Friday 1 December 2023


Prospero’s Children, The Dragon-Charmer, and Witch's Honour, by Jan Siegel

After a couple of months devoted to stories about Atlantis, I've been reading a modern fantasy trilogy by Jan Siegel in which Atlantis is a major element. Unlike most trilogies, this one doesn't seem to have one over-arching title, just the three individual volumes: Prospero's Children, The Dragon-Charmer, and Witch's Honour, published between 1999 and 2002. 

They are mostly set in the present day Yorkshire Moors, apart from the scenes in Atlantis which are many thousands of years in the past, and also in various indeterminate places not locatable on any map. They tell the story of Fern (Fernanda),  a teenage girl who gradually discovers that she has magical powers - she is a witch. This means she has considerable value to powerful magicians who want her for their own nefarious purposes. Fern gets caught up in ferocious magical battles which lead to her being thrown back in time to Atlantis, just before it is destroyed by its internal conflicts. She acquires allies, both in Atlantis and Yorkshire, most notably Ragginbone and his werewolf companion, Lougarry,  and with their aid manages to return home. That's Prospero's Children, which can be read as a stand-alone.

The next book, The Dragon-Charmer, picks up the story a dozen years later, by which time Fern has been making progress through life with the discreet application of her witch powers. She is still being sought by inimical beings, who between them have acquired control of a dragon, a being of devastating power. Again, the action is divided between present-day England and certain other dimensions in which Fern's enemies reside. 

The final book, Witch's Honour, sees Fern further tested, leading up to the climactic battle, after which she seems to have won - but has she?

It is difficult to do justice to this story. Just describing the plot makes it seem trivial. In fact, it is a powerful tale not really suitable for children, and it contains some of the most beautiful writing that I can recall reading. The following extract is just one example: 

They lay in the cave while outside the tide rose and fell, and Fern thought that in this life and maybe in all lives she would remember that love sounded like the sea, and the beat of her heart was waves on a beach, and she would hear its echo in the nucleus of every shell.

As the blurb for the third volume says:

Witch's Honour concludes the lyrical, richly atmospheric and enthralling tale begun in Prospero's Children and continued in The Dragon-Charmer. Spellbinding in its depiction of places both familiar and strange, it is classic English fantasy at its finest.


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