Twelve-year-old Camrose is a girl with a very difficult choice to make. When she receives a mysterious birthday present from her long-dead great-grandmother, her perfectly normal life takes an unusual turn. Camrose becomes a Keeper, entrusted with a bone flute which she must return to its rightful owner. The problem: she must first claim the flute from a burning ghost house. The second problem: the ancient instrument is the object of desire for two rivals, both of whom have the ability to weave in and out of modern time as easily as walking through doorways. One of them, the mysterious, charming Terence, appears in her life as a traveling cousin, while the second, the ragged, timeworn bard Diramid, plays his uillean pipes in Camrose's neighbourhood square. With Camrose's father away, her mother long dead, and a generally unsupportive older sister, Camrose feels rather alone in her situation. How does Camrose finally make her decision? The reader bites her nails right along with Camrose as the book speeds to its breathtaking conclusion, with more than a few obstacles along the way.
Patricia Bow has not only constructed an intricate, suspenseful plot, but a cast of likeable (and some not-so likeable) characters as well. Readers of all ages will easily relate to Camrose's inner struggle as Keeper of the precious flute - she is a normal girl attempting to figure out a decidedly not-so-normal situation. The ever-faithful albeit occasionally skeptical Mark offers support for Camrose throughout the novel; their dialogue is brisk and believable. Not-quite-human Miranda, Camrose's great-grandmother's one-time helper, appears to not only offer some sort of cryptic help but also a bit of comical strangeness. Terence, the lord of the Otherworld, is the perfect level of sinister - you can easily imagine his eyes twinkling with evil every time he appears.
Bow is no stranger to writing great fantasy, having written the equally superlative The Spiral Maze (Thistledown Press, 1997). The Bone Flute is her second novel published in English; her signature blend of supernatural fantasy thrillers have been extensively published in German. Rich with detail and allusions to Celtic myths, Bow's roots as a master storyteller shine through magically here. This talented author's second contribution to the English market is nothing short of a total success, and children's literature in Canada is all the better for it.
Poetic, gripping and masterfully written, Patricia Bow's The Bone Flute is fantasy at its finest.
Christy Goerzen is a Master of Arts in Children's Literature candidate at the University of British Columbia and Communications Coordinator for the Vancouver International Children's Festival.