CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 1 . . . . August 29, 2008
On her twelfth birthday, Chantel finds out that she is the Princess of Freedom, the protector of the Four Lands. It is her responsibility to find the four relics, created to remind humans of their good side, and to bring the relics back to her castle to defeat the Evil One who threatens the Four Lands. Chantel is not alone in her quest Ė she has the help of Mouse, Laluna who is a Winged One, and many other beings and creatures, as well as Mother Nature who will watch over her. The first relic that Chantel must recover is the Golden Sword, which has been hidden in the North. The Sword is also being sought by the Snow Walker, the Warlord of the North, who awoke the Evil One when he touched the Sword. There is not much time for Chantel's quest.
Oliver Neubert has created an intriguing world, full of interesting creatures and beings. Neubert has managed to create a wide variety of creatures and beings without resorting to the stereotypes of the genre. There are Winged Ones and Rock Climbers rather than elves and dwarfs. Although there is magic, there are no witches and wizards. Rather, there are Wise Ones who have functions and abilities beyond the use of magic. Neubert's creativity adds to the depth of his work and leaves the reader curious about what creatures and beings they may meet.
The characters are captivating and fairly realistic (as realistic as talking animals can be). There are only a couple of types of creatures which are completely good or completely evil. Most of the characters must decide for themselves whether to turn to good or to evil. As this choice is not permanent, Neubert has plenty of opportunity allow his characters to struggle with themselves as well as to explore their inner feelings. The internal feelings and struggles of the characters add to their realism by revealing their strengths and weaknesses, thereby allowing the reader to connect with the characters on many levels.
Since the land and its inhabitants are slowly revealed to the reader as the story progresses, the reader can discover things as Chantel does. As there are only a few times that the reader has information that Chantel does not, the reader has a much closer relationship with Chantel. This stylistic approach draws the reader more into the story.
In many fantasy books, the events being described are often the results of plans and other events from hundred or thousands of years before. In Chantel's Quest, the current events were only set in motion 85 years before, a much more manageable time frame for younger readers. The short time span also reduces the amount of historical background needed to understand the events and keeps the story moving along at a relatively steady pace.
Oliver Neubert has created an engaging first book about the Four Lands, with fantastic characters and a solid story.
Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen is a graduate of the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at UBC, Vancouver, BC.
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