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SEER OF SEVENWATERS

Juliet Marillier

Macmillan $32.99

 

Of all the popular writing genres, fantasy can be perhaps the most impenetrable to an outsider. Worst is when it is part of a series. The best in the genre thus make each novel encapsulated—it can be read separately or as a whole. Seer achieves this feat, but then Marillier is among the top Australians working in the genre. The novel is part of a series set in dark ages Ireland, in which the fantasy is grounded in ancient belief systems. It is part of the characters’ world-view, and fully credible. Seer begins chillingly, with the wreck of a Norse vessel on an Irish island. Three seafarers survive, but they are not what they seem. Heroine Sibeal is intended for a life as a druid priestess, but she is drawn to one castaway. Result: a book which readers of romance, historicals and the fantastic should enjoy, packaged tastefully.

 

 

MACROBERTSONLAND

Jill Robertson

Arcade $20.00

 

Melbourne’s forgotten history is a feature of publishers Arcade. This latest example concerns an extraordinary entrepreneur. Macpherson Robertson was born poor, in goldrush Ballarat. He grew up using his wits, and as a teenager spotted an opening in the confectionary market. Lollies made him a very wealthy man, but he was more just a capitalist. Robertson was highly innovative, in areas such as food technology, marketing and hygiene. He never lost an opportunity to promote his product, and cared for the welfare of his workers. It became personal when 16-year-old employee Lizzie caught his eye. For a time Robertson juggled two families, and a busy schedule. His name survives in a school, a Fitzroy landmark, and even Antarctica. Cadbury bought his business after his death, but we still devour Mac’s inventions: Cherry Ripe and Freddo frogs. Macrobertsonland provides inexpensive, well-presented history, with a foodie angle. The perfect accompaniment for Xmas chocolates.