Thursday, October 28, 2021

Official Book Review: Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon by Eve Cabanel

Tis no secret I have a special fondness for stories out of Faerie; in fact, I am currently researching Slavic mythology and am beginning with fairy tales. But, as I detail in my page about Faerie, very few Fantasy authors truly sojourn into Faerie proper since capturing that fairy-tale/fable quality/world and atmosphere is difficult at best. The twins keys, I think, are beginning with the understanding that your story – however grand – is just one small segment of an incomprehensibly vast land, and of giving the reader a sense of that vastness. Indeed, this is why I have an unyielding respect for all authors who truly enter Faerie.

"Faerie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold...The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveler who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost." - J.R.R. Tolkien

But not all authors aim for grand tales, Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees, The Golden Key by George Macdonald, and Instructions by Neil Gaiman being perfect examples. Of these I think the third, Gaiman's Instructions, captures Faerie best – yet it only a picture book! A short picture book which can be read to and loved by very little kids; a fact I know seeing as I sent copies to my cousins' children. But they can be and absolutely are loved by adults too.

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” - C.S. Lewis

Which is why when Eve Cabanel contacted me requesting that I read and write a book review for her picture book Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon I could not refuse. Yes, you heard right; this is my first ever Official Book Review written on Stars Uncounted. I have always held Faerie to be roughly divided into sections: the lighter childlike area full of mystery and wonder tempered with real danger and grief, the regions seemingly governed by capricious forces with a cruel sense of ironic humor where humans are far more likely to encounter danger than not, and the places between. Tolkien calls it the Perilous Realm for a reason. And Eli and the mystery of the Hallowshine dragon by Eve Cabanel takes place in that first, lighter area, in the enchanted forest of Cucuruzzu where dwells a moon elf named Eli and her humanoid rabbit friend Luna.

But something is happening, for now each night strange crystals litter the forest floor the touch of which changes one into hard rock candy – and Luna's baby Doudou is so transformed! Thus begins a 24-hour journey in which Eli and Luna race against time to seek out the legendary and terrifying Hallowshine dragon, a great beast whose power alone can save little Doudou. But this is Faerie, and even natives to the enchanted forest must follow the rules and face the dangers, from a unicorn's riddle to a malevolent merfolk and, finally the Hallowshine Dragon itself. A journey which solves the mystery of the crystals and teaches Eli not only what it means to be courageous for a friend's sake, but something about herself as well; indeed, I was left most intrigued about her moon elf nature. All told, this is a lovely little tale out of Faerie that fits all my qualifications as, while I do not pretend to compare Eve Cabanel to Neil Gaiman, she has successfully invoked the the vastness of the Perilous Realm.

(P.S. If you, dear reader, are an author/publisher and reading this review makes you want to ask me for a review too then PLEASE read my Contact Me? page.)

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