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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*The Legend of Witch Bane* by Kevis Hendrickson- young readers book review
The Legend of Witch Bane
by Kevis Hendrickson
Ages 9 and up 348 pages Outskirts Press January 2008 Paperback    

Defying the will of an evil queen can be bad for your health, especially if the queen in question is also a powerful witch like High Queen Rhiannon Eldess in The Legend of Witch Bane, the first in an exciting new series of children’s fantasy books by author Kevis Hendrickson.

The kingdom of Kaldan is under the rule of Rhiannon at the beginning of the novel. She warred against the kingdom and King Kruge Falinn, the current king’s father, and won. Every year, the High Queen’s representative and Minister of Affairs, Caldor, comes to demand the tribute provided for in the treaty that Kruge’s father was forced to sign to end the war and save what was left of his kingdom. The tribute is that Kaldan “must provide payment to her majesty in the form of ten of their youngest female citizens so as to maintain amity between respective parties.”

King Kruge and his wife, Queen Yvora Falinn, managed to protect their own two daughters, Laris and her younger sister, Anyr, up until the time the adventures in The Legend of Witch Bane take place, but their best efforts only save one of them - Laris, who is almost fifteen - from being chosen as one of the ten this particular year. Kruge and Yvora don’t know what to do; they love their daughters and want to save them from what is probably certain doom, but Kruge also has to think about the safety and lives of the rest of the citizens of Kaldan. He doesn’t want to risk the start of another war, though he despises that the tribute Rhiannon has demanded over the years has meant servitude and possibly death for many of the citizenry’s daughters, and grief for their families.

Kruge and his queen also have a ten-year-old son. Kodobos loves his sisters and decides to try to save his younger sister Anyr’s life if he can. He sneaks out at night with his father’s sword and travels by horseback until he reaches the encampment of Rhiannon’s men, who are all asleep around a large tent in which he finds Anyr. He rescues her, though she calls him foolish and stupid for trying - he’s just a boy, and his efforts will only make the High Queen angrier. But, on the way back, while they’re still in the forest, Anyr is spirited away. A mysterious woman’s voice tells Kodobos that he will only have his sister returned to him if he gives up his father’s sword. He has no choice but to do as he is instructed. He inserts the sword into “an altar of stone in the center of the dias on which lay his sister covered with many leaves.”

Kevis Hendrickson borrows from many sources in The Legend of Witch Bane, ranging from the legend of King Arthur to stories about Little Red Riding Hood and other Brothers Grimm tales, Norse mythology, and even legends concerning werewolves, ogres, dragons, and giants. When Kodobos comes back with Anyr, it doesn’t take long for Caldor to realize that she is missing, and he comes to demand her once more. This time, Kruge refuses him, but as punishment, the whole kingdom is put under a sleeping spell, like in the story of “Sleeping Beauty.” That is, the whole kingdom with the exceptions of Kodobos and his two sisters, for some unexplained reason.

They take it upon themselves to save the kingdom and defeat Rhiannon, and that’s what the rest of the novel is about. Their many adventures should appeal to most preteens, and the siblings do not fare well in all of them. Sometimes they are successful; sometimes they are defeated and wounded badly, but are aided by some of the strange beings they meet and nursed back to health enough to continue on. The most trying time for the trio is when Laris is captured and taken to Rhiannon, who tricks her into thinking that Kodobos and Anyr have forgotten about her and aren’t going to try to rescue her. Rhiannon knows Lari’s past - that she is not a half-elf, half-human, but rather half-Gaiad and half-human. Laris for this reason has the potential to be the most powerful and magical person in the world, and Rhiannon wants to use her to take over even more lands and ultimately rule the world. With the passing days, Laris falls more and more under Rhiannon’s influence, growing evil like the High Queen.

The Legend of Witch Bane is full of action and adventure, and most kids who like fantasy novels should also enjoy reading this one. The rest of the series should be an appealing one, and I look forward to reading more of the tales in the future. The author perhaps borrows from too many sources, at least for me. The chapters, as a result, sometimes seem too episodic, more like revisitations of other stories related to the plot line - kind of like short fairy tales unto themselves.

I often wondered while I was reading the book, why the High Queen didn’t just take over Kaladan entirely once its citizens were asleep, which she could have done at any time when the king’s children were away. Then, she could have simply killed Kruge and his wife if she’d wanted to. Of course, that wouldn’t have resulted in much of a happy ending, and the book would have been far shorter. I overlooked this possibility as much as I could, though, and soon found myself interested in the numerous predicaments the children encounter on their way to Rhiannon’s castle. Recommended to any kids who dig fantasy novels.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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