CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 14. . . .December 3, 2010.
Elffolk and the Crystal Caves of Atlantis.
Calgary, AB: Small Shifts Books & Media Inc., 2009.
129 pp., pbk., $10.99.
Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.
Review by Meghan Radomske.
She glanced around and realized they weren’t alone in the meadow. A small herd of deer was resting nearby. To the west, a fox lay low in the grass and, throughout the meadow, rabbits crowded together in clusters.
Suddenly, a wild screeching sound filled the air. A black cloud erupted from the cliffs at the top of the mountain. The cloud shrank and grew and shifted shape as it approached. Enna watched with a mixture of curiosity and fear. It was like nothing she’d ever seen before. The cloud moved quickly in their direction. As it passed by overhead, she realized it was just a large group of bats.
Just then, the ground shifted under Enna’s feet. She reached out, hoping to grasp something solid, but everything around her was shaking, too. The sound of crashing trees echoed through the valley. Then came the sound of tumbling rocks, smashing through the forest. The elves and animals watched, silent and still.
A few seconds passed and the shaking stopped. Enna and Nissa stood in place, wondering whether they’d felt the last of it.
“An earthquake,” Nissa thought at last.
When an earthquake shakes the hidden village of Elffolk on the island of Atlantis, elf sisters Enna and Nissa find themselves on a journey to rescue one of the elder elves, Gael, from the Crystal Caves beyond the border where she has become trapped by a falling rock. Because the elves communicate telepathically, Gael’s cry for help is conveyed to the village members. Elffolk is a sheltered village guarded by an imaginary line and made invisible to outsiders by the high council of elves. Enna and Nissa’s foray to find Gael is the first time they have ever travelled so far from their safe home.
McFadden’s tale will delight young readers with its fantastical setting and action-packed plot. Enna and Nissa’s journey takes them into the enchanted Crystal Caves, a place of illusions where they soon learn that things are not as they seem. The sisters, together with the cat Mica, the true star of the story, encounter all types of creatures and situations intended to get the reader’s heart pumping, including quicksand, a giant attacking bird, a stampeding mammoth, and the Egoz. The Egoz are the dark and dangerous cave-dwellers who used to be elves, but who have long-since transformed into Gollum-like creatures whose materials obsessions have left them miserable and incapable of telepathic communication.
Enna and Nissa soon realize that the crystals in the caves magnify their energy and ideas, which is why they have encountered one fear after another. Enna makes every effort to follow their grandmother’s advice and think positive thoughts in order to ensure positive outcomes. This uplifting message permeates the story, as does the idea that obsession with material possessions will leave you broken and unhappy.
The relationship between Enna and Nissa is one of sisterly competition and collaboration. They are consistently juxtaposed in terms of timidity, leadership ability, height, and age, and yet their partnership reigns, affirming the message that together they can triumph over adversity. Mica, their feline partner and friend, is just as sarcastic and delightful as you imagine a cat would be if you could communicate with one telepathically. Mica lives for naps and snacks but fearlessly comes to the rescue more than once. Mica really does “glitter” as a character evoking the sparkly mineral that is his namesake and the Latin word micare.
The story wraps up extremely quickly with the release of Gael from the Egoz who have kept her captive. In exchange for Gael’s release, Enna promises to locate the mysterious white city depicted in a picture owned by the leader of the Egoz. The crew suffers one more danger at the hands of the Egoz before returning home in a classic depiction of the home-away-home motif popular in children’s books. Enna’s instructions to find the white city and the constant threat of the Egoz, combined with Gael’s secret information that she learned in the Crystal Caves—a secret which she refuses to share with the residents of Elffolk—suggest that McFadden intends to write a sequel or perhaps a whole series of Elffolk-inspired adventures. Although the story jumped chaotically from one catastrophe to the next and ended rather suddenly, children will enjoy the fast-paced plot, flowing prose, and fantasy-filled adventure.
Meghan Radomske is a student in the Master of Library and Information Studies Program at the University of British Columbia and the Writing & Book Camp Coordinator at Vancouver Public Library.
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