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  • Angel Isle
  • Written by Peter Dickinson
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780375890833
  • Our Price: $9.99
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Angel Isle

Written by Peter DickinsonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Peter Dickinson


List Price: $9.99


On Sale: October 09, 2007
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89083-3
Published by : Wendy Lamb Books RH Childrens Books
Angel Isle Cover

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ONCE THE 24 MOST powerful magicians in the Empire pledged to use their magic only to protect the people. But the promise that bound them has now corrupted them. They have become a single terrible entity with a limitless desire for domination. Only the Ropemaker may be able to stop them, but he has not been seen for over 200 years. Into this dangerous world come Saranja, Maja, and Ribek. They seek the Ropemaker so that he might restore the ancient magic that protects their valley. It is the task they were born to, but now it seems there is far more than the valley at stake should they fail. . . .

From the Hardcover edition.


Cold, hungry, terrified, Maja watched the two strangers from her secret den beside the mounting block, beneath the burnt barn. That was where she’d run when she’d seen a troop of the savage horsemen from the north come yelling up the lane all those days ago, and lain there cowering. Her uncle and the boys were away fighting the main army of the horsemen, but they must have caught her mother and her aunt. Maja couldn’t see what they did to them because of the smoke, but she’d heard their screaming. Then the smoke of the burning buildings had got into the den and overcome her. After that she didn’t remember anything for a while, and when she woke the savages were gone and the farm was ashes around her.

She had felt too ill to move, and too terrified of the savages, and her throat had been horribly sore, but at last she’d crept out and climbed up to the spring and drunk, and then stolen round the farm like a shadow and found her mother’s body and her aunt’s lying face down in the dung pit, and a lot of dead animals scattered around. Her aunt used to make her help with the butchering, so she cut open a dead pig with her knife and roasted bits of its liver on the embers of her home, and despite the soreness of her throat had managed to swallow it morsel by morsel. By the time she’d finished, it was beginning to get dark, so she’d crawled back into her den and curled up in her straw nest and slept there all night without any dreams at all.

She’d spent the next day collecting dry brushwood and straw and the burnt ends of rafters and beams and piling it all into the dung pit on top of the two bodies. As dusk thickened she’d used a still smoldering bit of timber to set the pile alight.

“Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye,” she’d whispered as the flames roared up, then turned away dry-eyed. She didn’t seem to feel anything. She was vaguely sorry about her mother, and vaguely guilty that she’d never learned how to love her. There hadn’t been anything there to love. She’d dreaded and hated her aunt, but her aunt had shaped her world and she felt a far greater sense of loss at her going. Now that shape was shattered and all she had was emptiness, until her uncle came back from the fighting, if he ever did.

The dead animals had soon begun to rot, but some of the chickens were still alive and hanging around because they didn’t know anywhere else to go. There was good barley out in the little barn in Dirna’s field, which her aunt grew there every year to feed to the unicorns, so the chickens learned to come to her again when she called to them, and she managed to coax some of them into laying. She ate the cockerels one by one and found a few things still usable in the vegetable patch and the orchard, and survived, afraid and lonely.

She had found her den long before. Ever since she could remember she had needed somewhere to hide. Hide from her uncle’s sudden, inexplicable rages, from her aunt’s equally savage tongue, from her boy cousins’ thoughtless roughness. Only occasionally did anyone hurt her on purpose. Indeed, once or twice when she was small and at the end of one of his outbursts her uncle had slammed out to the barn, her aunt had deliberately sent her out to call him in, despite her terror of him. It was one of her aunt’s ways of punishing her, though she’d never been told what for. So she’d crept through the barn door, tensed for his anger, but instead he’d called to her and put her on his lap and fondled her like a kitten for a while, and spoken gently to her, though she could feel his rage still roiling inside him—and it was the rage itself that had terrified her, not the fear that she herself might suffer from it. Usually it had been her big cousin Saranja who’d suffered, or the two boys—and they had been always angry too. Even her own mother had been too vague and feeble to notice her much, let alone stand up for her when she needed help. She must have had a father, of course, but she’d never known him, and had no idea who or where he was. She didn’t dare ask. Saranja had been the only person besides her uncle who had sometimes smiled at her, as though she had meant it.

But then there had come the day she had taught herself never to think of, and at the end of it Saranja had gone away and the rage had been ten times worse than before and her uncle had never spoken to her kindly again.

And it was all Maja’s fault. It always had been, even before that. Since she was born.

There was a bit of the heap of ashes that had been Woodbourne which she fed with fresh wood to keep the embers going, and then hid under layers of ash when she’d finished her cooking. She’d just done that when she’d spotted the woman trudging along the lane with an old horse trailing behind her, and a solitary figure limping along further back. They hadn’t looked dangerous, but all the same she’d clucked to the chickens, who’d come hustling over, imagining it was the start of the evening drill that kept them safe from foxes. She’d laid a trail of barley to lure them into the den and lain in the entrance to watch, letting the scorched branch of fig that screened it fall back into place.

From the Hardcover edition.
Peter Dickinson

About Peter Dickinson

Peter Dickinson - Angel Isle

Photo © Fay Godwin

“What it has felt like to be writing for the young during the last thirty years. . . . can all be summarised in one word—Lucky. I feel extraordinarily fortunate in a whole number of ways.”—Peter Dickinson

Peter Dickinson, two-time winner both of England’s prestigious Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Children’s Award, is one of Britain’s greatest storytellers, and the author of many novels for young readers and adults. His books include the Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Novel, Eva, as well as the Printz Honor Book The Ropemaker and many other award-winning titles.


Peter Dickinson is a tall, elderly, bony, beaky, wrinkled sort of fellow, with a lot of untidy grey hair and a weird hooting voice—in fact he looks and sounds a bit like Gandalf’s crazy twin, but he’s only rather absent-minded, probably because he’s thinking about something else. Day-dreaming, mostly.

He was born in the middle of Africa, within earshot of the Victoria Falls. Baboons sometimes came into the school playground. When people went swimming in the Zambezi they did it in a big wooden cage let down into the water, so that the crocs couldn’t get at them. For the hot weather the family went south to his grandfather’s ostrich farm in South Africa.

Then the family came back to England so that he and his brothers could go to English schools, where they taught him mostly Latin and Greek. He didn’t have an English lesson after he was twelve, and nobody ever told him to write a story. He was fairly good at games.

He’s led an ordinary kind of life—not much by way of adventures, but some silly things. Such as? Well, when he had to join the army, just after World War II, they managed to turn him into two people; so he was bashing away at infantry training at a camp in Northern Ireland when two sea-sick military policemen showed up and arrested him for being a deserter from a different camp in the south of England, where his other self was supposed to be bashing away.

He was tutoring a boy in a huge old castle in Scotland when the butler (it was that sort of household) said to him at dinner one day “Ah, sir, it’s a long time since we heard screams coming from the West Wing!” (Peter’s screams, not the boy’s.)

And he was knocked down by a tram on his way to the interview for his first job and arrived all covered with blood and dirt, but they gave him the job because he was the only candidate. He stayed there seventeen years.

He and his first wife had two daughters and two sons, and he now has six grandchildren. He lives in a ramshackle old house in a green valley in the south of England, with his second wife, the American writer Robin McKinley, and three whippets. Now, they really are crazy.

On Writing

Peter says he didn’t become a writer. He just is one, and always has been, ever since he can remember, the way a goldfish is a goldfish and can’t be anything else. Go to a zoo and look at one of the big birds, a condor, say, a creature made to soar above the Andes. They’ve probably clipped one of its wings so that it can’t hurt itself trying to fly around its cage, but it’s still a creature made to soar above the Andes. If you somehow stopped Peter writing, he’d still be a writer.

But he was a poet and a journalist before he started on books. He tried a murder story first, but got stuck half way through. Then he had a science-fictiony kind of nightmare, and decided to turn it into a children’s story, mainly to see if writing it would unstick the other book. (It did. That book won a prize for the best murder story of the year, and the children’s book is now being made into a TV film, though it was written over thirty years ago.)

Since then he’s written getting on fifty books, almost all of them on a little old portable typewriter—one draft, to see what he’s got, and what else he needs to know and so on; then a bit of research; then a complete rewrite, beginning to end; and then, if all’s well, only a bit more tinkering. Sometimes it takes a few month, sometimes a year or more. He’s just moved over to a PC. He’s still getting used it. It makes writing seem a very different kind of process—easier in some ways, harder in others.

The ideas come from all over the place—day-dreams, sometimes, or a kid on a long car-trip saying “Tell us a new story, dad.” Or something he’s heard or read—a voice on the radio saying “Even a hardened government soldier may hesitate a fatal half-second before he guns down a child.” (That was AK, about a boy guerrilla in Africa.) For the best of them it feels as if the book had knocked on the door of his mind and said “Write me.” Then he’ll spend half a year or more letting the stranger in and finding who or what it is.

He writes all sorts of books. His last book was a long exotic fantasy—magicians and unicorns and so on—called The Ropemaker, and in May there’s going to be his first collaboration with his wife, Robin McKinley, called Water; Tales of the Elemental Spirits, in which each of them has written three stories about some of the magical creatures that inhabit our rivers and seas. (They hope to do the other three elements over the next few years.) A story Peter was working on for the Fire volume insisted on expanding to book length (working title The Tears of the Salamander) which will be his next book out. And he’s now working on a short book called Inside Grandad, about a modern boy who . . . but no, he’d better find out who the stranger is before he starts talking about him.


“Peter Dickinson is one of the real masters of children’s literature.”—Philip Pullman

“A challenging magical adventure for the thinking reader.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“While on one level this tale is a fantasy, it is also a wonderful coming-of-age story.”—Starred, School Library Journal

“Dickinson works his own magic in a thoroughly compelling tale that delves into the nature of both magic and time.”—Starred, Booklist


Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, October 29, 2007:
"A luxuriant exploration of the nature of magic, storytelling, and love."

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2007:
"Dickinson's return to that world will delight and satisfy his fans and introduce others to an enchanting reading experience."

From the Hardcover edition.

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