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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

The Serpent's Egg

Reviewed: April 26, 2005
By: J. Fitzgerald McCurdy
Publisher: Saratime Publishing Inc.
279 pages, $13.95

I bet you didn't know that there was an entrance to another world just under the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Maybe you guessed as much, based on the behavior we often see from those chambers, but you didn't know just how deep the problem ran.

Neither did Miranda D'arte. But then, there was a lot Miranda didn't know. She didn't know, for instance that a rift in space/time had opened in the Gatineau Hills and that a most malevolent demon who simply went by the name of Hate had emerged there.

Nor did she know that Hate had brought some minions with her, creatures known as Thugs, and that these creatures were headed Miranda's way with one simple set of instructions: FIND THE GIRL AND KILL HER!

All the warning Miranda had was a bad dream in which she was just inches away from being captured by something so awful it was only a matter of seconds before she felt the terror's sharp claws ripping through her spine.”

Her mother, a psychiatrist, dismisses her daughter's fears, but doesn't tell Miranda that she hasn't been entirely honest with her, even about such important matters as what really happened to her father. Dr. D'arte disappears from the story shortly after thinking, "Let it be a coincidence. Don't let them find us."”

Miranda is a bright grade four student, but she has a lot of trouble with a particularly nasty teacher named Mr. Little, a man we could easily see becoming more important to this story when the sequel comes into print. At this point he merely seems to be the worst problem that Miranda has, which just goes to show how little she really knows about trouble.

On the last day of school before Spring Break, Miranda faces a much needed skiing vacation, until Little sentences her to return with a large portion of the telephone directory copied out as a punishment. As it turns out, Miranda doesn't get to do either activity.

That night Miranda and her friends Arabella, Nick and Penelope find themselves stalked by a Thug, and rescued by Naim, a mysterious Druid (one of the five), who has come to keep Miranda safe, something he can only manage to do by spiriting her away to another world, the entrance to which is beneath the cliffs on which the Houses of Parliament are located.

The other world is Bethany. Miranda has connections there that she does not know about, and abilities that she has never been trained to use. During much of what follows she will have to trust her instincts over her reason in order to focus the powers of the bloodstones, powerful talismans that only she can use.

Along the way to a final confrontation with Hate, the companions, joined by elves and dwarves, have to face Trolls, Wobbles, a Dragon and other perils, as well as keep from doing anything irretrievably disastrous themselves. One of them almost fails that test.

The Serpent's Egg reads a bit like an updated version of the Narnia stories, without the overt Christianity of Lewis' books. While the kids seem a little too old for the ages they are supposed to be, this is often the case in this sort of novel. There is usually one child who has a lot more growing to do than the others, and Penelope fills that bill quite nicely, being something of a pint sized Cordelia Chase type.

With that comparison comes the idea that this little group of elementary school students does bear a slight resemblance to the Scoobie Gang in some ways, whether you mean the Scoobie Doo gang from the cartoons, or the older group from the Buffy the Vampire series. Despite the objections of the older and wiser heads who try to keep Miranda's companions out of harm's way, they come to function as a unit, and their strengths and weaknesses compliment each other. They are more successful together than any of them could be alone.

This book could have been a stand-alone fantasy, but McCurdy uses the very last paragraph of the book to set up a sequel. There were some other indications that this might happen, but that last paragraph clinches it.

While it is intended for the young teen crowd, this is an enjoyable little book for those who like the genre and it's very nice to see things happening on real Canadian turf again.

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