Author: Andrew Peters
Publisher: Chicken House for Scholastic
Date released: August 2011
Genre: Science fiction / Fantasy
Target Audience: 10 +
A Bug in a Book review by Scott Chambers.
Imagine a time, years hence, when the soulless urban sprawl of “civilization” on almost every continent has spread from coast to coast; when trees have been harvested so close to extinction that wood is worth more than gold, and the joy of savouring unpolluted air can only be experienced vicariously through the stories of elders. Such is life for the people of Maw.
Many years earlier, a perceptive scientist by the name of Diana sought refuge on a small uncharted island, where she sewed chemically enhanced seed to produce a forest of trees so huge that whole cities could be formed in its canopy, a mile above the ground; bringing evolution full circle – where man was once again safe up in the trees. Eventually this forested island, Arborium, became the home of other environmentally responsible refugees, who – under the watchful eye of Diana’s daughter, Corwenna, and her Raven minions – evolved into the sustainably-living Dendran race.
Time passed. Things change. They always do.
Maw is rapidly running out of space and raw materials to develop its cities. Meanwhile, under the lackadaisical rule of the Dendran monarchy, things in Arborium are slowly to go to pot, and some people are becoming frustrated. Most importantly though, the islandof Arboriumis no longer uncharted.
Arktorious Malikum, a plumber boy, is witnessed overhearing talk of treason: Lady Fenestra, envoy of Maw, plans to assist Councillor Grasp, trusted confidant of the King, in a coup. If successful, not only will Grasp assume control of Arborium, but Maw would be free to exploit its forests – with devastating effect.
Forced into hiding from Grasp’s troops, who are intent on silencing him … permanently, Ark has no option but to attempt to foil this potentially disastrous plot almost singlehandedly. And the clock is ticking – the coup kicks off in less than a week on the night of the Harvest Festival. On his quest, Arkforges new friendships, finds some rather unlikely allies, and discovers things about his ancestry and Destiny that will surely turn his life upside down.
In Ravenwood, Andrew Peters has crafted a fast paced story with strong, relatable characters. Certainly the pace and action of the story would hold the attention of readers in the target audience. To help pull this story off, Andrew has taken pains to develop a forest-based dialogue for the story. At some point though, every review needs to become subjective. In my opinion, for what it’s worth, the forest language that has been developed clearly “works” better in some instances than others and, where it didn’t, I found pausing to analyse it (as I sadly am wont to do), broke the flow of the story; although this may not be a problem for younger readers. I also found some aspects of the novel incongruous – the forest language lends itself well to the injection of humour – mainly through laboured puns (which would be well suited to younger readers of the target audience), but this level of humour is juxtaposed with scenes of fairly graphic violence (in the action scenes), more suited – I would have thought – to older children. Lastly, I felt that the glorification of smoking (cigars) by one of the leading protagonists (14 years of age in the story) was inappropriate, and completely unnecessary to the plot. But again, these are only my opinions, so I urge you to go and form your own!
Andrew Peters is no new kid on the block. He has authored of over sixty previous books, and Ravenwood is clearly the first instalment of what promises to be an action-packed series. So get out there, and get reading!