995 and continued teaching English as a second language after her return to Canada. From 1998 until 2003, she worked as an administrative assistant at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. Caitlin Sweet lives in Toronto with her husband and their two daughters.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

When they were children, Jaele and her little brother Elic would act out the story of the great warrior Queen Galha, and her quest to protect her land from the Sea Raiders who had already taken so much from her. That was before the raiders came to Jaele's home one day and destroyed everything.

Hiding out among the rocks, Jaele is the sole witness to her family's murder, and how one reluctant raider is forced to slash her mother's throat. He is knocked over the head and left for dead. As Jaele wanders around her smoldering house, traumatized, the raider awakens and flees. Suddenly, she realizes she can't face the force of the Sea Raiders, but she can follow this one lone man and exact her revenge.

The story, in some ways, is magical. When she was a little girl, she met a young boy named Dorin. Now that they are both grown, he comes to her again. The world in which Jaele lives is filled with color. The society of the fish folk, the wonder of the sea snake, the solitary castle that holds a man called the Keeper, whom she strives to free. It is an amazing world, and her journey is so very interesting.

Unfortunately, a couple of points bothered me. First, Dorin -- Caitlin Sweet hints at so many things about Dorin, things that I really thought would come to pass, but never do. The second is Jaele who is not a likable character. Even though she's eighteen in a world where that is the age of an adult, she acts like a child. She knows nothing of independence. She goes from place to place strictly depending of the kindness of strangers. There is even one scene where she sits and stares at a man until he welcomes her in and feeds her. She asks strangers to feed and clothe her, without offering anything in return, she just expects the people she meets on her travels to take pity on her, and they do. She does an awful lot of walking, but never during those times does she sleep or scavenge herself something to eat. She just expects the people she meets to see to her needs. This often killed my suspension of disbelief, because I didn't understand how she could be so self-centered. She constantly nags people to accompany her on her quest -- which just happens to be the same path that Queen Galha took when she chased off the sea raiders. Also, I didn't find her relation with the sea raider to be credible... a man who would allow himself for fear or self-preservation to slit the throat of a woman, is going to eventually turn around and kill his pursuer.

I don't think these gripes on my part would have been so glaring if the book was bad. But it's not. It's a world with so much possibility, so much beauty, woven with an adept style that really does convince one that Caitlin Sweet is a formidable new talent. I simply cannot get over these aspects because I'm wondering what A Telling of Stars is trying to say. True, Jaele does gets some valuable life lessons, but she doesn't really seem to grow from them.

Copyright © 2003 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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