Bewildering Stories

Change the text color to: White | Purple | Dark Red | Red | Green | Cyan | Blue | Navy | Black
Change the background color to: White | Beige | Light Yellow | Light Grey | Aqua | Midnight Blue

Book Review:
Cecilia Dart-Thornton, The Ill-Made Mute (The Bitterbynde - Book 1)

by Jerry Wright

The Ill-Made Mute (The Bitterbynde - Book 1)
Author: Cecilia Dart-Thornton
Publisher: Warner Aspect
Hardcover: May, 2001
Paperback: April, 2002
Length: 448pp
ISBN: 0446610801
Price: $6.99

Okay, let's get this out of the way. What is a "bitterbynde"?
To quote the book: "A vow, or geas, laid upon a subject willing or not; a decree that imposed bitter sanctions upon its breaking, and demanded stringent, almost impossible conditions for its removal—that was a bitterbynde."

I stumbled across this book in a used book store, and the cover grabbed me. I started reading, and the lush, semi-intoxicating prose that would normally put me off, drew me in. Cecelia Dart-Thornton's first foray into writing cast a spell on me, and would not let me go.

In some ways this is a "standard coming-of-age, orphan of disaster, quest" type book. But only if one takes the "plot" and gives a dry one-sentence description. Trust me, it ain't any of the above.

Have you ever wondered where all the creatures of Faerie went? Celtic mythology is crammed full of all kinds of magickal creatures, from bogles and leprecauns to Red Caps and Water-Horses, just determined to kill you. Well, the answer is before you. They all left Ireland and Scotland and landed in Erith. Well, that's my take on it, anyway. If there are any wights, both Seelie and Unseelie that aren't in this land created by Ms Dart-Thornton, I'll be surprised. But these presences, both seen and unseen, are simply the background (as it were) for the story of the ill-made mute.

The prologue starts with a terrified protagonist running from who-knows-what and falling over a cliff into a bed of "paradox ivy" which causes a horribly scarred and disfigured face, and loss of voice.

The story begins from the point of view of the mute child saved by a seemingly nasty old beldame, and made lowest of the low servants in a very Gormanghastish castle. After a long time, this poor abused child finds an opportunity to escape in a Windship, one of the flying ships of Erith. Yes, in Erith, there are flying ships, flying horses, and flying people, thanks to a metal called sildron with anti-grav capabilities.

The world constructed by Ms Dart-Thornton is logical, reasonable (given her premises) and well drawn. Her writing is, well, juicy. Her command of the English language is masterful, and her imagery is cinematic in its ability to evoke emotion. She could have done with some judicious editing, however, in that she has a tendency to describe everything in the most overwhelming detail, which occasionally gets in the way of the flow of the story.

If you love the English language, have a copy of Brian Froud's Faerie book (Good Faeries, Bad Faeries) sitting beside you, and don't get bent over having someone use words you are unfamiliar with, you will enjoy The Ill-Made Mute.

Now I have to find Book 2 The Lady of Sorrows and Book 3 The Battle of Evernight.


Return to top

Home Page