"Loved it! Perfect for young readers wanting a relevant, uplifting book that dances between modern day and fantasy. [...]
Keeping the magic alive and helping to believe. Perfect combo!" Amy, Goodreads
Published: October 9th, 2018
Willow Bloom's biggest challenge is to organise her thirteenth birthday party. However, a walk in the woods near her home provides some big surprises - a mystical guardian from another world, a magical forest, and the discovery that her parents are part of a secret order that protects dreams. With the discovery comes a calling. A prophecy tells of a young one who can push back the dark forces that threaten to corrupt our hopes and dreams. Is Willow that young one? Can she take on the forces of evil, the Underlord Maliceius, and win?
An early walk through the woods
Peonie’s arms opened out to the trees. Instantly a rustling of leaves filled the woods around them and dozens of small people crept out from behind the tree trunks.
Willow stood stunned. How was this possible – in the woods behind her home? How could she have not seen them before? “Who are they?” she asked, her gaze darting from an old man with a long beard to a rotund woman not much more than knee-high.
Peonie moved in closer to the Little People. “Goodwill to you all. It is delightful to be in your presence once more.” She gazed upon them before turning back to Willow. “These are the Wood Folk. They are the caretakers of these woods, and attend to the many life systems that keep them vibrant. These are the Beings that your world refers to as gnomes or elves.”
“They’re real?” Then, realising how rude that must have sounded, Willow wished she could take the words back. Of course they were real! They were standing right in front of her! “Sorry,” she said in a low voice, turning pink.
“There is much that your world does not see,” Peonie said. “In past times there were a small number of people outside of the Keepers’ world who could see the Wood Folk. The stories and myths of gnomes and elves originated from those sightings and experiences.”
The tallest of the Wood Folk stood only as high as Willow’s hip. Willow tried making meaningful eye contact with some of them, but each time she met with a pair of silver-grey eyes the size of egg yolks, that were spontaneously lowered. Eventually one of the Wood Folk smiled with a wide mouth. Even being half her size, this young man looked as if he could carry twice his weight. Willow smiled back.
Peonie gestured for Willow to say something.
She cleared her throat. “Hi. I’m Willow. This – you – it’s really great to be here!” Not the best introduction she had ever delivered but nothing else came to mind. “I can’t believe I’ve been coming to these woods for all these years and… you’ve always been here! You’ve probably seen me here heaps of times!” The thought of that sounded a little creepy, but she quickly shook it off. They were gnomes and elves after all.
The Woodsman who had smiled at her came forward. “I’m Fergus,” he said in rumbling tones. “We have seen you in our woods many times. We’ve been keeping them in good shape for this day,” he beamed. “They’ll be ready.” He stepped back and shuffled in amongst his friends.
Willow noticed Fergus’s face redden as the Woodsman standing next to him gave him a gentle nudge. She wondered what his last comment meant – about the woods being ready.
“I’m Hendra,” a Woodfayre in the front row said. A thick lock of her rusty coloured hair fell across her face and she quickly pushed it aside. She looked up with a coy smile. “Pleased for you to see us, Willow.”
“Hi,” Willow said. “I’m pleased that I can see you too.”
Peonie now stood beside Willow. “A gathering such as this,” she declared, “has not been witnessed here for a very long while. It is time to dust off the cobwebs of the past century and initiate this Sanctuary into her duties once again. Her dormancy has been broken!”
The Wood Folk nodded and clapped. Several even cheered.
“Wow,” Willow said under her breath. All this because she had woken up feeling strange this morning!
Peonie spoke to some of the Wood Folk individually. Willow heard the phrase “Sanctuary fields and portal anchors” – which didn’t make any sense.
The Wood Folk Peonie had been talking to bowed graciously and began to move away. Peonie turned back towards Willow. “My return journey to the Guardians Realm is approaching.”
“When will I see you again?”
“When the time is right, I will return.”
Huh? When exactly would that be? Willow sneaked a glance at her watch, a treasured gift from one of her grandmother’s many trips. It was already well past midday! Thanking the Wood Folk for welcoming her, she assured them that she would be back soon. They slowly moved away, blending back in amongst the trees, then disappeared. The sound of crunching leaves faded into the distance.
“Willow,” Peonie said, “I know many of your questions are still unanswered, but they will be answered in time.” They headed along a leafy path towards Willow’s home.
“I’ve still got heaps to ask you! Like, who are the Dream Keepers? And what exactly does a Light Keeper do? And the Sanctuary… what does that mean? What’s it for?”
The Guardian of Doorways gave a slight bow. “I understand your questions, Willow, and I, along with your parents, will be able to answer many of them. However a journey is travelled one step at a time, and your first step today would be considered a leap.”
Not quite the answer she was looking for. This walk home through the woods was very different from her walk into the woods that morning. For one thing, she no longer thought she was going mad; for another, she now had Peonie walking along beside her too – as if it was the most normal thing in the world to go for a walk with a being from another world. She could also feel an even stronger connection with everything around her. These were her woods, her secret Sanctuary! “Now I know why I’ve always loved coming here. Thanks for showing me all of this, Peonie.”
“You are most welcome. I and many others are grateful that you have begun to Awaken. Your world is already better because of it.”
Willow’s eyes welled with tears, though she had no idea why. She smudged them across her cheeks with her sleeve and walked on silently. In no time at all, they were approaching the path that led to the Cottage.
“It’s still hard to believe that this is real, that it’s really happening,” she said.
“It was an honour to appear before you after a long absence.” Peonie gazed upon Willow thoughtfully. “Until the moment of our next meeting, Willow, I bid you goodwill.”
As Willow watched, Peonie’s features became less defined, and within moments the Guardian was once again a green mist, twisting slowly, then dissolving into nothingness.
About the author:
Elizabeth Farrell was born and raised in rural Victoria, Australia. She worked for the Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne before moving to London to work for the Mail on Sunday newspaper there. After spending all of the 90's living and working in the UK, she returned home. Elizabeth currently resides in rural Gippsland, Victoria where she lives with her husband and two sons.
Fields of interest: Philosophy, Spirituality, Archaeology, Environmental Sustainability, Health and Nutrition, Yoga, Swimming, Cooking.
The inspiration behind the book: I wanted to write a book that inspired and empowered our next generation of people. With so many dystopian views and stories out there, I felt it was important to portray a more hopeful future.
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