A Tale of Witchwood Park by S.W. Develin is a heartfelt, humorous and insightful adventure.
Important life lessons come in many forms, and the boundless creativity of A Tale of Witchwood Park follows in that tradition – a memorable, amusing and profound piece of fantasy fiction for young readers. Based in the proud history of the magical genre, an unlikely band of heroes are assembled for a harrowing adventure to save the world from evil forces.
These young adventurers, however, have all the qualities of normal children, so they must not only overcome the False Queen and her minions, but also their own insecurities and fears. This book provides a literary landscape of whimsy and wonder, and packs every chapter with not-so-subtle parables and words to live by, making it perfect for the impressionable minds of young readers.
Kendra, Daniel and Jimmy couldn’t be more different, but they are the three children chosen by Tree Stump, an endearing forest troll, to fight back against the threat to all of Witchwood. While some fantasy novels for children are rather heavy-handed in their underlying life lessons, Develin blends real-world wisdom with escapist fantasy in a highly entertaining way. If there was one basic mantra of this story, it is that anyone can change their nature and grow into a better, braver and more compassionate person.
Jimmy had previously been a bully, quick to mock others or put them down, but his attitude changes once his companions begin to rely on him to be the hero. Daniel is largely ignored by his classmates, and has never felt a part of something before, but the friendships and bonds of trust that he forms with Jimmy and Kendra break him out of his shell. Finally, there’s Kendra, a charming young girl who has lost her only friend, and must find the strength and courage to save her against all odds. These three characters, who have more in common than they ever expected, are relatable in some way to almost every child trying to find their place and identity within the world.
The face-off between Kendra and the False Queen is the most obviously symbolic moment of the story, suggesting that everyone has the capacity for both good and evil. In other words, being kind and generous is a choice, rather than a predetermined destiny. This is the sort of repetitive theme present throughout the story that parents will appreciate and children will unconsciously absorb. When Jimmy and Daniel take on the Demon Guard, the Red Hoard and the Faceless, it looks as though all will be lost, but the trio of heroes rely on one another to persevere, bolstered by the many lessons they have learned during their journey in the woods. The bonds of friendship depicted in this book are nothing short of inspiring.
It is no easy task to seamlessly blend wisdom and thoughtful narration into an epic tale, particularly one that is targeted for children, but Develin’s talent and meaningful prose shine through. The pace of the story isn’t always consistent, and at times, it seems as though the author is rushing through the exposition or narration. The desire to reach the next “exciting” moment within a story is understandable, but a bit more patience wouldn’t have hurt the writing either.
Develin has certainly set the tone for the rest of this series, and with a strong core of characters already established, the next Witchwood installment will likely be even better – maturing and growing right along with the young heroes of this magical tale.
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