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Fiction in Review: Monica Furlong's Colman

I've long held that good fiction can inspire and help change the world for the better. Lofty words? Maybe, but that doesn't make them any less true. And good witchy, Goddess fiction can create magic. I'm looking forward to telling you about some of my favorite books that have brought that magic into my life and discovering new ones to pass on too. For this season I've written about the last book in a series by a favorite author. If you haven't read the first two, you'll want to do that.

Colman by Monica Furlong
Random House; ISBN 0375815147; 288 pages; C. 2004

The capital letter "M" in Medusa scriptonica Furlong's wonderful novel Wise Child -- the story of a young medieval girl who is sent to live with and learn from Juniper, a wise woman/witch -- was published in 1987. The book ends just as the two escape from being put to death because of their witchcraft. Five years later, Furlong's novel Juniper was released. Though a lovely book in its own right, Juniper was a slight disappoint for some of us because it was not the sequel we were hoping for. Instead, it told the tale of Juniper's earlier apprenticeship with the curmudgeonly wise woman Euny. Over ten years later, Ms. Furlong has given us her last gift: Colman, the long awaited sequel to Wise Child.

Taking up right where Wise Child left off, the story is told by Colman -- cousin and loving friend to the girl known as Wise Child. Colman and two other friends who help with the escape must also run away because of their association with the two witches. Juniper decides to take them all to Cornwall, the land of her birth. On the way there, the other escapees learn that Juniper is a princess who left her rich life years before.

The homecoming is not an easy one. Wise Child, who was traumatized by the ordeal they left behind, has lost her magic and is very angry. Colman discovers magic abilities within himself which frighten and dismay him. But worst of all for Juniper is the fact that they find her parents are dead, her brother kidnapped, and the kingdom in ruins -- the people oppressed by her evil aunt Meroot. It takes love, magic and great courage to put things to rights.

The capital letter "M" in Medusa scripts. Furlong, a superb storyteller, wrote this book as she was suffering from cancer. The disease shows up in an interesting way in the story, as if the author were weaving a spell around her own ordeal. In hindsight, I can't help wondering if she felt compelled to bring closure to Wise Child's and Juniper's stories as a way to face the closure of her own life. Soon after finishing Colman in 2003, Ms. Furlong died at the age of seventy-two. The book was published in early 2004.

Adding to the wonderful prose of these books are the striking covers. The artists, Diane and Leo Dillon, created all three and capture the magical Celtic flavor of Ms. Furlong's stories beautifully.

Though either of the first two books can stand alone, Colman is more difficult to understand if you haven't read the others. I highly recommend reading them in order. All three are considered juvenile/young adult books but they belong in the library of witches and Goddess women of any age.

Graphics Credits

  • Book Cover, Colman.
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