The Vanishing Sculptor
A book review for parents
This fantasy, adventure book by Donita K. Paul is published by Waterbrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. and is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Tipper is the daughter of Verrin Schope, a famous artist who disappeared suddenly many years ago. Because Tipper's mother is mentally disturbed, Tipper runs the family estate, although she does receive some assistance from her guardian, Beccaroon, who is a large parrot. To pay the bills, Tipper has reluctantly sold most of her father's art. One night her father returns. He had not abandoned his family but had gone through a portal (gateway) to a land called Amara. He was forced to remain there for some time because the portal was damaged. Although the portal was partially fixed, the remaining damage still causes him to disappear several times a day.
The portal begins to rearrange Tipper's physical world as well (by moving trees, etc.). Accompanying Verrin home is Wizard Fenworth and his librarian; they believe the gateway must be restored quickly because Verrin's life and Tipper's world depend on the restoration. Three statues — carved at an earlier time by Verrin — were originally part of the gateway’s marble stone anchor. The statues must be found and brought together. Tipper, Verrin, Wizard Fenworth and two others embark on a quest to find these sculptures. They soon decide that travel by coach is too slow. When they obtain the services of riding dragons, Prince Jayrus, the dragon keeper, joins their quest.
As the group meets obstacles and overcomes evil men, Tipper's father and the Amaran travelers begin to teach the other members of their group about Wulder. Wulder is known as the god of Amara. It becomes clear to the Amaran travelers that the quest for the statues, though important, is part of a bigger plan. Wulder is bringing an awareness and knowledge of himself to the people of Chiril. He will use Prince Jayrus to be the people's champion, the Paladin for Chiril.
The third statue is the most difficult to acquire. An evil wizard, Runan, who seems innocent when they obtain the first statue from him, traps the group. Wizard Fenworth and Tipper stop him, and Wulder's champion leads the people in a battle against Runan’s evil army. Tipper's singing, a gift she discovered on the quest, encourages the people and helps them win.
The inhabitants of Chiril speak of a power they call Boscamon. They see this "deity" as a creator who is behind everything and ultimately rewards good and punishes evil. But Boscamon is mysterious, distant and inaccessible. The travelers from Amara know about Wulder, their god, and they teach Tipper and the other members of the quest about him. Wulder is loving and personal. He wants to be known. Tipper's father establishes the practice of giving thanks to Wulder before the group eats. He quotes from Wulder's tome. The Amaran travelers speak of Wulder's care and his desire for fellowship with his created beings. They model ethical behavior based on Wulder's principles. Tipper and the grand parrot begin to consider these teachings. All alone and apprehensive about the group's imminent attempt to rescue her kidnapped father, Tipper longs for a guardian who can be her constant companion.
When the group is tempted to sell a statue to an art collector, Mushand, and so unite all the statues, Jayrus applies the principles of Wulder and says they cannot sell the item. He says that they know Mushand to be evil, and they cannot make an alliance with such a man. They must trust Wulder to show them another way to unite the statues.
In this author's book Dragonspell, the character Paladin seemed to be a Christ figure. In this book, Prince Jayrus, who is revealed as the Paladin, is defined as the people's champion and Wulder's spokesman. Paladin, Fenworth says, will help the people of Chiril to know Wulder. However, Jayrus does not seem to be the only paladin in the world. Tipper's father says there is a paladin in Amara and refers to Jayrus as a paladin.
The grand parrot Beccaroon watches over Tipper and mentors her on ethics. He acts as a role model and advises her to speak wisely. Wizard Fenworth mentors Jayrus, helping him to know Wulder's principles. Tipper's father teaches her about Wulder. Fenworth points out Tipper's rashness, but also points out that she is good-hearted. The elders of the quest deal uprightly with people they encounter on the journey.
Prince Jayrus doesn’t know whose farm animals his dragons have devoured. He gives money to a wealthy landowner to cover the complaints of any local farmers.
The younger people often show respect for their elders. Tipper's attitude toward her mentally disturbed mother is kind and patient when she speaks to her and when she speaks about her. Prince Jayrus, as the dragon keeper, is hospitable to the questing members when they arrive. He initially refuses their request to use the dragons because he believes that he would be breaking faith with the authorities in his life. However, demonstrating respect for the members of the quest and their situation, he consults the ancient dragon. The ancient dragon says that Jayrus must leave with them. This is part of the creator's plan. Jayrus joins the group.
Tipper is learning how to submit to authority and work within a group. She does not respect or obey the decision of those in authority over her when they tell her to stay in the hotel. Because of her actions, a villain's henchmen attack her and cut off Beccaroon’s tail. Tipper also acts independently of the group another time, and there are negative consequences for this action as well. It is a trap. She is abducted and becomes the bait to attract the other members of the quest.
Other Belief Systems
There are wizards both good and evil who cast spells. Fenworth, the wizard traveling with Tipper, also has magical clothing. He mesmerizes one of the members of the quest to ease that man's fear of flying on the dragon’s back. From the description of mesmerizing, it sounds like a kind of hypnosis. Beccaroon, Tipper's guardian and one of the members of the quest, is a large parrot with human-like qualities and speech.
All the dragons have human-like personalities. One speaks out loud. The others communicate to each other and to some of characters through "mind speak." The dragons are not evil, but helpful. The minor dragons participate in the healing of people. A force of nature, a portal, allows people to travel great distances in minutes.
Verrin and Fenworth spout oaths occasionally. One villain is said to curse and another is said to fill the air with foul language, but the actual words are not written.
Thugs handle Tipper roughly on several occasions. A number of times she is threatened with death, including one time when she is held at sword point. Bamataub, the owner of one of the statues, attacks and tries to kill a member of the quest with a poker. His henchman cut off Beccaroon’s tail. Prince Jayrus kills several villains who are threatening others or attempting to kill him. When four thieves break into the group's hotel room, Fenworth distracts them by pulling tangles of snakes from his robe. Jayrus then physically overpowers the thieves. Fenworth dissolves an evil wizard. There is a battle sequence at the court ball, and some are killed or injured. The scene is not gory.
Tipper shows a budding romantic interest in Prince Jayrus. He kisses her on the cheek. Another time he holds her around the waist. Beccaroon, her guardian, is concerned that she not be alone with the prince because he is very handsome and has great charm. Near the end of the novel, Tipper asks her father if a paladin may marry.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- How does Tipper deceive Bealomondore, a young artist who wants to meet her father?
Realizing she has done wrong, what does she do to make things right?
Tell about one time that you deceived or tried to trick someone. How did you make things right?
What was Bealomondore's response? Was his distrust of Tipper and her companions reasonable?
How do you regain a person's trust once you have lost it?
- Tipper is passionate. Wizard Fenworth calls her excitable.
When is having passion for something a good thing? When is it a bad thing?
What is an example of Tipper's passion being good?
What is an example of Tipper's passion being inappropriate?
- What are some of Tipper's hasty judgments regarding some of the adults?
Is her information correct?
Did her father abandon her and her mother?
How does she misjudge Fenworth?
Who is someone you have misjudged?
What made you readjust your opinion of that person?
- Have you ever been on a quest?
What is something you are doing now that could be considered a quest?
What kind of plans did you make when you started your quest? Who is going with you?
What obstacles have you encountered?
Fenworth says a talent or gift may come to the surface on a quest. Do you think that is true? Why or why not?
Have you experienced hidden talents coming out in you on your quest?
- Prince Surrus is Prince Jayrus' mentor. Beccaroon is Tipper's guardian and mentor.
What are mentors? What do they do?
What qualities do you think you should look for in a mentor?
Who are some adults in your world that might be good mentors for you?
- Why are Fenworth and Librettowit so surprised with Verrin's artistry?
What part does Wulder play in the creation of beauty?
How is that similar to the talents and gifts that God gives us?
Why do you think God gives talent to people who do not know or acknowledge Him?
- Beccaroon is concerned whenever it looks as if Tipper and Jayrus might be spending time together alone.
Is Beccaroon overreacting? Why or why not?
How can teens who are romantically interested in each other build a relationship without putting themselves in risky situations?
- The people of Chiril speak of a power, Boscamon, that is the overall designer of life and will ultimately reward good and punish evil. However, Boscamon is mysterious to them and basically unknowable. Fenworth and Librettowit see their arrival in Chiril as an opportunity to help people know Wulder and see that he reveals himself through his love for them and wants fellowship with his creation.
How is the description of Wulder similar to the description of our God?
Note: Tipper believes that her father will be angry with her for selling his art without his permission. Yet she also says that she did it as a last resort when she needed money to pay for upkeep of the estate. Her father, when he learns of the sale, does not chastise Tipper for going against his wishes. Nor does he make it plain to her that it was the best choice she could make given her circumstances and her knowledge. Tipper says later in answer to someone bringing up the sale of the art that her father "understands" the selling of it. The use of "understands" implies that Tipper still feels that she made the wrong choice. You may want to discuss this aspect of the story with your teen. Teens need to know that a good choice may still have uncomfortable consequences.
Since books teach as well as entertain, themes are important. This novel has many themes, some of which are not fully developed. It’s probable that the author will expound on them in later novels.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.