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The Water of the Wondrous Isles Hardcover – 1 Dec 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Alan Rodgers Books (1 Dec 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159818296X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598182965
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,942,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By T. Bobley on 12 Aug 2006
Format: Hardcover
Out of the great forest of Evilshaw there came a witch, searching for a girl child to steal from the nearby town of Utterhay. She found a poor widow woman with a beautiful little baby girl, and pretending kindness and sympathy, she tricked the woman and stole her child. Her purpose was to enslave the child and grow her into a temptress to trap men for her. She called the little girl Birdalone and treated her roughly and called her "thrall" - that's an unpaid servant, a slave. They lived in a small cottage between the edge of the great forest and the shore of a great lake, dotted with islands. Birdalone grew strong, clever and beautiful. She was secretly befriended by a lady of the Faerie who loved her and taught her and worked against the dark purposes of the witch. She advised Birdalone on how she might escape her enslavement and start the adventure of her life.

This is one of William Morris's last books. Most people who have heard of him just seem to associate this author with lovely wallpaper designs these days but he was actually a man of many talents - as it says in the blurb on the back cover of the book, he was "master of all trades and jack of none". And all we lovers of fantasy novels, whether we know it or not, have William Morris to thank for the genre because he started writing magical/mythical stories set in some imaginary, northern European, medieval, space/time. The heroine of this story was not typical of story-book heroines back in 1896 (or 1897), when the book was published. She's sweet and feminine (typical), but she's also strong, courageous and adventurous.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Archy on 25 Feb 2010
Format: Paperback
When people think of William Morris, if they think of his fantasy novels at all, they probably think of the two classics the Wood Beyond The World and The Well at The World's End and probably miss this one. Which is a pity, for, while it's not perhaps quite up to the level of the other two, especially for new readers, it's still a great fantasy novel.

The language takes some getting used to, as, like Morris' other books, it's all archaic English to match the medieval setting. This can be a struggle at first, but once you've got into it doesn't present too many problems. The plot is fairly episodic, too, which means that you can pick it up and put it down and go back a few days later without really losing your idea of what's happening. You can read a couple of chapters a day and still enjoy it.

The basic plot is simple: a wicked witch steals a small child - the rather unfortunately named Birdalone - and keeps her prisoner. Birdalone escapes and embarks on a series of adventures on different islands, on one of which she is saved by three women, who ask her to track down their respective beaus. And so she does, and the book wends its leaisurely way through their adventures.

There are few outright sword and sorcery moments in this book; it's not really in the realm of Lord of the Rings. Instead, the theme is romance and thwarted love, and sacrifice. All thoroughly enjoyable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Unique even amongst unique books 27 Jan 2011
By ced - Published on
Format: Paperback
THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END is the place to start for William Morris novels, but after that, if you want more, you might check out his other "W" books, THE WOOD BEYOND THE WORLD and this one. WATER's story doesn't go from A to B, but rather A to B to C to D... In other words, it's episodic, though each episode leads to the next. The heroine, Birdalone, is a feminist roll-model, which is shocking in a Victorian novel; she's physically strong, intelligent, authoritative, good and kind. I can't think of another Victorian novel heroine who is all those things(three out of four, yes, but not all). Also, there is plain talk of sex; nothing R-rated, just PG-13, but very rare in Victorian literature. The point is that this is a unique book, even as unique books go. Plus, Morris's prose is practically poetry, and he's a master of details for characters and settings, never saying too much or little, which strikes a perfect balance between realism and mythicalness.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
wonderful tale of strong women in dire straits 22 Aug 2005
By Victor Valentine - Published on
Format: Paperback
what must it have been like to have been a powerful, independent woman and to have read this epic fantasy in 1895, the year of its publication, twenty five years before women were given the vote in America? this epic of powerful, able females (and the bonds of friendship which both bind and conflict them) is far more than a melodrama of its day, and William Morris was a visionary in his portrayal of, and obvious admiration for, strong women. Every bit as good as THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END...with great women baddies, as well, and kind, generous, and faithful men....check it out!
Literary Masterpiece But Archaic 23 Jun 2014
By Andrew Berman - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a coming of age story about Birdalone who was kidnapped as a baby by a witch. The narrative follows Birdalone's journey from her childhood as the witch's slave through her flight for freedom and quest for love and happiness. The beauty of this book, but also it's challenge, is the archaic English language used by the author. This book by William Morris was first printed in 1897 and is an intentional attempt to recreate English story telling from the middle ages.
A cross between a fairy tale and soft Victorian porn 31 Aug 2013
By michael j. porter - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Actually, I would have given this 4.5 stars if I could.

Sort of a cross between a fairy tale and Victorian porn (naked, frolicking nymphs is as rough as it gets). A pretty and determined heroine with color-coordinated co-characters. Fun!
Golden, beautiful, and psychologically complex 21 Jan 2013
By William Timothy Lukeman - Published on
While perhaps not as well-known as William Morris' other great fantasy novels -- "The Wood Beyond the World" & "The Well at the World's End" -- this one is every much their equal. Indeed, in some ways it's their better, in that it offers his richest & most compelling portraits of Woman, both as mythical & archetypal figures, and as individual, three-dimensional human beings. As with his other novels, there's an awareness of & appreciation for female sexuality & wisdom; but in these pages, Morris really explores these aspects in subtle & illuminating ways. No doubt mild by contemporary standards, it was shocking & revolutionary in Victorian times. And even now there is much that an intelligent reader, jaded by contemporary graphic excess, can learn from Morris. He's never didactic, mind you! But in the telling of his multi-layered story, he has much to say about the female wortld & psyche, and the paths of individuation women might take toward become whole.

The telling of the story, of course, is a pleasure in itself. Morris had mastered a clear, lyrical prose that had just the right amount of archaic shading, without ever tumbling into the plodding & turgid. His skill as a poet is apparent on every page. Starting with the simple, evocative name of Birdalone for his heroine, he displays his talent as a writer: strength & precision, applied with a jeweler's touch. Again, as with all his novels, no matter what's happening on a larger scale around his characters, the individual stories are what matter most. The quest in this case is very personal & intimate, and its rewards far greater than thrones & worldly power. There's a distinctly Jungian reading to be made of Morris' work, which makes it very contemporary after all.

The novel is available in many editions these days, but I'm reviewing the old Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series printing out of a longtime love for it. This was my introduction to William Morris, and I'll always associate him with the Lin Carter introductions & the gorgeous Garvasio Gallardo covers. But in any edition, it's most highly recommended!
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