January 05, 2016

The Lake in the Clouds (The Shards of Excalibur, Book 3)

by Edward Willett
Coteau Books
224 pp.
Ages 12+

Two shards of Excalibur found, three to go.  Sort of.  Ariane has the first shard from the Northwest Territories (Song of the Sword, Coteau, 2014) and then, following the song she hears, discovers the second shard at a cave in France (Twist of the Blade, Coteau, 2014).  But bringing the two shards together produces a less harmonious song and more a discordant shrieking, except when Wally Knight brings the two together.  Yep, awkward Wally Knight has some serious King Arthur heir mojo going.  And that explains why Merlin, also known as computer software CEO Rex Major, has "encouraged" Wally to work with him, including stealing the second shard back for Major, rather than letting the seemingly out-of-control Ariane, the heir to the Lady of the Lake, keep it.  So instead of working with Ariane to recover the remaining shards of Excalibur, Arthur's magically-imbued sword, Wally is living with Rex Major at his condo in Toronto while Ariane seethes with anger and resentment for Wally's betrayal and watches over her Aunt Phyllis safely ensconced at their remote Saskatchewan cabin.

But, while Rex Major promises to never lie to Wally as Ariane has, he's taking off for Saskatchewan to use his Voice of Command on Aunt Phyllis and keep her hostage, threatening to kill her, unless Ariane finds him the third shard.  Ariane has no choice but to help Major, sending them to New Zealand in search of the next shard of the sword.  Wally, on the other hand, becomes tired of being restricted and guarded by Major's men, and hacks into Major's computer system, learning almost too late of the man's dishonesty, including Major’s tracking of Ariane's mother whom they all assumed dead.  With some clever manipulations of bank accounts, email and communication with Major's henchmen, Wally is able to escape and rescue Aunt Phyllis, and consequently learn that he has some fantastic powers of his own.

Much deception on everyone's part gets Ariane with Rex Major to Lake Putahi– Lake in the Clouds in Maori–and Wally there on his own, where everything does a flip, again.  Let’s just say that no one seems to leave with the one with whom they came. And, there may be three shards that have been discovered but the shards continue to change hands: sometimes stolen, sometimes surrendered, sometimes gifted.  Excalibur is getting closer to being reconstructed, and the characters’ roles are being redefined.

By continuing to develop his characters so that they never remain good or evil or secondary, Edward Willett has ensured that the plot doesn’t stagnate in a seemingly simple plot of finding the shards of Excalibur and having its power unleashed.  With Ariane and Wally both being affected by the shards and learning of new abilities, as well as other characters being drawn into the story in different ways, The Lake in the Clouds becomes a fuller story.  The plot itself continues to evolve and the adventure is grand, as travel by plane, bus, boat, limo, cloud (yep, that's Ariane) and water (her again) takes the characters from across Canada (Toronto, Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Emma Lake and Vancouver) and to Hawaii and New Zealand.  The journeys are part of the quest but hold on because your travelling companions are switching places and your next seat mates may be a surprise in Cave Beneath the Sea (Book 4, out November 2015) and Door into Faerie (Book 5, May 2016).

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