Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Legend of Witch Bane by Kevis Hendrickson

The Legend of Witch Bane, by Kevis Hendrickson, is an enjoyable tale about three young siblings faced with a nearly insurmountable challenge. An evil curse has been set upon the kingdom of Kaldan which has left nearly all its inhabitants in a state of indefinite sleep. Those immune to the spell are the three children of King Kruge and Queen Yvora Falinn. The children, Kodobos, Laris, and Anyr, soon discover that it is up to them to reverse the dark spell which has been enacted by the evil High Queen of the Northern Realm: Rhiannon Eldess. They embark upon a grand journey filled with magical creatures, perilous battles, and discover their true purpose in a greater cause. Witch Bane, despite some missteps, soars with creativity and brings to life the wonderful world of fantasy.

What struck me most about this book's author (with whom I am acquainted) is his passion for writing fantasy. Mr. Hendrickson clearly loves the genre, and this is evident throughout the novel, as his voice is clearly distinguished. He has a definite idea of what he is trying to convey, and he obviously enjoyed writing it. He incorporates familiar children's fairy tales which adds to the book's overall charm. This makes for a fun and exciting tale filled with imagination, interesting characters, fantastic artwork, unexpected twists, and good life lessons for children.

The Legend of Witch Bane is an easy read--a definite plus--as it is geared toward children, though it is not without its bumps. As I read Witch Bane, I quickly noticed certain trends, which--for me--dampened my reading experience. The author's voice is a part of the book's success, though it is also one of its flaws. The narration at times took away from what could have been a much more enjoyable experience. There's a saying in writing: "Show, don't tell." Unfortunately, the latter of the two is used almost to the point of erasing any and all suspense. Not everything has to be "shown," however, revealing crucial plot details well before they take place and explaining what just happened can cause a decline in interest. This was the case for me, and I struggled to plunge ahead.

Another point which detracted from my overall enjoyment was the overuse of the plot device known as "Deus ex machina." "Deus ex machina" is described as a surprising or unexpected event which occurs in a story's plot to suddenly and completely resolve an otherwise unsolvable conflict. This tool, when used sparingly, can add to the story; when used excessively, believability is lost. This occurs in numerous action sequences where the children are saved at the last second.

I am a firm believer in deep characters, and being that Witch Bane is a book aimed at a younger audience, I approached this story with a less critical eye. Kodobos, Laris, and Anyr are an interesting trio, though I believe they could have benefitted from an extra layer of depth so as to better round them. I like when the main characters are rooted in conflict-whether internal or external in nature. With that said, our young protagonists do live up to my expectations, though at times their conflicts are a bit excessive. The children all seem to suffer from an acute case of "Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde" syndrome. One minute they love each other, the next they say the most hurtful things. Children might act this way in real life, but when I am being led to believe these children--like Atreyu from Michael Ende's, The Neverending Story--are more mature than their age expresses, (7, 10, and 13) I struggle to grasp their behavior.

All the points of criticism I have mentioned cleared at the novel's end as the children's characters came full circle in the face of their enemy. Their numerous battles were both detailed and riveting. I came to care about Kodobos, Laris, and Anyr, and their cause. The Legend of Witch Bane concluded, and I find myself curious to learn of the children's further adventures. Fortunately, I know for a fact that Mr. Hendrickson is hard at work on the sequel. I will gladly join the children on their next quest, as will I recommend this novel to anyone--and any age, I might add--seeking to escape reality.


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