It was a blustery wintry day in April in North Texas. We frequently see winter’s last gasp of malice somewhere around Easter, and on this particular day, it was bitter and damp which meant that no one was venturing forth from their bundled blankets, hot chocolates, and fires, certainly not to attend a book festival. (We Texans can brave many things, but the cold is rarely one of them.)
So, I sat at a table in a hall full of expectant vendors and empty of excited readers. I doodled to pass the time. It had been several hours since anyone other than a vendor had visited my table, so I figured my lack of artistic skill couldn’t scare them off. This is the nature of the business you learn. Some book events are so bustling you sell out of every copy and have to take orders. Some book events are like ghost towns, and the vendors are hungry ghouls lying in wait to pounce on the first unsuspecting reader to stumble through the door. And sadly, occasionally, even the weather pits itself against you.
Eventually, I decided to stretch my legs and stroll along the other tables to gauge the competition I might have to battle for said unsuspecting reader. I found myself wandering past tables full of picture books, cookbooks, historical fiction books, nonfiction books … and then … a title caught my eye, and beside it, a bookmark bearing the image of a sword and the phrase “Keep waiting, keep hoping.”
This, I thought, is more like it.
The author was not at the table, but I snagged a bookmark and stored the title in the back of my mind—an Oxford don’s office, is how I picture that space, complete with paneled walls lined with maps, dark-wood bookshelves, a crackling fire, and stacks of books and papers and random notes scattered everywhere—in case the opportunity to read it arose again.
That book was none other than The Eagle, The Cave, and the Footbridge by Robert B. Sloan. So, when I received an email inviting me to read and review both the first and second book in the Hamelin Stoop series for Cultivating, I leapt at the chance.
The Hamelin Stoop series is set in West Texas and is a portal fantasy story of sorts where the lines between our world and others are blurred, and characters can cross over from one to the other. It follows young Hamelin Stoop who was discovered on the threshold of the Uptown County Children’s Home as an infant and has always longed to find his family and know where he belongs. When he stumbles across a mysterious cave and a giant talking eagle, he discovers that he has been called into an adventure that is bigger and harder than anything he ever could have imagined.
This series would make a delightful read-aloud for families looking for an adventurous allegorical read, and is best suited for middle grade readers. The story begins at a slow, measured pace in The Eagle, The Cave, and the Footbridge, providing time to get to know the characters and watch them age and grow over the course of the book. Because of the large span of time that is covered, the first book feels like it truly hits its stride at the midpoint, launching into the adventure that continues at a heartier pace in book two, The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna. Several new, fun characters and settings are introduced in this second book, and the quest-like feel will be appreciated by young fantasy fans.
One story element that, although handled delicately, might prove troubling for some young readers is the husband and wife who are kept in captivity for the purpose of bearing a prophesied child and are threatened by their captors to force them to conceive. Still, with talking animals, poignant allegorical themes, imaginative landscapes and adventures, this series makes for a fun and intriguing read for young boys and girls looking for a taste of peril grounded in hope in their fiction.
Gillian Bronte Adams is a writer, wanderer, and wordsmith who is rarely found without a coffee in hand and rumored to pack books before clothes when she hits the road. Working in full-time youth ministry left her with a passion for journeying alongside teens as they follow after Christ. Combined with her lifelong love of story, that passion drew her to pursue the art of writing young adult fantasy novels, like The Songkeeper Chronicles, that ring with the echoes of eternity. Her favorite stories feature outcast characters traveling down broken roads, through epic battles, and onward toward adventure. At the end of a long day of typing, she can be found saddling her wild thing and riding off into the sunset, provided she has not already settled down a mug of coffee and a very long book.