Title: On Fortune’s Wheel
Alternative Title: The Tale of Birle
Author: Cynthia Voigt
Themes: adventure, self belief, courage
What’s it about?
This is a novel about a 14 year old girl called Birle who is set to marry a man she doesn’t love and can’t even imagine herself marrying. One night while asleep at the inn her father owns she spies a shadow heading to the boats. Birle jumps into action to prevent the thief from taking the boat only to get dragged along for the ride. The thief turns out to be Orien, a prince, but he is trying to escape his own world. Orien’s plans however do not turn out as planned when they are both captured and sold as slaves. For both Birle and Orien their former life seems a distant memory.
This story presents two very strong main characters in Orien and Birle. Birle is shown to mature and grow throughout the book as she struggles to learn and find her own place. She is not a whiny little girl waiting to be saved all the time by a man. Orien, though a prince, is not your typical “I’m very handsome and do the right thing”. He has flaws a-plenty and often finds his stubborn nature gets in the way of logical thinking – especially when Birle is correct. This story shows how two strangers must learn to work together and the type of friendship that must be forged when circumstances take a turn for the worse.
This is not a happy-go-lucky book; this is a darker novel that looks at everyday people in the Kingdom and those that are slaves even to them. There is a sexual element implied towards the end of the novel, however it is not a vulgar description just implied and within the bounds of the story; it does not come out of the blue.
I first read this novel back in grade 8 at high school and loved it so much I spent years trying to obtain my own copy. Like all Cynthia Voigt books this story has many layers and is not always the happiest of experiences but this novel will make you ponder on the characters and experiences long after you have finished reading it.
Birle is a flawed character and this makes her easy to relate to. She is stubborn and forceful but this is tempered with inexperience. Orien is sometimes stubborn to the extreme and pig-headed but is also loyal and committed. These characters are quite unlike any others I have found in any other novel and even now I will happily pick up the novel and read it again.
The ending is satisfying although I did want more!
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