Dark Quetzal

Style: Weak

Attitude: Take Care

Cover of Dark Quetzal

Author: Katherine Roberts

Series: Echorium

Publisher: The Chicken House

Published in: 2003

Age Range: Pre Teens

Period: Indeterminate

Setting: Earth in a mythical pre-history

Genres:  Fantasy


  • Kyarra is a talented young Singer who resents being protected on account of her age and smallness, and who tries to rescue her mother when she is kidnapped. Unknown to her, she is Frahzin's daughter.
  • Caell is a Singer apprentice who can hear half-creatures and who tries to follow Kyarra and her mother when they are both taken away.
  • Frahzin is using the power of the dark Khiz crystal to corrupt the half-creatures, and ultimately to change history.
  • Night Plume is a Quetzal -- half-man, half-bird -- corrupted and brainwashed by Frahzin's use of the Khiz Crystal.


Old Singer Rialle is missing, and when Kyarra and her mother are taken, too, Second Singer Renn and Singer Kherron follow, believing that their old enemy Frahzin is behind the kidnapping. Rialle manages to cleanse one of the Dark Quetzal who then carries a warning to the Renn & Kherron. Meanwhile, Kyarra is rescued by Shiala and the Centaurs who are allied with the Horselords. Finally, everyone comes together when Frahzin tries to take Kyarra and to change history.


Literary Qualitities: Quite a weak conclusion to the series. The notion of the missing apprentice and the Singers following a quest is not too dissimilar from the previous books, and while the notion of the Dark Quetzal (those corrupted by Frahzin) adds something new, it's not really enough. One has the impression in one or two places that the author is simply trying to bring together as many characters as possible from the other two books rather like the second-act line-up in a musical, ready for a big bow at the end.

Sentient Beings: The half-creatures, all of whom crop up in this story, display the same awkward mixture of sentience and bestiality, not helped by the corruption of the Khiz stone. They speak to each other in a kind of pidgin-English, which could either refer to sub-intelligent speech patterns, or to a perfectly sophisticated language which simply doesn't translate very well into English.

Family Situation: It is clearer from this book that the community (for want of a better word) of the Echorium is intended to take the place of a family for those born within it: those studying to be Singers must be born of Singers (at least: one of the parents must be a Singer) but they usually don't know who their parents are.

Life & Death: One of the Singers' songs — Yehn — is supposed to bring about death, and is usually used as a punishment. According to this book, it rather separates the soul from the body, leaving the body as an automaton, responding only to commands from outside. Usually the body is left to die, with no will to make it eat etc. In the case of Kyarra's mother, the body is looked after and cared for. Aside from the monstrosity of the matter, it is internally inconsistent: why does the body even breathe without instruction?

General: The attempt to turn the Quetzal's accurate memory (from Song Quest) into the Memory Place, something which can be physically reached and corrupted, thus causing history to change is really too much. Even ignoring the technobabble surrounding the explanation, it does not really work very well, as a plot device.

She was in a huge, black-rock cavern filled with smoke. Behind her was the underground lake from which she'd emerged, slightly luminous, casting green ripples around the walls. The hot draughts indicated tunnels, though she couldn't see them in the shadows. And in the centre of the cavern, still as a statue on his crystal throne, sat the man she'd seen in the Memory Trance watching her through the holes in his mask.

“So, my naga have brought me a jewel worth something, at last,” he rasped in a voice that sent prickles along Kyarra's spine. “I must say I thought you would be bigger. Such a small, fragile thing to give everyone so much trouble. Well then, Daughter, get up and greet your father properly. Let's see what damage the Singers have done

Thursday 7th August 2003