Friday, August 23, 2013

Benjamin McTish and the door through the Grandfather Tree by June M. Pace

NOTE: Today's blog post is much longer than usual because it contains a review, an excerpt and a guest post! Hope you enjoy it!

Doesn't this title sound like something from Enid Blyton? Like a spinoff to The Faraway Tree series or something? But it's not. It's really the first in a fantasy series aimed at children.

Benjamin McTish follows the titular protagonist and his two best friends Mathilda and Annabel. They find out that they're the three of a prophecy and must save the forest from the evil Queen Tar Vigon.

The story itself is interesting. I like the world, and the backstory (there are characters with a backstory). The only part of the story that felt weird was the bit where two characters (grown ups) are told they are in love (ok, one character is told), since there were no hints to the reader otherwise.

In addition, while I liked the three main characters, it seem at first, that things came to them too easily. One understands the script of the fairies all-too-easily, another figures out the puzzles quickly. But as the book went on and they came to trials that were at last too great for them to solve in an instant, I began to like Benjamin, Mathilda and Annabel a lot more.

My biggest complaint about the book would be about the narrative style. The book seems to be mixing simple English with the fantastical language of the fantasy. Me having read G.K. Chesterton recently, and the fact that this book is aimed at kids makes me feel that the language should have been a lot simpler. Take out all those fancy highblown prose and make it simple. It would be an excellent contrast to the intricate world and characters and make them stand out even more.

The other thing I noticed about this book is that it's a little heavy handed. Sentences like "He had witnessed the power of Loyalty, Love and Trust generated from three tiny beings from another world" is not only telling instead of showing, it's making sure we don't miss the point. But since the entire book is about the power of friendship (I think that's it anyway), all these was unnecessary. There are quite a few of these instances (enough that I started getting annoyed before I was even halfway done), and I think the book would have been better if the story was just spun instead of telling the reader how to interpret it as well.

In conclusion, this book is interesting, and if the style and language were improved, it would be a really gripping book for both children and adults. I see that there's a sequel, so I'm looking forward to how this series develops.

Disclaimer: I got this book free as part of Buy the Book blog tours in exchange for a free and honest review.

About June M. Pace

June Pace - Author PictureJune lives with her soon to be husband and best friend Ray, his youngest son and their two dogs, seven chickens and two ducks, in Santa Cruz Ca. Ray’s two older kids live respectively in LA and San Francisco.
June spends her days writing and sometimes painting her well known series of Rock n Roll icons.This series of work, the McTish characters, are a part of June in every sense of the word. “This work brings a deep sense of joy and passion for me in a very profound way, like nothing else that I do.”

About Benjamin McTish and the Door Through the Grandfather Tree

Benjamin McTish CoverIt’s Harry Potter meets the Celestine Prophecy in this magical and thrilling ride! The McTish Series is an explosive adventure through a dimensional Gateway into another world, a world of beauty and magic, Coranim…a land of insight, thought and possibilities, that sits beneath the enchanted Gilley Forest.
There is local legend in the small town of Grandlochcheshire that has been passed down for a 100 years about the mysterious disappearance of the Chickering family, that trails on the coat tails of the equally shocking abduction of the Skeffington Union Rails heirs, Connor and Shelbe. The circumstances that follow this notorious tale enter into the modern world of Benjamin and his two best mates.
One day Benjamin watches from behind the Rhododendron as a mysterious little woman steps out of a taxi in front of the cream colored house with the forest green trim next door and in one synchronistic moment their eyes lock and a series of visual snippets of unfamiliar events unfold in his mind’s vision. His razor sharp sixth sense allows him the freedom to explore the extrasensory messages coming at him in a frenzied speed, like a derailed freight train.
And when Benjamin finds a peculiar old relic of a key in his grandmother’s garden shed, he could never know his world was about to change forever.
Annabel and Mathilda, two sisters who have moved to Grandlochcheshire from America, have become more than mere friends to Benjamin, they have all become the three Muskydeers (Mathilda’s mispronounced version of Musketeers, which was a huge laugh and of course it stuck), as they are plunged head first into this curious journey.
In the Gilley Forest they discover that the path they have chosen is inundated with many obstacles as well as intrigue. Alliances are made with the Forest clan of Gnomes known as the Set, and with the aid of the Vila sisters, Sethina and Morel, as well as some surprising and unexpected allegiances, the three friends take on the test that is the Grandfather Tree. They must stay on the pre ordained Path of prophecy, portended by the ancient seer Pajah Set, whose ancestry comes from the home of the oldest living beings on the planet, the Elves of the Darmon However, this is no easy task for the Muskydeers as they have the foulest of sorcery hunting their every move, the powerful dark beauty known to all as Tar Vigorn.
This ruthless Queen is not without humor however, and loves a good game of cat and mouse, as long as she’s the cat. With her biting sense of sarcasm and calculated taunting, she knows just how to unnerve the young Benjamin. Her phantom army known as the Blunt are searching for a way into the Grand Tree and will stop at nothing to infiltrate the pristine world beneath his giant roots.
Once in Coranim the children make the acquaintance of the greatest Medicine Elder alive, Esmerelda Fet. A most powerful Light Sorceress with a brazen in your face attitude and a thick Irish brogue, who guides the trio on their Path of destiny. “All tings be possible ya wee chil’ren, if’en ya put yer mind to it! Thar be nothin ya can’t accomplish. Ya just need ta be placin all yer carage inta tha middle of yer core whar yer Spirit shines…an ya can do anythin! Ha!”
Filled with many wonders, and home to the Fet clan of Gnomes, Coranim is a magical world of art, sound, thought, invention and discovery….and home to the World Library of Identity, with none other than Dunston Tibbitts at the helm.
Every being on the planet has a book dedicated to the entirety of their lives. Dunston reports to Benjamin, “according to what I see here now, this very minute, whatever it is that you are seeking will show itself today and change your Path immediately. It will put you into a whole new dynamic as they say.”
What could alter the overpowering trajectory Benjamin has followed to Coranim? How will it change his life?
Find out as our three heroes delve into the mystic, as well as their own inner character, as you watch from the edge of your seat.
Book Two, Benjamin Mctish and the Wizards of Coranim, coming 2013

The Excerpt

He looked back at the Queen and calmly said, “You know you never answered my question about the prophecy. You HAVE heard the portend…am I correct?”
Tar Vigorn tilted her head in interest and her smile never wavered.
“Ahh, the prophecy of Pajah Set. Please tell me they don’t actually have you believing you are… THAT boy? You couldn’t possibly believe that. You are aware they’ve found others before you, are you not? Other boys they swore were going to save the world and put an end to all my beautiful darkness. Can you guess where those young lads are now, Benjamin?”
Suddenly Tar Vigorn disappeared from site, Benjamin looked up totally stupefied. However, before he could take another breath, she instantly reappeared on the other side of the Travel Chamber behind him and whispered, “Boo!”
Benjamin let the surprise grab him, “Ahh!”
“A little jumpy are we?” hissed the Queen.
Benjamin turned to look at her, his face filled with anger and question. She continued with her masterful web of unnerving him.
“Let me give you a bit of advice, dear boy. You’d be a fool to trust these imbeciles with your life. They’ll recruit anyone they can use to gain information. The last boy who followed the directive of Cottie Set….well let’s just say, he’s no longer following anyone. After all, how gullible does one have to be to believe in fairy tales…a prophecy, ridiculous! I thought you were much wiser than that young, sweet Benjamin. I mean honestly, do you really see yourself winning anything against the likes of me? You’re just a normal boy after all.”
Benjamin contained his anger, but the questions started to arise in his heart.
She’s right, how could I be the One? Why am I any different from the other boys who were told they were the ones? But before he had a chance to delve further into his impending doubt, the voice of Tannis appeared in his mind.
“Master Benjamin, the two boys that perished were always a question, she is not divulging all the information. There is much more than you have heard. You must not falter in the belief that the three of you are the children of truth, or she will gain advantage…..You are the prophecy, I put my life into your hands in trust and certainty. Search your heart young Benjamin and you will know the truth. You can not hide from your Path.”
Benjamin thought a moment, and once again a slow smile began to fill his face, disarming the Queen. Benjamin looked over at his friends, locking eyes with Annabel until she began to smile with him. Then Mathilda wiped her wet face with the back of her hand and followed suit. The girls walked over toBenjamin, standing on either side of him, and held his hands. They all looked up at the now boggled Queen.
“What you don’t know,” began the boy ever so cooly, “is that the prophecy was never about just one…it is about three friends. It also says that these three friends have a very powerful magic, the likes of which has never been wielded in the Gilley Forest before…a magic that stems from Love. But you wouldn’t know anything about that would you..Love? It also talks about a boy who has the ability to make things happen…just by THINK-ing them.”
The Queen flinched, her smile gone. Benjamin continued with his own Cheshire Cat grin.
“Can you guess what I am thinking right now Tar Vigorn?”
Then in an attempt to get even with the Queen and take back her power, Mathilda stepped closer to the Chamber wall, leaning forward as close as she could get, she locked eyes with the Queen.
“Better watch out, someone might drop a house on you,” she giggled.
The Queen went pale as the thought occurred to her in that instant, thatBenjamin McTish may very well be the boy of the ancient prediction. But before she had a chance to change her mind, a chestnut mare with a rider on his back was leaping high over the Travel Chamber and right over her head! The Queen swung around and looked as Tannis and Bits landed on the Forest floor a few feet away from her. A sly smile came back to her face.
“Well, if it isn’t my old friend Tannis. I should have know you would be involved in this. And how are things in the Darmon these days?”
Tannis smiled back at Tar Vigorn.
“You know perfectly well that I have not seen my home in many long years. But all this is about to change.”
And with this the battle commenced.
The children huddled together kneeling down on their heals, as Tar Vigorn unleashed a bounty of rapid fire lightening bolts straight for the Elf.
Tannis deflected the spikes of energy while jumping over the Chamber on the back of the stallion. The Queen instantly joined Tannis on the other side, and the exchange of red tinged electrifying currents flowed out of the two Forest dwellers. Bursts of exploding trees and stumps resounded like canon fire. The trio in the Travel Chamber were shell shocked at the intensity and force of the magic flying between the Elf and the Queen.
Errant lighting was ricochetting off the sides of the Travel Chamber causing the children to cover their ears from the booming sound it made inside. The entire Chamber shook with upheaval. Small trees that were unfortunate enough to be caught in the line of rage pouring out of Tar Vigorn, burned to char in seconds. The Travel Chamber was creaking and moaning, sounding like a wounded animal. It swayed and pulsed with every outcry of explosive energy thrown it’s way.
The Elf of the Darmon and the Queen of Darkness fought relentlessly. The Fairy clan dove in between the bursts of lightening to blind the Queen with their bright wall of color light. But the Queen would not be swayed.
Then, unexpectedly, Tar Vigorn halted her tirade and spoke the magic she needed to surrounded herself in a misty haze of smoke, thick, dark and ominous.
Everyone watched in astonishment as she appeared to be completely enveloped in the self propelled murk. Then she magically emerged from the cloud of spinning grey fog, in what appeared to be a large halo of light surrounding her body. It looked to the children as if she were in a small version of her own chamber, like an elliptical force field. Her own personal vibrating shield surrounding her entire body. And suddenly Tannis’s magic was senseless. Instead the powerful force of battle energy being heaved at her from all directions was bouncing back off of the protective barrier she now resided.
The Travel Chamber began to sound off an alarming vibration. It shimmied and shook with dramatic force. It felt as if the whole tunnel of light would collapse any moment. The sound engulfed the children and threatened to take their sanity with it. Mathilda was screaming at the top of her lungs. Annabel was holding onto her little sister as she grabbed Benjamin’s forearm and yelled with all of her might.
“Benjamin, I think the Travel Chamber is falling apart or something! We can’t just sit here!”
Benjamin’s mind was a whirling dervish of confusion. He could not keep up with the tremendous acceleration of events. He felt an immensely deep disappointment in himself for bringing this amazing journey to this final outcome. He looked up at the girls and just when he was willing to admit defeat, they all turned to look up as something flashed above them.
They had entered the eye of the storm.
The tightly nestled trio watched the activity around them in the syrupy silence of slow motion. First they witnessed, amidst the clouds of smoke and singed sky, as the belly of the chestnut stallion carrying the Elf of the Darmon, leapt over the slowly disintegrating Travel Chamber. They moved their gaze over to the backside of the Chamber where the steed landed with precision. The children looked up at Tannis.
Tannis looked calm and resolute, he smiled at Benjamin. In that quick momentBenjamin realized the intention of the Elf, and raised to his knees shouting, “NO TANNIS! DON’T DO IT!” But it was too late. The Elf was leaping on the back of his faithful stallion right into the center of the Travel Chamber.
Tannis turned Bits around to face the bewildered children. They all looked over at the Queen who was now standing solo amid her enraged destruction. The look on her face was worth every bit of fear the children had lived in the past evening. Her eyes were wide with incredulous disbelief. She was steaming with a rage strong enough to fell the tallest of fir trees. Then she let out a scream the likes of which had never been heard in the existence of the Gilley Forest.
She flew like a lightening bolt of deep dark magic at the Travel Chamber and it shook with a husky primal resonance that alarmed the inhabitants. When the Queen realized that her torture was beginning to wax heavily on the object of her anger, she reloaded and pulled the trigger again. She reigned a full force attack on the side of the Travel Chamber.
The walls were showing signs of dismantling. The glowing light of the Chamber began to flicker and the children could see that it would only be a matter of a short time before she would penetrate the protection shield. She would have them in her hands and at her unwavering mercy.
They all knew no one would survive.
Tannis jumped off of his steed and closed his eyes. He stretched his arms out beside him and touched the sides of the Travel Chamber with his hands. Within moments the watery energy of the Travel Chamber started to become more solidified. And without warning or thought…the lights went out.
After a moment the children, still in the darkness, realized there were no more sounds around them.
“Benjamin, where are we?” asked Annabel.
“I can’t see a bloody thing. But it doesn’t feel like we’re with the Queen anymore. Maybe…” and before he could say another word the small orb of light, generated by the Elf, was in the middle of everyone.
“Wow!” said Mathilda. “Where are we Tannis?”
“We are in between.”


The making of an evil Queen. Tar Vigorn.

Now this is fun.

Picking out a name was the toughest part. I wanted a name that had some poetry to it and stood for something. When I first began pulling names together for characters I dug around for some traditional British names and made a list of possibilities. As the occasion arose I might choose from the list or simply use a name I found through happen chance. Like Dunston husband was relating a story to me about a friend of his with the last name Tibbitts and I rushed to my desk to put it down as Dunston’s last name. Great name.

And when it came to cities and places, well, that was much more of a challenge. Like Coranim. This is derived from the Latin, Corazon, meaning heart...and anima, which represents the feminine psyche and stands for soul for Spirit, esoterically speaking. So I put them together to make Coranim, the magical world beneath the Grandfather stands for Heart of the Planet. A lot of my city names come from people I know...such as Tay’lor. It is pronounced as two words..tay, then lor...however, in truth, Taylor is our son’s girlfriend. I’m really enjoying putting names of friends and family into the story...and they’re getting a huge kick out of it as well. I actually just spoke to a gal on the phone who was taking an order from me and her name was just staring up at me from my note pad and I finally said, “You know what, I think I’m going to use your name for a character in my book, it’s just so interesting.” She was thrilled. (Her name is Morlyn by the keep an eye out).

Tar Vigorn came from playing around with sounds and ideas with someone and we ended up putting Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn together...don’t ask me why, I couldn’t tell you now...but back then I had a reason! So now which direction to head into as far as characteristics and personality, looks, etc....this was the fun part.

My main inspiration came from the White/Ice witch in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe....the most dynamic and perfect evil queen ever for me, (although I gotta say, Cerlize Theron in the Sleeping Beauty movie was right on up there with perfection)...she was stunning in her manipulations and she was gorgeous. I really liked the idea of a magnificently beautiful Queen...they don’t all have to be green and ugly..or wear only black. No, not my Queen, she is striking and calculated. She is fierce, intelligent, creative and most importantly, flawed. Although there is nothing lacking in her magical powers..and there is where the rub lies. She’s not going to be so easy to defeat...if ever she truly is...(not going to give that one away).

So I began by picturing her as Anjelina Jolie, you know, that combo of beauty and bitch, but knows how to work her way around any obstacle...then I started thinking that was too obvious, so I shifted my mental image over to Jennifer there’s some serious brains added into the mix of sexy and masterful at her I had my evil Queen.

Her voice is syrupy smooth, slowly annunciating every syllable of her acid tongued pontifications. She toys with her audience, she winds them up into an emotional frenzy while keeping ever so cool and calculated. She doesn’t fluster easily...and what ever you do, don’t show her up...her wrath is paralyzing and terror filled. However, she is not without humor and loves a good game of long as she stays on top.

She wears daisies in her hair and has a propensity for horticulture...even if it is mostly magically induced, as her conservatory would imply. Her home is impeccably designed with ornate fireplaces of lapis and gold filigree framed art covering her damask walls, with black and ivory striped drapery, lined in gold silk, puddled onto the inky black onyx marble floors. Chandeliers dripping in crystals, giant urns filled with flowers, and a very special alabaster statue fountain in the main courtyard of a woman walking among swans and roses....I believe I’ll stop here, I simply cannot give anything away...however, when you come to the end of our story, I mean the entire end of the last book in the series...think back to this post and you’ll see that I gave you a very big insight into something very’re welcome!

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