BY SEAN CLARK
Authors: Christine & Ethan Rose
Dalton Publishing, 2008.
Best eBook Deal: Free from Feedbooks
I tend to be skeptical of anything that is offered free without stipulation, especially over the internet. I came across Rowan of the Wood while perusing the Feedbooks catalogue on my iPhone Stanza app. I was pleased to learn that not only is this a complete book and a not sample segment nor littered with random advertisements, but it’s also a surprisingly good young adult book.
Rowan opens a tad slowly and Harry Potter-y (well, I shouldn’t give old JKR too much credit. Let’s say convential: Bookish orphan who is often bullied escapes into books until he and his outcast friends find empowerment thanks to a nudge from the supernatural), but soon finds its stride. The authors inject some nice bits of history into the tale that allow the story a fair share of freshness in a genre where books can quickly become stale.
Actually, my biggest gripe with this book is that they didn’t explore the historial elements enough. A large section of this book is backstory spanning more than a millennia, and because of this the book had the potential to be sprawling and rather epic and vast. I’ll summarize the plot in nutshell so you can see what I mean:
Rowan and Fiana are a Druid priest and priestess whose wedding is crashed by a murderous Christian raid. In order to save them, Rowan hides his bride and clan in the ethereal Otherworld. He is unable to escape with them however and becomes trapped in this own magic wand. Fourteen hundred years of being carried around the world in a relic, he is released by a nerdy California orphan, Cullen. To Rowan the millennia and a half felt like a day. Fiana however, wandered the globe during that time, searching relentlessly for her love. At first she extended her life by Druidish magic, helping people with her magic from era to era, but ultimately sold her soul and became a homicidal vampire in order to extend her lifetime, and her search, indefinitely. Needless to say, Fiana dipped into some rather wicked and Faustian evil and Rowan’s reunion with her is not what he’d expected.
Most of the chapters occur in the present and concern Rowan and Cullen, but there are chapters that follow Fiana through the ages: we see her escape an Inquisitorial witch burning and travel transatlantic to the New World at the turn of the century, to name two. This is where the book could really have benefited from some extra girth, as all this happens rather quickly. More time and page space here would really help express Fiana’s doomed loneliness as she wanders long spans of time alone and also help the reader realize that pining, broken-hearted anguish that is described but never quite conveyed satisfactorily. This falling short also causes the ending to read a little anti-climactic, though by no means a letdown.
Rowan of the Wood is billed as the first of a five-part series, and here’s hoping the authors wisely use that space to craft a lore all their own, spending a little more time with the characters and their histories in order to flesh things out on the pages a bit more. If they do, it could make for a charming little series rather than the cookie cutter, piggy backing shlock that many young adult series sink to in order to float the publishers’ bottom lines. But this book is good (and the ebook version is being given away free, with no strings, to garner interest for the series) so it’s worth a download.