Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Awen: Book One of the Sacred Oak Series

For Ian’s whole life, his family has been employed as servants at Winter Haven. Though Ian is strong and capable, he does not enjoy the attention given to Reese, heir to the estate and son of Ian’s master. However, because of their close proximity in age, the two boys become playmates. They share lessons and a tenuous (albeit competitive) friendship.

Then, as The Awen: Book One of the Sacred Oak Series by A.R. Dunning continues, Ian begins having dreams…and, shockingly, his dreams come true. Little does he know, but his teacher, Mr. McBeetle, has been feeding him a treat from another world that gives Ian this prophetic gift. Mr. McBeetle has also been feeding Reese a treat that gives Reese an incredible ability in archery.

One day Reese takes the treat meant for Ian, and dreams of entering another world through an enchanted cairn located in a ring of stones. Mr. McBeetle’s plan was for Reese, Ian, and Reese’s cousin Elizabeth to enter the world together lead by Ian and his dream. Their entrance would mark the fulfillment of a prophecy, and the beginning of a journey to save not only Mr. McBeetle’s world, but Ian’s world as well. But Reese, under the influence of the treat, enters the cairn on his own.

Under the guidance of Mr. McBeetle, Ian and Elizabeth scramble after Reese, only to find him safe and sound in a beautiful city. In order to stay in the world and save its queen from death and darkness, the three must undergo a painful cleansing. After that, each is presented with a gift and given their mission: to find Ian’s long-lost relative and undo the damage done by Reese’s side of the family.

The story continues with battles, personal challenges, and betrayals. To find out whether or not the trio is successful, you will have to read the book.

What I Like: Dunning’s world is highly imaginative. Her main characters are likable and believable. I see great promise in Dunning’s series.

What I Dislike: The ideas were creative, interesting, and fresh, but I felt like they were not fully developed—like precious seeds that had sprouted but hadn’t reached maturity. The problems were solved too quickly, which undermined the build up of tension in the storyline. After a strong beginning, the later chapters did more telling than showing. To me, that made the book read more like an outline or synopsis. As a reader, I longed for Dunning to elaborate more. I know this is part of a series, but with more details, character development, and action, this book could have easily become a trilogy on its own with a potential richness to rival great fantasy favorites.

Overall Rating: Excellent in concept, good in execution gives it an overall VERY GOOD rating. Plus it's awfully hard to pass up with a mere $2.99 Kindle price!

Age Appeal: None is given, but I think it would appeal to the 10-14 age group.

Publisher Info: Awen Publishing House at Smashwords, 2011; ASIN: B006388XE8; available only in digital format, file size 338 KB (131 pgs.), $2.99.

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Buy the Kindle version at for $2.99.

Special Info: Though there is no reference to God or the church, this book refers to the Swift Sure Hand, a creator who sang the world into existence. In addition, there is an obvious battle between good and evil, and Christian readers will identify with the cleansing the main characters must undergo—a sort of “born again” experience. However, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, there doesn’t seem to be an explicit tie into faith or specific allegorical content. The reader should also be aware that the book contains fantastical creatures, such as fairies, fauns, and dryads, and makes use of objects with magical properties. It draws on Celtic folklore. You can visit this author's website.

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Anonymous said...

Hi, can i ask you something? I’m looking for children books with “scary” animal illustrations like Wolf (or fox) eating pigs (or seven kids or Red Riding hood or birds in Chicken Little) or being pictured with a fat stomach. Any sort of help is appreciated. Thanks in advance. Great blog, by the way!


Lori Z. Scott said...

I'm glad you enjoy the blog. That's an interesting question. I promise I'm not the best person to respond to it because I don't like scary books or pictures, but I'll try to help anyway. Please keep in mind that as a teacher, I do NOT keep scary books in my classroom. I prefer to provide my students books with humor, adventure, or fantasy. That said, here is my suggestion for you. Consider doing a web search for Fractured Fairy Tales. These stories are based on the original tale but have a surprising twist and are often accompanied by pictures like you were interested in finding. I think the pictures in Jon Scieszka's Fractured FT collection "The Stinky Cheese Man" are creepy. ( I don't have that book in my classroom, BTW.) A book with fantastical creatures, many of which are creepy looking, is Graeme Base's "Jabberwocky". It follows a poem by Lewis Carroll. ("Beware the Jabberwock my son, the jaws that bite, the claws that catch. Beware the JubJub bird and shun the frumious Bandersnatch.") Scholastic books also provides a list of scary books for children. I hope that helps. Meanwhile, if you're looking for books with awesome pictures and great take away value for kids, check out some of the TOP PICKS reviews done by CCBR.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your help Lori! Sure, not many people likes scary books, especially not children books, but I'm actually doing a small research on that topic (scary illustrations; especially from old classic fairy tales), that's why I asked you about it. Thanks again and happy 2012!


Lori Z. Scott said...

Ah, I see! On that note, you might also want to look at some of Maurice Sendak's work. He's famous for writing "Where the Wild Things Are". He has a lesser known book called "Mommy?" that might work for your research. Good luck!