Review by Hira Peracha
Wood Dragon Books, December 2020
310 pages, paperback, $18.99 CAD, 978-1-989078-29-7
Ages 12+, Grades 7+
Young Adult, Action/Adventure, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Mist circled the mountain like a massive fist. Squinting upward, Cat could barely make out the legendary giant’s seat near the top of Cadair Idris. The fog surrounded her, obscuring Rhys who climbed behind her, but she drew it around her like a cloak. They needed stealth. Below them, the valley was full of English mercenaries, hunting for Welsh heads. It didn’t matter that only a handful of warriors remained. Women, children, any of them would satisfy the wretched king.
Water Sight by Marie Powell continues the harrowing tale of Welsh siblings in the thirteenth-century Anglo-Welsh war that was begun in Spirit Sight. In this second installment of the Last of the Gifted series, Hyw and Cat continue to manage their magical powers and find companionship in new characters.
After fleeing from the overrun Bere castle, Cat and Hyw find themselves in two separate groups after being reunited for a brief moment. Hyw, his parents, and what’s left of the House of Aberffraw (the now Prince of Wales Dafydd, and his family) try to keep themselves sane in the midst of war as they plan on reclaiming Welsh castles to gain strength. However, in order for Prince Dafydd to rally the Welsh and gain their support in a final attempt to regain their homeland, he needs three relics: the Cross of Neith, the Crown of Arthur, and the Coronet of Wales. The task of retrieving the relics and bringing them safely back to the prince is assigned to Cat and Rhys, her betrothed. With the English soldiers right at their heels, Cat and Rhys work hard to keep their people hopeful.
Water Sight delves more into Cat and Rhys’s relationship. After learning about her powers, Rhys believes that Cat is more pure, sacred, and wise than she believes herself to be. Cat still struggles with understanding the purpose of her visions and how to use the knowledge of the future to her and her people’s advantage. Powell does a good job showcasing Cat’s feelings and fears about her powers through Cat’s actions and subtext rather than laying them out directly.
Meanwhile, Hyw grows closer to Prince Dafydd’s daughter, Margred, who herself shares many characteristics with Hyw, like stealth and determination. She isn’t afraid of war and is bold and confident in her archery and hunting abilities, making her an interesting character, especially in the era that the book is set in, and a good friend for Hyw. What I thought would be a potential romantic relationship between Hyw and Margred turned out to be a platonic relationship in the end. This was an interesting choice by Powell to pull away from a typical YA male/female relationship that readers might expect, providing a fresh take on a YA ending.
Although the story moves more slowly than Spirit Sight, with Cat and Hyw’s separate groups moving from one place to another and back again, the intense environment and harsh decisions make the story feel much more tense and adrenaline-pumping. I could feel the anger and exhaustion that the characters feel under the weight of oppression and persecution by the English. Hyw and Cat are both strong characters who, even after witnessing death and destruction, continue to carry on with hope.
Water Sight, flanked with additional and valuable information like character descriptions, a historical note, and a bibliography, provides a historical look at the thirteenth-century Anglo-Welsh war with a new twist of fantasy and magic. Powell melds the real stories of historical figures like Princes Llywelyn and Dafydd with those of compelling fictional characters like Hyw and Cat. Powell’s appreciation and love of Wales is clear through her storytelling. Readers who enjoy the historical fantasy mix of this series would also like Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson.
Read reviews of other books in this series:
Hira Peracha is a graduate from the Psychology and Creative Writing programs at the University of British Columbia. She enjoys reading and writing fiction and poetry.