Rice’s debut book is a charming, old-fashioned fairy story of goodness and kindness triumphing over evil, lost parents found, mysterious islands, magic and maybe even true love and happilyeverafter.
Mike was 10 when his parents were lost at sea, leaving him an orphan in the care of his loving Aunt Iren. Mike grows up reading fairy tales and dreaming of the sea, and becomes a promising apprentice seaman. On one of his first voyages, Mike catches a glimpse of a mysterious island where none should be. With some help from his aunt, Mike eventually sets sail in search of it, and, upon finding it, discovers far more than he expected: the island—one of the last magical places on Earth—is inhabited by fairies. There, Mike meets Valery, who will one day be his wife and the mother of his son, Maxim, who is destined to save the island from the Black Mountain Fairy—a cruel being with vast powers of dark magic—once she awakens from the enchanted slumber that has kept her prisoner. To stop that from happening, Mike will have to make some very hard choices, and possibly give up some things he never expected. The story is simple and the characters, while not deep, are very at home in a fairytale world, but it is the charm of this tale that is one of its strongest points. A love of fairy tales and the belief that good can conquer evil is evident in every line. Those lines, however, would have benefited from additional attention. Grammatical errors are not uncommon, and the dialogue is often stilted, likely as a result of the story’s simplicity and tone. Also, the old-fashioned milieu here is something of a double-edged sword, invoking the pleasant nostalgia of simpler times but also reinforcing a number of traditional stereotypes and gender roles in a manner that may not sit well with some modern readers.
A promising children’s story, but—unlike many fantasy children’s classics—one with little to offer more advanced readers.