A while back, Kane Miller wrote me to ask if I would like to read these books, originally published in Australia, which they were publishing for the US market. And seeing as how I am always looking for shorter fantasy books to appeal to my son, as well as fantasy from outside the US, I said, “yes, please.”
Escape from Wolfhaven Castle. The Impossible Quest 1. By Kate Forsythe. Kane Miller, 2015.
This is the first book of a five book series, each of them short enough not to be overwhelming to new readers, while still having enough depth of plot and character not to be underwhelming to struggling or reluctant middle grade readers. As the story opens, Tom, the cook’s son, is out in the forest when the wild man of the woods warns him that danger is coming. The difficulty is finding anyone who will listen to a warning from a lowly pot boy. But things do go badly wrong, and three other young people – the witch’s apprentice Quinn, the lord’s daughter Elanor, and the squire Sebastian – are thrown together, trying to escape a castle that’s suddenly under siege from within. Elanor isn’t used to making decisions on her own, and Sebastian’s natural world order is being seriously threatened by having a peasant be the one with the most information and therefore making decisions.
I read the first two books in this series, and my slow-reading son finished the first book in record-for-him time. I appreciated that the characters do not develop instant friendship, and all of them have room for character growth. There are enough standard fantasy elements that this may not have the adult crossover appeal of some other series. That being said, the tropes are used well, the magic draws solidly on herb lore and British mythology, and the language is very good. This is an excellent introduction to fantasy, both for independent and family reading.