The magician of Hoad by Margaret Mahy

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Harper Collins, 2008. ISBN 9781869507640.
(Age 13+) Recommended. I am a great fan of Margaret Mahy and this book didn't disappoint. Heriot Tarbas is a simple farm boy who has had strong visions of another boy during his life. When he is forced to run from his home he is led to Diamond, a city that is ruled by the King and a Hero. On the edge of the city, he meets his destiny: a Hero, a Magician, a noble girl and a mad prince. Forced to work as a magician, he befriends Dysart, the strange prince and helps Cayley, a fascinating, homeless fugitive. The King of Hoad is attempting to bring peace to the country, but he is surrounded by nobles, whose allegiance is uncertain, and the Hero is hungry for power for himself.
This is a coming of age story. The reader becomes engrossed in Heriot's growth from a young boy tending animals and vegetables and plagued with dreams, to a magician, who performs at the king's request. He questions his powers and what he should do with them. In the meantime Linnet, the young noble girl and Dysart the prince also face dilemmas in their quest for love and a place in the kingdom, and the enigmatic Cayley hones her war-like skills..
Although there is plenty of action in this story, this is not the usual fantasy. It demands that the reader follow the characters' emotions and actions carefully to work out what is happening. It is a challenging but ultimately satisfying read, with beautifully written prose, a fascinating main character and two strong females.
Pat Pledger