In this second book of the Veil of Magic Series, Maureen Bush once again transports Josh and his younger sister Maddie from Castle Mountain in Banff National Park, where his family is hiking to celebrate Josh's twelfth birthday, to a magical land. In the first book, Josh and Maddie discovered a magical nexus ring which helped them cross the veil between the two worlds. The word "nexus" means connection and links the two worlds together. After exploring this land of magic, they eventually entrust the ring to a giant named Keeper for safekeeping.
Josh wants to return to this magical world using his limited magical ability. He is unsuccessful in opening the veil until Corvus, a strange black crow, helps them cross into the magical world. Greeted by the Keeper, they find out about the damage that the nexus ring has been causing. Although the ring helps to move between the two worlds, it also damages the veil, and harms the magical world itself. When the ring falls into the hands of the water spirit Aleena, the two pursue her to get it back so that the evil troll Gronvald does not find it.
Readers will once again be fascinated by a world of magic endangered by the movement between the human world and the magical realm. "Now human changes reach into our world, draining our magic." (p. 11) It is full of strange creatures such as the otter people, water spirits and evil trolls. In their travels to save the nexus ring, Josh and Maddie have many interesting adventures: disturbing the endangered Banff Springs snails, hiking up the Stanley Glacier, surviving a battering by hail stones, traveling in the flow of the waters with Aleena, and being imprisoned by tree spirits.
Throughout all these adventures, Maureen Bush is sending readers a clear message about the responsibility to preserve the natural beauty of our environment. The novel may take readers to a magical world, but they continually return to the real world. She tells us that, "Every living being counts." (p. 84) Readers who have not read the first volume in the series may have some initial difficulty understanding the situation and the characters. However, readers who enjoyed The Nexus Ring, will definitely enjoy this new novel of magic and adventure full of "rocks and wildness and ancient secrets" (p. 107) in the wilds of Canada!
Thematic Links: Magic; Supernatural; Banff National Park; Time Travel; Environmental Responsibility; Endangered Species
Reviewed by Myra Junyk
DECEMBER 03, 2010 by prairiefire Review of Books
Crow Boy is the second book in the Veil of Magic fantasy series by Calgary writer Maureen Bush for young readers in about grades three to five. In this series the magical world coexists with a modern Canadian setting — in the Rocky Mountains of Banff and the coastal areas of Vancouver Island. Children who know these regions will enjoy the dual settings, and those who don't can be encouraged to locate them on a map of Canada.
In the previous book, The Nexus Ring, we met eleven-year-old Josh and his eight year-old sister Maddy. On a return trip from a Vancouver Island holiday to their home in Calgary, Maddy buys an unusual green stone ring. Soon the children encounter a strange troll-like man called Gronvald and an elegantly dressed woman/water spirit named Aleena who helps them pass through a magic veil into a co-existing world. They discover that both creatures were after the ring, which rightly belongs to a giant living in Castle Mountain in Banff National Park. After exciting adventures in both the natural and magical worlds, the children finally manage to return the ring for safekeeping.
In Crow Boy, Josh and Maddy have convinced their parents to spend the Labour Day long weekend camping in the park near Castle Mountain. Josh wants to use his own developing magical powers to pass through the veil, meet the giant again and have another look at the magical ring. But when he accidentally drops the ring, it is snatched up by Aleena, who wants to use it to pass back and forth through the veil, an action that is slowly destroying the veil and allowing human changes into the magic world. The greedy troll, Gronvald, is also after the ring, for his own evil purposes, and the children are determined to get it back before disaster strikes. To do so they must travel with the thoughtless Aleena, convince her stop damaging the veil, and keep themselves out of the clutches of the evil Gronvald.
Into the children's adventures the author manages to weave interesting and educational details such as information about the endangered Banff Springs snails and the effect of global warming on our shrinking glaciers. She also emphasizes such values as cooperation and trust, and a respect for other creatures and the environment. As an adult I liked this, as well as the use of a western Canadian setting.
Although Crow Boy could be read on its own, most young readers would find it easier to understand the plot if they had read the first book in the series. Perhaps parents could purchase both together, since neither is very long.
Maureen Bush has written four books with some being short-listed for awards such as the Silver Birch and the Saskatchewan Diamond Willow.
Reviewed by Donna Firby Gamache
OCTOBER 8, 2010
***1/2 out of ****
Then my heart stopped as I heard a roar from below me. I stared down to see Gonvald leaping out of the wall of the mountain. I couldn't see where he'd come from ? it must have been from a cave or crevice in the cliff face.
He leapt for Maddy, bellowing "I want my ring!" His voice echoed back and forth against the mountains sounding like dozens of trolls surrounding us.
He hurtled down the mountain towards her, panting and furious. As he raced past, below me on the mountainside, I flung myself off the cliff above him, toppling him before he could reach Maddy. We rolled and bounced down a scree slope, loose rock sliding under us, dumping us down towards the lake. I could hear shouts from behind and above as the others scrambled to reach us.
We flipped over each other, bouncing off rocks, and then skidded to a stop against the side of a huge boulder. Gronvald was on top, pinning me to the ground. Rocks dug into me from below. I struggled and tried to throw him off, but Gronvald was bigger and heavier and much meaner. He grabbed my head, ready to smack it against the rock.
In Crow Boy, which follows on from the adventure, The Nexus Ring, that took place in July to Autumn, we again encounter Josh and Maddy on Josh's twelfth birthday. This is the second book in what might well become a series of adventures for two siblings, Maddy and Josh. In The Nexus Ring, Maddy and Josh discover a magical parallel world that is hidden from the human world. Magic folk could enter our world if they used this ring, but each time they use the ring, a rift or tear is caused in the veil that keeps the magical world safe from human pollution. Maddy and Josh rescued the ring from an evil Troll and became friends with several magical beings. Josh even developed the ability to do magic but lost it when he had to return to the human world. Using the pretense of a birthday treat for Josh, Maddy and her brother persuade their parents to go camping in Banff, and so they reenter the magical world and return to Castle Mountain.
This time, once more, the ring is in danger when a young crow, fascinated with the glitter, steals the ring only to have it stolen from him by Alleena, a treacherous water sprite. Both children cannot persuade her to return the ring to the Keeper, and so they accompany her on a series of adventures in water travel. These water adventures take them to China Beach in BC and to Banff's hot springs and also inside a mountain. Although continuously pursued by the evil Troll, Gronvald, the children eventually return to the Keeper, and Aleena returns the ring.
Throughout the book, there is an underlying message that humans destroy the magic in the world with pollution and lack of empathy for nature. Even though this is a serious theme, it is delivered quite naturally in conversations and in the responses of the loving otter parents, Greyfur and Eneirda who are worried about their offspring.
Crow Boy is an easy to read chapter book as well as a great introduction to the conventions of a fantasy adventure. The siblings' bond, as well as the faith the children have that they will survive the dangers of the adventure, provide the reader with a safe imaginary journey. It is a well written book with themes that will interest children who love nature and show an interest in the environment. As a fantasy, it will also appeal to children who can see magic in the world around them and are familiar with the trolls and giant from fairytales.
Review by Janet Margaret Johnson
Janet Margaret Johnson is a librarian and an instructor of Children's and Young Adult Literature at Red River College in Winnipeg, MB.