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The Sword of Straw: The Sangreal Trilogy    by Amanda Hemingway Amazon.com order for
Sword of Straw
by Amanda Hemingway
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2006 (2006)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Amanda Hemingway continues to show her prowess at weaving engaging fantasy in this second volume in The Sangreal Trilogy, The Sword of Straw. Picking up a couple of months after The Greenstone Grail ended, this sequel tells of Nathan Ward's quest to find the sword made of straor, the second magical artifact of Eos needed for the Great Spell.

Things slowed down for Nathan and the rest of the town of Eade for most of his second year at school, but close to the end of the term, his dreams start up again. This time, he dreams of a desolate kingdom ruled by an eternally injured king and his spunky daughter. Most of their subjects fled after an Urdemon rose out of the marshes that separate the town from the Deepwoods, leaving just the palace denizens and a few supporting families. Around the same time Nathan's dreams start, two youths attempt to steal the grail from Bartlemy. While the two facts are still unrelated by the end of the book, the attempted theft leads back to a student at Nathan's school, causing Nathan to get deeply involved with the school's abbot, who has many of the same mysterious qualities as Bartlemy.

Throw in Nathan's best friend Hazel, dabbling in magic, and The Sword of Straw is an exciting read almost as chilling as it predecessor. The fact that many of the creepy elements have already been explained reduces the horror in this second episode. However, it still has a superb mix of fantasy, SF, and mystery; well-thought-out worlds; sympathetic characters; and a slew of references to other great British novels. It also leaves more loose ends, creating a great sense of anticipation for the final book of The Sangreal Trilogy, which presumably will deal with the third magical artifact a crown made of iron thorns. I cannot wait to find out how Nathan's adventures end.

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