MAY 30, 2008
In this totally charming fantasy meant for the younger child who can read beyond chapter books, two children have a magical adventure. The Nexus Ring is the story of a brother and sister who play a make-believe game to overcome boredom on the long car ride between British Columbia and their home in Calgary after a summer visit with their grandmother. Whenever the family get to familiar landmarks, their mother suggests these places require a magical talisman to allow them to go through these "veils of magic." Maddy, the youngest child, finds a green stone ring on the floor of the tourist shop on the ferry between Vancouver Island and the mainland which becomes her magical item to get them off the ferry. Her brother, Josh, is skeptical about this game but plays along for his younger sister's sake.
On the ferry, they encounter a sinister looking man who turns out to be the troll who had originally stolen this ring from a giant called Keeper. The children also encounter a water sprite who takes the form of a human being who is also trying to get this ring. The troll follows the family and at a rest stop enchants their parents so they take off leaving the children behind. Aleena, the water sprite, rescues them from the troll and takes them through a veil of mist into an enchanted parallel world. Eventually, the children escape from Aleena, encounter another race of non humans who resemble otters, and reach the giant's castle.
The story has a happy ending with the children being returned to their parents without them having to call the police to report their missing children. The giant is a friendly giant who even replaces the magic ring that Maddy returns to him. There are a few environmental messages in the undercurrents of the plot in the guise of how wonderful the magical world is and how humans do so much harm, but otherwise all the storylines are neatly tied up and resolved.
Understanding the setting in the first part of the story might be a problem for readers from the east coast who have not taken the highways and the ferry terminal at Schwartz Bay, British Columbia. However, any child who likes to play "make-believe" could follow and enjoy the story and will overcome this difficulty. Readers will also relate to the relationship between and older brother and a younger sister and the need for the elder to protect his sibling from danger.
The dialogue is simple and direct. For instance, the author writes: "After a stop at the washrooms (Dad says travelers should pee whenever they get the chance)." This vocabulary may offend the sensitivities of some readers although I feel it would be language natural for children at the reading age for this book. The author offers rational explanations whenever necessary, and the story is a happy mix of dialogue and descriptions.
Even though this novel seems complete in itself, it would be a treat to read more of the adventures of these two interesting young characters. Except for the regional bias of the setting of this story, I would give it an excellent rating.
NOVEMBER 25, 2007
Calgarian Maureen Bush makes a great debut with a fantastic tale of magic and family. When Josh and his little sister, Maddy, play in their mother's game of magic to pass time on a road trip, Maddy finds a magical ring. They are then thrown into a full-fledged, magical adventure, running for their lives from an evil troll and a sinister water spirit.
A well-plotted story for tweens about trust and sibling relationships. Bush weaves a quick-paced and fun tale. Josh and Maddy are a great duo, and the creatures they encounter are fascinating and adorable.
Reviewed by Kate Larking.
The Nexus Ring (Veil of Magic: Book I) by Alberta writer Maureen Bush is a fantasy for young readers from about grades three to five, but one with a definite Canadian setting.
The story begins when Josh and his sister, Maddy, and their parents start their return trip home from Vancouver Island to Calgary, following a vacation with their grandmother. Josh is eleven, very interested in drawing and painting, while Maddy is just seven, more interested in playing games. To keep Maddy from being bored during the trip, their mother invents a game in which the children must locate various treasures to pass through different "magic veils" as they travel along. Before long, however, the game turns into a real magical adventure.
While on the ferry to the mainland, Maddy finds a green stone ring in the gift shop and decides to buy it, although a strange, almost menacing man desperately wants it too. Once on the mainland, the family begins their drive homeward, but Josh soon realizes that the man, whom he describes as a troll because of his ugly appearance, seems to be following them. Josh worries that he might steal the ring or kidnap Maddy, but his parents simply believe he's playing along with their mother's game. However, following a stop at the Giant Cedars, their parents mysteriously drive off, leaving Josh and Maddy behind. It seems that the strange troll/man is determined to have the ring and has cast some sort of spell on their parents.
An elegant, cloak-dressed woman called Aleena suddenly appears and offers to help the children escape from Gronvald, the troll. She takes Josh and Maddy through a mysterious magic veil into another world, still in the mountains of BC, but co-existing with the human world. Before long, they learn that Aleena is a water spirit and cannot be trusted either, as she also wants the ring. In trying to escape from the clutches of both Aleena and Gronvald, the children meet the "otter-people" and learn that the ring must be returned to the giant of Castle Mountain (in Banff National Park) for safekeeping. But to do so they must escape both natural dangers (such as an avalanche and dangerous rivers) and the magic of Aleena and Gronvald.
Children who enjoy fantasy will find this an exciting book. As an adult, I particularly enjoyed the liberal use of Canadian place names and geographic features. Young readers could be encouraged to follow the route taken by the children as they head home from Vancouver Island to Calgary, and to check out some of the places mentioned or visited, such as the Coquihalla Highway, Shuswap Lake, the Giant Cedars Boardwalk, Castle Mountain, and so on. The writer has also inserted interesting details of the real world, such as those about the Spiral Tunnels and the Great Cedars.
The Nexus Ring is the first children's book by Maureen Bush, but she is working on Veil of Magic, Book II.
Donna Gamache is the author of Spruce Woods Adventure (Compascore Manitoba) as well as many short stories for both children and adults.
Have you ever wondered how you would reconcile the whimsy of youth with the responsibility of growing older? Josh and Maddy needn't wonder, after adventure finds them during their trip home to Calgary, Alberta from Victoria, British Columbia. An imaginative and entertaining travel game quickly turns into reality for the two young adventurers, complete with mystery, villains and mystic creatures. Inspired by the whimsy and silliness of youth, Maureen Bush expertly crafts a world where children become heroes that fluidly shifts between reality and imagination.
Maddy, Josh's younger sister, finds a seemingly ordinary jade ring and is convinced it contains the "right magic" that, according to her mother, would ensure safe travel through the veils of mists that mark the family's journey home. Josh, is reluctant to believe in the magic until he notices someone following them. Grinvold, a troll from beyond the Veil of Mists, seeks the ring for himself and vows to take it from the children. An elegant yet malevolent witch from beyond the Veil of Mists, offers to help them keep the ring safe from him. She covets the ring for her own nefarious purposes.
Somehow the children must get the ring to safety and find their way home. They happen upon the otter people, who guide them through this magical world. As the children's quest to find their way home to their own world melds with the quest to keep the ring safe, they find themselves realizing the importance of cooperation, trust, friendship and respect for each other, their environment, and the friends they meet along the way.
Maureen Bush has a Post-graduate Certificate of Creative Writing from Humber College. She also holds a Bachelor's degree in History and a Masters degree in Environmental Design (Environmental Science), both from the University of Calgary. Ms. Bush was born in Edmonton and enjoys writing about children who effortlessly move between the realm of reality and imagination. She now lives in Calgary with her husband and two daughters and is currently hard at work on "Veil of Magic, Book II."