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Cover image for The Cup of the World
The Cup of the World


1st American ed.
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : David Fickling Books, ©2004.
Physical Description:
418 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
Prequel to: The widow and the king and The fatal child.
Man in the dream: Courts of the king -- The prisoner -- Suitors and chessmen -- Steel and darkness -- The priest on the knoll -- The Warden's answer -- The windows of Jent -- A face on the road -- Ill news by water -- The pale priest: Pain -- Angels and shadows -- On the stair -- Chatterfall -- The man in the reeds -- The house in the hills -- The place of white stones -- The deep of the cup -- Traitress: Cold morning -- Ordeal -- Phaedra's price -- The powers of iron -- The powers of shadow -- South wind.
When Phaedra, a willful daughter of a baron, decides to marry for love, she sets off an unforseeable chain of events and a battle between good and evil.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader/Renaissance Learning UG 5.5 18.

UG 18.0 Accelerated Reader AR 5.5 85919.

Reading Counts RC 9-12 6.4 24.0 37356.


Call Number

On Order



FILLED WITH IMMENSE characters, this thrilling medieval fantasy filled with moral complexity and vision announces the arrival of a special new writing talent. Phaedra, the beautiful daughter of a baron, has been visited in dreams by an elusive knight for almost as long as she can remember. And when his presence becomes a reality, she is forced to choose him and a new life over her home and her father. But this sets off a chain of events that she could not have foreseen--a battle between good and evil, which is in turn violent and psychologically compelling. This stunning novel grapples with the huge themes of life, and turns the reader's expectations upside down again and again, with one vertiginious plunge after another.

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-Phaedra, 16, rejects each of her nobly born suitors in turn because none of them can compare to the mysterious young knight who has visited her dreams since her childhood. When at last she meets her beloved in the flesh, she marries him immediately, despite his family's reputation for black magic and his leadership of a territory in near-open rebellion against the King. As her country descends into civil war, Phaedra learns the chilling truth about her husband's powers and finds the strength to save what she holds dear. Slightly formal prose gives the book the sound of a well-worn, classic tale. Subtle foreshadowing and superb pacing heighten the story's impact as Phaedra slowly uncovers the dark secrets underlying her new life. The characters are well rounded, and their motivations often play out in complex territorial politics that make the map a welcome inclusion. Fantasy lovers will revel in glimmering descriptions of Phaedra's country, complete with an invented mythology and a long history of warfare and subjugation. While central to the plot, these details also give the narrative depth and resonance. The corrupting effect of conquest is a weighty subtext for this genre, but Dickinson successfully weaves it into the story in symbolic terms that will remain with readers long after they leave this troubled, beautiful world.-Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Dickinson's debut fantasy has lofty ambitions but quickly gets mired in its own complexity. Phaedra, 16, is the only child of the widowed Warden of Trant, one of 10 territories in an unnamed Kingdom. As such, she is sought after for the lands that will come into the hands of her husband upon her father's death; as countless suitors vie for her hand, Phaedra rebuffs them. She holds out for the mysterious knight who appears in her dreams each night, and agrees (through her dreams) to meet with him in person. He turns out to be Ulfin, the March-count of Tarceny, "of whose house no man could say a good thing." She escapes with him by sea, and discovers that the "dreams" are due not to witchcraft, according to Ulfin, but rather what he "prefer[s] to call under-craft," a "gift" from the titular Cup in his possession. Phaedra marries Ulfin, precipitating a war between Trant and Tarceny, which snowballs into a conflict involving the entire Kingdom. Soon, Phaedra's father is dead, she is pregnant, and Ulfin's dark secrets come to the surface. The plot moves slowly and the narrative can be ornate and bulky ("Then the world was blotted out by his arms about her, his lips upon her face, and the thud, thud, thud of her own heart within her chest"). Although Phaedra emerges as an interesting heroine, only determined readers will manage to stay the course to savor her bittersweet victory. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

In a rich tale of magic, kingdoms, and battles, Phaedra, the young woman at the heart of the story, battles against the political web being spun around her. While a bit dense, with one or two slightly confusing sections, the story and setting are intriguing, and Dickinson keeps the reader interested in Phaedra's path to strength and independence. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

A medieval kingdom's power struggle mirrors one young woman's inner turmoil. Proud, beautiful Phaedra has rejected marriage for 17 years, unconsciously comparing her suitors to the literal man of her dreams. When he proves to be flesh and blood (albeit with powers beyond nature), she spurns a royal proposal to escape to his side. Her choice unwittingly plunges her country into civil war, and dark forces seeking release into the waking world will exact a terrible price. While fully realized and deeply human, Phaedra is an unlikable protagonist. She marches through most of her life like a clenched fist; bitter, angry, and willful; deliberately oblivious to the emotional nuances swirling about her. While readers will applaud her fierce independence and determination, they may identify less with her preoccupation with politics, status, and motherhood. The oblique writing style requires close re-reading to follow the complex intrigues and shifting alliances. Still, the lush, sensual descriptions, the carefully revealed backstory, and the taut atmosphere of looming menace all compel attention to the end. Dark and intelligent--for the sophisticated fantasy reader. (Fantasy. YA) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Gr. 9-12. None of the nobly born suitors who come courting 16-year-old Phaedra compare to the handsome, mysterious young knight who has visited her in dreams since childhood. When she finally meets the knight in the flesh, she marries him immediately, despite his family's sinister reputation for practicing black magic and his leadership of a territory on the verge of rebellion against the king. As her country descends into civil war, Phaedra discovers the dark truth about her husband's powers and must find the strength to fight for what matters most to her. The setting of this story is beautifully realized, and the characters are well-developed and memorable. Dickinson's formal prose gives the book the sound and feel of an old-time classic, while numerous subplots lend a complexity and depth that will appeal to fans of fantasy epics. A map is included to assist with understanding the intricate territorial politics central to the plot. An engrossing, entertaining, richly layered story. --Ed Sullivan Copyright 2004 Booklist