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Author: Kate Forsyth
Barcode/ISBN13: 9780091835101
ISBN: 0091835100
Imprint/Brand: Arrow
Release Date: 09 May 1997
Format: A Paperback
Series: Witches Of Eileanan 01
Number of Pages: 531
Price $AUD: $21.95
Categories: Fantasy
Australian Author

DRAGONCLAW Book One of the Witches of Eileanan.
A complex and gripping story of witches, enchantment, magical creatures and dragons. Dragonclaw is the debut novel from Kate Forsyth, a fresh new talent in the tradition of Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Since the Day of Reckoning witches and magic have been outlawed on Eileanan. The great towers, once centres of learning, are now abandoned ruins. The penalty for practising witchcraft is death. Yet the lodestar still calls to the Righ, king of Eileanan, making him uneasy. And there are those determined restore witches and their craft to their rightful place in Eileanan. In a hidden valley deep in the mountains, in the shadow of the peak of Dragonclaw, Isabeau the foundling grows to womanhood in the care of Meghan, an old wood witch. Meghan can call animals to her hand and knows the secrets of herblore. But Isabeau dreams of adventure ... Carrying a magic talisman that contains the last hopes of the persecuted witches, Isabeau is hunted through the land by the evil Banrigh. Meanwhile the seadwelling Fairgean stir, children mysteriously disappear in the night, and Isabeau's guardian climbs Dragonclaw to seek guidance from the most ancient and dangerous wisdom in the land …

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Review by Julianne:

Dragonclaw is the first book of six from the series The Witches of Eileanan by Australian author Kate Forsyth. On Eileanan, sixteen years ago, the Righ Jaspar took on a new wife - Maya. They claim that she has ensorcelled the Righ. Since her arrival, the first coven of witches and the towers have been destroyed in the Day of Betrayal. Now, instead of witchcraft being an honoured profession, practicing witchcraft has a penalty of death to anybody caught. Finally the Red Comet is back in the sky, and this always indicates that change is afoot.
Dragonclaw starts with Meghan of the beasts, and her ward Isabeau in the secret hiding location at the foot of Dragonclaw. Even though witchcraft is outlawed, Isabeau and Meghan follow the old ways, and Isabeau takes her second set of tests to become an apprentice witch to Meghan. During her tests, a witch sniffing seeker and member of the Anti-Witchcraft League (AWL) and members of the Red Guards discover them in the end of their sacred rites which starts a set of events where Meghan and Isabeau are forced to separate and to go back out into the world again to follow the omens of the time and work towards the resurrection of witches as a vital part of their society again.
The main characters are: Meghan of the beasts; Isabeau her ward; Iseult the scared warrior and twin sister of Iseabeau; Bacaiche the cripple and Maya the Ensorcellor. Eileanan is an island country, and the struggle is primarily between the witches and the many faery creatures or uile-bhiests native to the land, and the banrigh and her AWL. Dragonclaw is in the style of epic fantasy. Main characters endure trials and tribulations along the way, and secrets are slowly revealed as the story grows. Political motivations are not always as clear as they appear, and many questions are still unanswered at the end of the book. It is about growing up and taking responsibility for actions and following ones destiny.
Kate Forsyth's writing is similar in style to some of the works by Janny Wurts, Raymond E Fiest. There is a heavy Scottish influence included in the writing with all the characters having scottish accents and names. Her writing is easy going and heavily nature based. It is easy for the reader to follow the story, as the leader is taken from place to place to follow the storylines of the various lead characters involved in the plot.

Review by April H.:

Dragonclaw by Kate Forsyth, is the first of a six book series. Set on a world where magic is a part of nature and seeming much like an old Scottish fairy story. It even has a ‘Lochness Monster', though it is not called that. Unlike most fantasy stories, it is not centred around one central hero or heroine, but is a tableau of a group of witches and their rebellion against an evil sorceress, who is not what or who she appears. It is the story of a journey, and the personal battles of each of the characters on their quest. They encounter fairy beings, dragons and evil witch hunters. They are continually being chased, as all witches and creatures of magic are outlawed and to be caught means torture and death.
Dragonclaw is not an easy book to categorise, though it has aspects of other fantasy stories by having dragons and a king of thieves ruling an underground, witches and magical beings, it is like no other. One character in the book speaks of history being formed by ‘The Spinners' who weave their lives; each of them being threads which only when looking back, can you see the tapestry of life as they are woven together. This book is much the same. The reader follows individuals who seem to be separate threads only sometimes coming into contact, but looking back, create a complete picture of their interconnected lives. Dragonclaw is only an introduction, though much happens, we are introduced to the many threads, which weave together.
If you long for great battles and epic fantasy, this book is not for you. It is a quiet read. The witches of this coven are earth witches, who, as part of their initiation, swear to do no harm except in self-preservation. Some follow this dictum to the point of strict vegetarianism. The animals are seen as of equal worth as human beings. This story is about a small groups battle for freedom and fight to change the world they live in.
Although I would not want to pidgeon-hole this book as being more interesting to one sex or the other, it feels like a very female orientated book, full of subtleties, slowly building a picture of this world and the characters in it.