T.M. Wallace, Goodreads
Published: August 22nd, 2018
Thirteen-year-old Cary and his sister Clarisse must return home every day after school to mind their eight year old brother, Gregory. “It’s a non-negotiable,” insist their work-obsessed parents. There is another problem. Clarisse and Gregory don’t like Cary much, and Cary doesn’t much like anything, especially being tagged with his gummy-fingered little brother. But their troubles are about to grow talons.
While bickering over the contents of a small, intricately embroidered pouch, the siblings unintentionally summon three mail-clad birds, who hasten their three young conscripts to Shelter Island, refuge to a long divided realm hidden from the children’s homeland for hundreds of years. Spotted above enemy territory, the small company is attacked. Clarisse and Gregory escape to the caves of Husgard. Cary’s captors dispatch him to Vangorfold, a centuries old stronghold sworn to Husgard’s destruction. Entangled in a centuries old conflict, the children’s own blur of problems comes into sharp focus, hastening the fortunes, for good or ill, not only of a forgotten civilization of birds, but of the children’s homeland.
A Peculiar Art in Good Company: Why I Write Fantasy
I suppose it should come as no surprise that after becoming a Christian at age twenty-one (another story), and having been immersed in theatre and literature since early high school, that the works of C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, Walter Wangerin Jr., Flannery O’Connor, George MacDonald and many other Christian authors would become the staple of my literary diet. And rather than having my kindled imagination extinguished at my baptism, the glorious gift of my youth burst into unquenchable flames.
But writing Fantasy is not so much a phoenix of the imagination, though it is very much that, as it is a distillation, an art of entanglement similar to what poetry is to prose. It casts the tangible world, the spectrum of our emotions, the elusive subconscious, and more significantly, the homely and resplendent aspects of the spiritual, as actors in a corporeal pageant. The following is a line from a submission letter describing my latest children’s fantasy novel, inspired by George MacDonald’s classics for adults, Lilith and Phantastes: “Will’s longing for his father ignites a dramatic and fateful quest into [Secret Book Title], a country turned inside out; a land in which the invisible spiritual world has transformed into creatures of elemental power.”
Merely repeating ‘creatures of elemental power’ sets the calm surface of my imagination churning. Disillusionment, for example, is no longer “a feeling of disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be;” it is the worm “That flies in the night/ In the howling storm:” which has “found out thy bed/ Of Crimson joy:/ And his dark secret love/ Does thy life destroy.” Excerpt from The Sick Rose by William Blake. For the author of fantasy the ‘worm’, an organism corrupting the heart of love, has been cast as the new antagonist in an epic plot. In fact, Wyrm, has long been a literary type in the genre.
Speaking of history, as an initiate in the genre, a writer pulls up an old, leather wingback chair at the sage-worn hearth of literary tradition. Recall John Bunyan’s allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, whose timeless message still packs a punch, or George MacDonald’s fantasies for children, such as The Princess and the Goblin, or his tender examination of gender and human frailty in The Day Boy and The Night Girl, or his adult fantasy Lilith, a haunting tale of obsession and betrayal, a mythic odyssey of death and rebirth. The author of The Time Trilogy declared her fantasies [works] are her theology. “Part of fantasy,” says Madeleine L’Engle, “is moving beyond that which is limited to that which is unlimited and helps us to grow and develop and be.” And merely whispering the names of Edith Nesbit, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who set the bar for the genre, elicits a profound appreciation for their peerless contribution to the Fantasy Literary genre — moreover, their holistic encouragement to our spiritual well-being. I am happy to be serving tables among such company.
“He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods; the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.” – C.S. Lewis, On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature.
Clarisse hovered over the tiny artifact the same way her parents would have conducted their research. The letters on the scroll were written in the same spidery golden threads of the embroidered feather on the pouch. She hesitated to check a word.
Three fair feathers travellers are,Bearing friends or foes afar.Bound together, by bearers three,Summons three bearers to bear ye.
“It’s a riddle,” said Gregory, his eyebrows climbing with each new revelation.
“Maybe,” said Clarisse, who had recalled a passage from a story she had read. “It sounds more like an enchantment.”
About the author:
John Paul Tucker holds degrees in Theatre and Theology and has many years of experience as an Ontario Certified English Language Teacher, in addition to teaching mime, puppetry and Drama to teens and children. His unique journey has furnished him with an eclectic head of ideas.
He is currently celebrating his 50th article on TheWriter'sLessonBook, an educational website he created for writers, featuring writing tips and techniques harvested from the books we love to read. He has published poems in the Toronto Sun, Little Trinity Print Magazine and Imago Arts e-magazine. His poem City Sidewalks won first prize in a Toronto wide poetry contest. Two of his short stories, The Crooked Tree and The Debt Collector have each won a prize awarded by The Word Guild and The Prescott Journal respectively. You will find one of his fantasy stories recently published in the popular Hot Apple Cider anthology Christmas with Hot Apple Cider. JP has been busy polishing up The Rooster and the Raven King & The Rise of the Crimson King, Books II & III of The Song of Fridorfold trilogy, pursuing Cary, Clarisse and Gregory on their fantastic adventures.
John Paul is excited to be putting the final touches to his fourth novel, a YA fantasy inspired by the remarkable storyteller, George MacDonald. Gather the latest news about JP’s upcoming novels, enjoy a book trailer, dive into some free stories and poems, contribute some art work, take a peek at some photos, or for no other reason drop by to say hello at his official author website.
John’s latest book is the middle grade fantasy adventure, Shelter Island.