THE ANCIENT REALM

Nature acts as a secret source of magic and mayhem for the young protagonist in Bahn’s debut novel.

At the start of the book, 11-year-old Agnes Adelaide Fordyce leads a rather average, uneventful life. Having lost her mother at an early age, she lives with her father and twin older brothers in a remote fishing village in Nova Scotia. The amount of masculine influence in her life causes her to develop a tomboyish personality, but in spite of her active lifestyle and severe dislike of dresses, she still finds tales of princesses and castles appealing. Not only does this make her more relatable to a broader spectrum of young readers—from the prissiest of girls to the most adventurous of boys—it also puts her in the perfect state of mind when she encounters Octavia, a babysitter who is more than meets the eye. Octavia invites her to become Princess of the Bering Sea, one of the Guardians of the Ancient Realm responsible for protecting the natural world. As Agnes soon finds out, though, the greatest threat to the Earth comes from power-mad kings within the Ancient Realm itself. She finds this out remarkably soon, in fact. Within 24 hours, she becomes a princess, meets numerous new allies and enemies, faces life-threatening danger and must do all she can to prevent the total collapse of the natural world. The narrative and structure of the book reflect this fast pacing. While Agnes has little problem accepting everything as it comes, readers who prefer easing into magical and mysterious realms may have difficulty adjusting. The greatest trouble lies in getting a grasp on several of the novel’s secondary characters, as some of the more complex aspects of their personalities get lost in the rush. Not that any of the characters are without potential, though. All of them—and the entire story, for that matter—are intriguing enough to sweep readers away through the end. Bahn presents a straightforward fantasy story plenty capable of engaging young readers, especially those with limited attention spans.

 

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2010

ISBN: 978-1468124019

Page Count: 114

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2012

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THE LAST BOOK IN THE UNIVERSE

In this riveting futuristic novel, Spaz, a teenage boy with epilepsy, makes a dangerous journey in the company of an old man and a young boy. The old man, Ryter, one of the few people remaining who can read and write, has dedicated his life to recording stories. Ryter feels a kinship with Spaz, who unlike his contemporaries has a strong memory; because of his epilepsy, Spaz cannot use the mind probes that deliver entertainment straight to the brain and rot it in the process. Nearly everyone around him uses probes to escape their life of ruin and poverty, the result of an earthquake that devastated the world decades earlier. Only the “proovs,” genetically improved people, have grass, trees, and blue skies in their aptly named Eden, inaccessible to the “normals” in the Urb. When Spaz sets out to reach his dying younger sister, he and his companions must cross three treacherous zones ruled by powerful bosses. Moving from one peril to the next, they survive only with help from a proov woman. Enriched by Ryter’s allusions to nearly lost literature and full of intriguing, invented slang, the skillful writing paints two pictures of what the world could look like in the future—the burned-out Urb and the pristine Eden—then shows the limits and strengths of each. Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty (1993) has again created a compelling set of characters that engage the reader with their courage and kindness in a painful world that offers hope, if no happy endings. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08758-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

BEHIND THE BLUE

A fan of magic and her reluctant companion embark on an adventure when the mysterious Blue Man charges them with a mission.

Little Katherine contemplates what exists behind the scrim of the sky, and she gets her answer after she meets a boy named Charlie, who literally runs into her upon fleeing a blue man and a talking salamander he encounters in the nearby forest. The man is non-threatening, and asks the two to help him recover some lost items, to which Katherine heartily agrees. He doesn’t provide much information, however, so once she and Charlie enter this enchanted universe, they must take it upon themselves to figure out what the Blue Man has lost and how to go about helping him find it. With the help of guides like snarky, enigmatic Gerald and good-natured Frank, the children travel through very deep puddles to different realms behind the clouds, learning about the Blue Man’s nemesis, Grey Lady, who may have snatched his magical dragon stones. Schilling’s well drawn, vibrant world elevates his story above the standard adventure quest. His lively, amusing dialogue complements a fantastical world where fish flit through the air like bees (and may accidentally transport you elsewhere), manta rays make shy cabbies, crushed flowers pop back to life and magic permeates everything. While adults will find the narrative captivating, this book is tailor-made for storytime read-alouds.

An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-595-36189-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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