Doesn't this title sound like something from Enid Blyton? Like a spinoff to The Faraway Tree series or something? But it's not. It's really the first in a fantasy series aimed at children.
Benjamin McTish follows the titular protagonist and his two best friends Mathilda and Annabel. They find out that they're the three of a prophecy and must save the forest from the evil Queen Tar Vigon.
The story itself is interesting. I like the world, and the backstory (there are characters with a backstory). The only part of the story that felt weird was the bit where two characters (grown ups) are told they are in love (ok, one character is told), since there were no hints to the reader otherwise.
In addition, while I liked the three main characters, it seem at first, that things came to them too easily. One understands the script of the fairies all-too-easily, another figures out the puzzles quickly. But as the book went on and they came to trials that were at last too great for them to solve in an instant, I began to like Benjamin, Mathilda and Annabel a lot more.
My biggest complaint about the book would be about the narrative style. The book seems to be mixing simple English with the fantastical language of the fantasy. Me having read G.K. Chesterton recently, and the fact that this book is aimed at kids makes me feel that the language should have been a lot simpler. Take out all those fancy highblown prose and make it simple. It would be an excellent contrast to the intricate world and characters and make them stand out even more.
The other thing I noticed about this book is that it's a little heavy handed. Sentences like "He had witnessed the power of Loyalty, Love and Trust generated from three tiny beings from another world" is not only telling instead of showing, it's making sure we don't miss the point. But since the entire book is about the power of friendship (I think that's it anyway), all these was unnecessary. There are quite a few of these instances (enough that I started getting annoyed before I was even halfway done), and I think the book would have been better if the story was just spun instead of telling the reader how to interpret it as well.
In conclusion, this book is interesting, and if the style and language were improved, it would be a really gripping book for both children and adults. I see that there's a sequel, so I'm looking forward to how this series develops.
Disclaimer: I got this book free as part of Buy the Book blog tours in exchange for a free and honest review.
About June M. Pace
About Benjamin McTish and the Door Through the Grandfather Tree
The ExcerptThe making of an evil Queen. Tar Vigorn.
Now this is fun.
Picking out a name was the toughest part. I wanted a name that had some poetry to it and stood for something. When I first began pulling names together for characters I dug around for some traditional British names and made a list of possibilities. As the occasion arose I might choose from the list or simply use a name I found through happen chance. Like Dunston Tibbitts...my husband was relating a story to me about a friend of his with the last name Tibbitts and I rushed to my desk to put it down as Dunston’s last name. Great name.
And when it came to cities and places, well, that was much more of a challenge. Like Coranim. This is derived from the Latin, Corazon, meaning heart...and anima, which represents the feminine psyche and stands for soul for Spirit, esoterically speaking. So I put them together to make Coranim, the magical world beneath the Grandfather Tree....it stands for Heart of the Planet. A lot of my city names come from people I know...such as Tay’lor. It is pronounced as two words..tay, then lor...however, in truth, Taylor is our son’s girlfriend. I’m really enjoying putting names of friends and family into the story...and they’re getting a huge kick out of it as well. I actually just spoke to a gal on the phone who was taking an order from me and her name was just staring up at me from my note pad and I finally said, “You know what, I think I’m going to use your name for a character in my book, it’s just so interesting.” She was thrilled. (Her name is Morlyn by the way...so keep an eye out).
Tar Vigorn came from playing around with sounds and ideas with someone and we ended up putting Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn together...don’t ask me why, I couldn’t tell you now...but back then I had a reason! So now which direction to head into as far as characteristics and personality, looks, etc....this was the fun part.
My main inspiration came from the White/Ice witch in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe....the most dynamic and perfect evil queen ever for me, (although I gotta say, Cerlize Theron in the Sleeping Beauty movie was right on up there with perfection)...she was stunning in her manipulations and she was gorgeous. I really liked the idea of a magnificently beautiful Queen...they don’t all have to be green and ugly..or wear only black. No, not my Queen, she is striking and calculated. She is fierce, intelligent, creative and most importantly, flawed. Although there is nothing lacking in her magical powers..and there is where the rub lies. She’s not going to be so easy to defeat...if ever she truly is...(not going to give that one away).
So I began by picturing her as Anjelina Jolie, you know, that combo of beauty and bitch, but knows how to work her way around any obstacle...then I started thinking that was too obvious, so I shifted my mental image over to Jennifer Connelly...now there’s some serious brains added into the mix of sexy and masterful at her talent...now I had my evil Queen.
Her voice is syrupy smooth, slowly annunciating every syllable of her acid tongued pontifications. She toys with her audience, she winds them up into an emotional frenzy while keeping ever so cool and calculated. She doesn’t fluster easily...and what ever you do, don’t show her up...her wrath is paralyzing and terror filled. However, she is not without humor and loves a good game of intrigue...as long as she stays on top.
She wears daisies in her hair and has a propensity for horticulture...even if it is mostly magically induced, as her conservatory would imply. Her home is impeccably designed with ornate fireplaces of lapis and gold filigree framed art covering her damask walls, with black and ivory striped drapery, lined in gold silk, puddled onto the inky black onyx marble floors. Chandeliers dripping in crystals, giant urns filled with flowers, and a very special alabaster statue fountain in the main courtyard of a woman walking among swans and roses....I believe I’ll stop here, I simply cannot give anything away...however, when you come to the end of our story, I mean the entire end of the last book in the series...think back to this post and you’ll see that I gave you a very big insight into something very important....you’re welcome!