Kate Forsyth (1966-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1966, in Sydney, Australia; Education: Macquarie University, B.A. (literature); University of Western Sydney, M.A. (writing). Hobbies and other interests: Reading, writing, music, gardening.
Agent—Curtis Brown Australia, Level 1, 2 Boundary St., Paddington, New South Wales 2021, Australia.
Writer, poet, editor, and journalist.
Best first novel designation, Locus, 1998, for Dragonclaw.
"WITCHES OF EILEANAN" SERIES
Dragonclaw, Arrow (Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia), 1997, published as The Witches of Eileanan, ROC (New York, NY), 1998.
The Pool of Two Moons, Arrow (Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia), 1998, ROC (New York, NY), 1999.
The Cursed Towers, Arrow (Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia), 1999, ROC (New York, NY), 2000.
The Forbidden Land, Arrow (Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia), 2000.
The Skull of the World, Arrow (Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia), 2001.
The Fathomless Caves, Arrow (Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia), 2002.
The Starthorn Tree (young adult), Pan Macmillan (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2002.
(As Kate Humphrey) Full Fathom Five, Flamingo Harper Collins (Sydney, Australia), 2003.
The Tower of Ravens ("Rhiannon's Ride" series), Random House (Sydney, Australia), 2004.
Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Vogue Australia, Black & White, Studio Bambini, Mode Brides, Sunday Life, Spectrum, Interiors, and Australian Collections. Under name Kate Humphrey, contributor of poetry to literary journals and newspapers, including Sydney Morning Herald, Age, and Bulletin.
Forsyth's works have been translated into German.
Work in Progress
The Shining City, the second book in the "Rhainnon's Ride" series.
Australian fantasy novelist and poet Kate Forsyth is the author of the six-volume "Witches of Eileanan" series, which includes the novels Dragonclaw, The Cursed Towers, and The Fathomless Caves. In addition to these novels, several of which have also been published in the United States, Forsyth has published poetry as well as the 2003 novel Full Fathom Five, under her maiden name of Kate Humphrey.
Forsyth was born in Sydney, Australia in 1966. As she admitted in her Pan Macmillan online profile, as a child she was "horrendously accident-prone, involving lots of emergency trips to the hospital and lots of broken china. I set fire to my bed when I was only five, after taking my bedside lamp under my bedclothes so I could read without anyone knowing. Of course I fell asleep and the hot light bulb slowly began to burn a hole in my sheet. Luckily my big sister Belinda smelt the smoke so I didn't choke to death or set the whole house on fire!
"If I wasn't reading, I was daydreaming—which is worse, because it involves a lot of staring out of windows with a vacant expression on one's face. These days, of course, daydreaming is how I make my living, so noone can rap me on the head and say 'Still with us, Katherine?' If they did I'd just reply loftily, 'Please do not disturb me, I'm working.'"
Forsyth's "Witches of Eileanan" fantasy series was originally intended to be three books, but grew to six. On her home page, Forsyth noted her Scottish heritage and wrote that the series "is based on the premise that a group of Scottish witches fled the persecution of witches in the sixteenth century to discover a new land where they could worship their pagan, pantheistic religion and practice their magic in freedom."
The protagonists of the series are a pair of teenaged twins, Isabeau and Iseult. Isabeau the Foundling was raised in a fairytale-like woodland environment by the wood witch, Meghan, while Iseult was raised by a Scarred Warrior in the cold, bleak mountains. In the first novel in the series, Dragonclaw—published in the United States as The Witches of Eileanan—Isabeau is sent on a mission to retrieve part of a key, but on the way to the castle is thwarted by dragons as well as by Maya, the Fairgean queen, a sea creature who can maintain a human form and who seeks revenge for her people. Dragons, witches, a boy whose touch is healing, a horse with a magic saddle, and twin sister Iseult all come to Isabeau's aid as she continues on her quest.
Kliatt contributor Liz LaValley dubbed the first "Witches of Eileanan" installment "the perfect book for young female fantasy fans," but broke with Forsyth's choice to include a scene depicting sexual assault and torture. Despite this caveat, LaValley wrote that "the female characters are strong, capable, and intelligent, the males interesting, the action continuous." However, Jackie Cassada noted in her Library Journal review that the book belongs in libraries where "the demand for epic fantasy is high."
In Forsyth's second book in the "Witches of Eileanan" series, The Pool of Two Moons, Iseult finds herself in love with Lachlan the Winged, heir to the throne and cursed with the wings and claws of a blackbird. LaValley noted in her Kliatt review that the characters "alter and grow; Iseult gains consideration for others, Isabeau matures, Lachlan embraces his strengths." LaValley called The Pool of Two Moons "more cohesive" than Dragonclaw and felt that it could be appreciated as a standalone novel. Locus contributor Carolyn Cushman, who called the book "good fun," noted that Forsyth leaves readers with "enough intriguing loose ends … for the third volume."
The Cursed Towers tie together those loose ends, and the series continues through The Forbidden Land and The Skull of the World. In The Fathomless Caves, the sixth and final book in the series, Forsyth brings to a conclusion the war between the land dwellers and the sea dwellers. In this battle, the sea-dwelling Fairgean plan to use the power of a heavenly body to destroy their land-dwelling enemies. In addition to Iseult and Isabeau, many of other characters from throughout the "Witches of Eileanan" series are recalled in what Cushman called a "grand effort" by Forsyth.
After concluding the "Witches of Eileanan" series, Forsyth penned The Starthorn Tree, her first book for younger readers. In this novel Count Zygmont of Estelliana lays in an unwakeable state, while Lord Zavion rules in his place. While the young count sleeps, four young heroes search for a way to awaken him, while evading soldiers, bandits, giant spiders, and outcasts who live in the forest, all of which threaten their task. The four include boys Pedrin and Durrik and two runaways: Zygmont's sister, the spoiled Lady Lisandre, and Lisandre's servant, the young weaver Briony, who possesses magical skills. In her Pan Macmillan profile, Forsyth noted: "I've dedicated The Starthorn Tree to my two boys. When I began writing [it], Ben was only just two years old and Tim was a bump in my tummy that got bigger and bigger as the book got longer."
Full Fathom Five is a contemporary magic realist novel set on the eastern coast of Australia. The protagonist, Sara Sanchez, is a young woman so overcome by inexplicable fears she has not left her home in five years. One stormy Easter Friday night, her father's body is found fatally injured, presumably after falling over a cliff. By solving the mystery of her father's death, Sara is forced to face the ghosts of the past and somehow find the courage to face the world.
In the wake of the "Witches of Eileanan," Forsyth began a second series also set in Eileanan that is called "Rhiannon's Ride." The first book of the series, The Tower of Ravens, follows the journey of a satyricorn who is forced to flee her own kind on the back of a winged horse. This adventure takes her through danger, love, and betrayal, and bestows upon her a new name—Rhiannon, meaning the rider that none can catch.
Forsyth lives in Sydney with her husband Greg and her three children. As she noted in her Pan Macmillan online profile: "I can spend all my days spinning stories and daydreaming and, thanks to all my readers, can make a living of sorts from it."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Kliatt, November, 1998, Liz LaValley, review of Dragon-claw, p. 19; May, 1999, Liz LaValley, review of The Pool of Two Moons, pp. 22-23.
Library Journal, July, 1998, Jackie Cassada, review of The Witches of Eileanan, p. 142.
Locus, April, 1999, Carolyn Cushman, review of The Pool of Two Moons, p. 29; September, 2002, Carolyn Cushman, review of The Fathomless Caves, p. 35.
Kate Forsyth Home Page, http://members.ozemail.com.au/~kforsyth/ (September 21, 2004).
Pan Macmillan Web site, http://www.panmacmillan.com.au/ (May, 2002), "Kate Forsyth."