It may not be easy to catch a child’s attention and keep it. But John Dougherty manages both easily. Bansi O’Hara and the Bloodline Prophecy is the author, poet and songwriter’s fifth book.
Bansi O’Hara and the Bloodline Prophecy; Random House, 272 pages, Rs230
After humour and adventure (he has written Niteracy Hour, the Zeus series and Jack Slater, Monster Investigator), Dougherty writes a fairy tale that doesn’t let up on the adventure quotient either. Ten-year-old Bansi O’Hara is Irish. And, like any schoolgirl, she is quite excited about her first visit to Grandma Eileen’s home in Ireland. An idyllic holiday is what the O’Hara family is planning.
However, the action starts almost from the moment their ship nears the Irish coast. A giant white swan with a brownie riding it follows them. So does an evil-looking grey wolf who has been sent by the Dark Lord of the Other World to capture Bansi so that she can be sacrificed. The swan (who is actually a fairy called Tam) and the brownie, Pogo, are there to protect her. Why is Bansi so important?
The secret goes back thousands of years. The Other World was ruled by a good king, Derga. He had two gifted children, Caer and Avalloc, who were called Morning Stars. Everyone expected the brother and sister duo to become eventual rulers and bring glory to the land of the fairies (also called Tir na n’Og).
But some jealous courtiers of the king had other ideas. They murdered Derga and framed Caer and Avalloc, who had to flee to the human world. At that time, the borders between Earth and the Other World were quite porous. While Caer found herself in Ireland, ruled by King Donegal, Avalloc landed up in the ancient forests of India. The two lived normal lives, married and had children before their enemies caught up with them and killed them. With their death,the entrances to Earth and the Other World, too, closed up.
As generations passed, the descendants of the Morning Stars spread across the world. But, what makes Bansi special is that she has descended from Caer through her father’s (Fintan) side and Avalloc through her mother’s (Asha) side. Now, the Dark Lord is looking for Bansi to fulfil the Prophecy of the Bloodlines, which said: “When the Blood of the Morning Stars, joined and flowing together at last, is returned to the sacred earth as the light dies, then shall the power of Tir na n’Og awaken. Then shall the ways between the worlds reopen. And the one who returns the blood to the land shall come into the inheritance of Derga.”
As the circle of doom closes in inexorably on Bansi—yes, it is an Indian name—she can depend on only a handful of people for survival. Pogo, her granny, Tam, a drunk brownie, some ironmongery (iron is known to keep the bad fairies at bay) and her granny’s friend Nora Mullarkey—who drives a Morris Minor Traveller with a recklessness that can have only one result. Bansi and her friends have just 24 hours to thwart the Dark Lord’s plans.
Dougherty takes the reader in and out of the two worlds at breakneck pace. Any child would love to take that ride. The man himself loves visiting young people, whether at school libraries, literature festivals, writing camps or “secret volcano hideaways of evil criminal geniuses bent on world domination.” A musician, too, Dougherty, who lives in London, has played at many prestigious venues (both solo and with a band) and festivals—including the Royal National Theatre in London.
The writer is the editor of Heek (E-heek.com), a children’s magazine.
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