Marilyn Peake's first fantasy novel for young readers, The Fisherman's Son,
calls to mind all the mystery and wonder of Orson Scott Card's earlier
mythological works such as Hart's Hope or Seventh Son in its
quest-style tale, and in its evocative descriptions of a place much like early
nineteenth-century Ireland comes close to the lush and luminous visual
treatment of John Sayles' magical film The Secret of Roan Innish.
Twelve-year-old Wiley O'Mara lives in a poverty-stricken village plagued by a killer fever. When his gentle and gracious mother succumbs to illness, and with his oft-absent father off on an alcoholic binge, it falls to Wiley to make the journey to another village to summon a priest to preside over his dead mother's wake and funeral. As simple as the journey might seem, though, it will take him through a dark forest guarded by a legendary three-eyed beast, and Wiley needs every ounce of shaky bravery and by-need resources to make it through to the other side alive.
In the forest, Wiley encounters not only the guardian beast but also a woman of glowing beauty who gifts him with a golden cup and an enigmatic credo: Drink deeply by land or sea. Earth comes only once. After Wiley has returned to his lonely home on the ocean and his mother has been buried, he follows the mysterious Lucinda's instructions to take the golden cup to the ocean. What he finds is
a path to the water's very depths, led by an old dolphin with whom the cup
allows him to share a mind-to-mind link. And what the dolphin Elden has to show
him is the millennia-old secret of his island's origins, and the dangerous
possibility of bringing that ancient legacy back to its shores.
Although occasionally marred by infrequent contemporary Americanisms in the
dialogue (both the boy and his oceanic acquaintances are wont to say "O.K."), on
the whole this children's debut shines with fear, wonder, triumph and loss. Few
readers will be able to resist this tale of a resourceful young boy left to his
own determination by two very different kinds of parental abandonment and who,
through his own ability to move beyond the things he fears, wins past hardship