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A Coming Evil
Vivian Vande Velde
Houghton Mifflin, 213 pages


Art: Joan Hall
A Coming Evil
Vivian Vande Velde
Vivian Vande Velde is the author of Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, A Hidden Magic, The Conjurer Princess, and many other fine fantasy novels. She lives with her husband and daughter in Rochester, New York.

ISFDB Bibliography
Vivian Vande Velde Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Conjurer Princess

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

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It's 1940, and the Germans have invaded France. On her thirteenth birthday, Lisette Beaucaire is sent by her parents from her home in occupied Paris to stay with her Aunt Josephine in the country. She's told it will be safer for her there, but Lisette doesn't care about safety. Living in the country means that she will be separated from her friends and won't be able to go to the new school she was looking forward to attending. Worst of all, she will have to share a room with her bratty cousin, Cecile.

When she arrives at her aunt's farmhouse, Lisette discovers that Cecile is only the beginning of her problems. Aunt Josephine has taken in five orphan children, Jews and Gypsies who would otherwise be sent to German work camps. No one must know they are there: there's a secret room for them to hide in, and an elaborate drill to explain such things as extra food and laundry in case the Germans come.

Desperate to escape the tumultuous household, Lisette takes refuge in the woods above the farmhouse. She thinks Cecile's warning about ghosts is just a ruse to keep her from escaping, but there is a ghost: a young man named Gerard, from a far distant time, whose troubles bear an uncanny resemblance to those of the present day. Lisette befriends him, and tries to unravel the mystery of his increasingly solid presence. Meanwhile, in the village, two German officers are becoming suspicious of Aunt Josephine's large food purchases, and Maurice, a neighbor, may have found out about the refugee children.

A Coming Evil starts a little slowly, with some self-conscious historical scene-setting, but once Lisette reaches the farmhouse, the story takes off. From there, everything works beautifully from the convincing real-life details to the suspenseful action of the climax. The interaction between the children -- involving much bickering and conflict but also caring and cooperation -- is deftly handled, as is Lisette's transition from bored discontent to involved commitment. The blending of fantasy and history (there's an interesting Author's Note at the end to explain the context) is surprisingly successful, and the parallels between Gerard's experience and the atrocities of the Nazis are both fascinating and meaningful. Vande Velde pulls no punches with the evil she portrays, and conveys her messages about honour, loyalty, and courage without a trace of triteness or preachiness.

Another excellent work from a fine author. Don't let the hideous cover put you off.

Copyright © 1998 by Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel, The Arm of the Stone, is currently available from Avon Eos. For an excerpt, visit her website.


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