Title: Ela Green and the Kingdom of Abud
Author: Sylvia Greif
Genre: YA Fiction / Fantasy
When fourteen-year-old Eleanor “Ela” Green is sulking in the attic following another argument with her Mum, she finds a beautiful, ancient bracelet and scroll in an old desk. Although Ela had already sensed she may be different, little does she realize the powerful destiny the bracelet will unlock for her.
Ela Green and the Kingdom of Abud is the first book in a YA fantasy trilogy and capably lays the foundation for the series. The story contains a number of familiar ingredients for a YA novel of this type, including boarding school, hidden relics, magical transportation, prophecies, and buried family secrets.
When these elements are combined with time traveling through continents, worlds, and centuries, the plot occasionally becomes dizzyingly busy. There is a lot of information to digest in the opening chapters, but Greif’s passion for her titular character and worlds created in Ela Green is contagious, and when that happens, readers are often in for a treat.
Ela is, overall, a suitably convincing protagonist who grows in strength and suitable maturity. As the narrative progresses, Ela becomes more self-aware and the teenage reader is kept alongside her in the moment, sharing the adventure with the correct amount of age-appropriate intensity, impatience, and drama.
Greif has also given Ela just enough naivety and guile to appear credible within the story, and she accurately taps into that curiously one-dimensional, and slightly derisive, view that teenagers sometimes have of adults.
However, Ela’s voice could have used a few tweaks to add a touch more fourteen-year-old realism. Notwithstanding, it makes a refreshing change that a teenage character is not overly sarcastic, which can be tiresome to read, and likely unfair to the target audience.
Uncle Archibald is reassuringly appealing, and he is the understated star of the book. Non-judgmental and guiding rather than critical, he is the perfect balance and foil to Ela’s occasionally headstrong behavior. Their relationship is both touching and authentic. His knowledge not only drives the plot forward but provides little educational nuggets which are neatly strewn throughout his conversations.
The lesser characters are as developed as they need to be at this stage. Greif has been careful to provide explanatory context without overshadowing the mechanics of the plot. The dastardly duo of Miss Petersen and Count Alexander Sigismund are appropriately sinister, and the dynamic between them has a whisper of contemptuous comedy.
The heart of the story in Ela Green and the Kingdom of Abud is relatively straightforward, and Ela’s increasing awareness of her connection with the natural world is intriguing and current. Nonetheless, large areas of the narrative draw from, and detour into, the realms of Norse mythology, Greek legend, and Egyptology.
These classical references are solidly researched and make the novel deeply involving and informative. Writerly care has been taken to ensure that relevance to the story is maintained, but a glossary or footnotes may have been beneficial for reader consolidation.
The novel excels when Ela and Uncle Archie have their “passage” to the mythical Forest of Kapok in search of the Book of Name. The descriptive writing is wondrously vivid, fantastically whimsical, and yet entirely believable. There are some lovely details, such as the talking rock, Gubblew, and as the pace quickens, the novel becomes hard to put down.
Ela Green and the Kingdom of Abud is a solid beginning to a trilogy that promises to be entertaining and enchanting. Weaving history, myth, and present-day together, Greif takes the YA reader through an ambitious and absorbing plot into a beautifully imagined world of fantasy and adventure.
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