My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A hero’s curse
Posted on Goodreads.com – copied onto my blog
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This story is a middle grade novel aimed at children 8-12 years plus, it’s not a book I would usually pick for myself, however, I received an email on one of the good read groups I am in looking for readers to review a few books. Being a lover of books, I thought why not. I am so pleased I did otherwise I would have never found this little gem of a story.
The story starts off in a fictitious land, the Kingdom of Mar; from the very first page the story tells us of Essies hardship as she loses her mum and dad to a labour camp. They don’t sound pleasant and I can only imagine that they must be like the old Victorian work houses buzzing with the poor, in the cities of Britain way back when. We find out in the first chapter Essie is blind; she has been blind from a young age ever since her father, who was the kings champion, came back from a quest; instantly giving the hint there is more to her blindness.
Essie has a cat Tig or Tigrabum (don’t you just love that name? It rolls off the tongue and is really fun to say), though I suspect Tig would not enjoy being called hers. Tig can speak to Essie in a common language called lingua comma; Essie is the only one who knows Tig can speak and the two of them are the best of friends and have been since Essie found him as a kitten. Tig’s personality made me giggle a few times, he is rather a critical cat but I think the author has used his experience with cats and got it right. Every time I see a cat watching me I always think he / she is sat criticizing what I am doing. Tig has been Essies eyes while the pair grow up together, he has taught Essie how to hunt and use all of her other senses extremely well and while critical he clearly loves Essie.
The real adventure starts when the two are being chased by bandits who have come to kill Essie and her Uncle Cagney; it is here we find out the real reason why her parents have gone to the labour camps (not going to tell you, no spoilers here). Uncle Cagney tells Essie to run and hide and he’ll come find her when it’s safe. Essie and Tig find themselves running into The Valley of Fire to hide, a landscape made by a volcano that houses all sorts of scary creatures including rock basilisks; I can only imagine these to be huge snake like creatures with terrifying large pointy teeth.
The pair navigate themselves around the dangerous terrine trying to find a safe passage home. After a few encounters with other creatures in different Kingdoms, their end destination and purpose changes (again no spoilers). Essie has no faith in herself at the beginning of the story but she starts to realise she has a bigger purpose that just getting home. Going on in the back ground of their journey, a dark army is being built by a dark creature who plans to take over the kingdoms that surround and include the Kingdom of Mar.
I couldn’t help but wonder if the author used this as a metaphor for materialism and the darkness that hides within us all, especially the part where the darkness can cast illusions.
The pair end up, after an eventful journey, a few twists and a change in purpose, having to choose a door to go through to get to a kingdom called The Kingdom Above the Sun. They have five to choose from and while Tig is distracted by his ability to see, being tempted by all the things our lower selves desire; Essie’s lack of sight is actually her strength in the next part of the adventure. She has the ability to use her other senses and guide Tig down the right path into the Kingdom Above the Sun.
I love the description of this kingdom where cloud weavers use air to make things and then use music to strengthen the bonds that hold things together. I feel it describes the universe perfectly, everything is energy moving & flowing in a rhythm, music we can’t hear, though in this kingdom Essie can hear the music.
Illiana in the story says “…because music is more powerful that almost any magic.” Yes! This is how I feel about music.
I really want to tell you what happens but I don’t want to spoil anything for you. It is a beautiful and inspirational story of overcoming challenges, helping others, friendship and good overcoming evil. Friends are found in the most unexpected of places and Essie discovers her inner strength. The story portrays many important lessons young people need to learn today, I think this would make a great pixar animation. A must read for all children, especially those suffering with conditions that make them feel they can’t do the things that others can.
There is no other rating to give this story than 5 out of 5.
“I think it is, Tig.” The ember deep inside glows as if something is blowing on it. This is a hero’s door. Heros don’t seek wealth or honor or even insist on healing or family. Those are the things they sacrifice. Uncle Cagney’s voice echos through my head: “That’s what makes a hero.”
“In fact, I know this is the door Tig.” I speak with such confidence even I’m surprised. “This is what we’re supposed to do. This is why I’m here.”