Thursday, September 17, 2015

Book Review: The Shadow of the Norman Arrow


The adventure starts again with the next trip into history for twins Joe and Jemima, their best friend and neighbour Charlie, and their talking Tonkinese cat Max. The twins are determined to find their parents, who are not dead, as everyone assumes, but merely lost in the pages of history. With the help of their ancient book and a magic key to open it, the kids have had quite a few forays back into some of history’s most significant and dangerous moments. This adventure is no less hazardous but the kids are up to it and Max, who totally eschews danger, violence and in fact anything uncomfortable, is not going to let Jemima get into trouble without him by her side to rescue her. The kids live with their Uncle Richard, a scholarly man who really needs a girlfriend. Things have been developing in the romance department between Uncle Richard and Charlie’s mum Ellen. Their relationship has progressed to the point of a family holiday in Normandy, France. Any history buff who knows their dates will think of 1066, the Battle of Hastings, King Harold, William the Conqueror, and the Bayeux tapestry.  Well, that’s exactly what the kids thought and that’s where they went in The Shadow of the Norman Arrow.

This time, however, Max is prepared for any danger or feats of derring-do he might be required to perform. He insists on wearing his chain mail and horned helmet especially made for him by the blacksmith in Camelot on their last adventure (The Shadow of Camelot). Will they be welcomed by King Harold and his men or will they be considered Norman spies, especially since, when questioned, the young strangers and their weirdly dressed animal seem to know far too much about events taking place right there and then, and even about the king’s family members? Events unfold filled with the kind of stuff young readers will love. The kids enter a forest to kill a dragon and bring back its blood (renowned for magical properties) for King Harold. Instead they meet a nadder (that’s right, not an adder; a nadder) and some wonderful word play ensues. There are a few heart stopping moments and some very scary moments as the story unfolds. I enjoyed how the kids saw their home city changed into what it would have looked like so many centuries ago and also the names of places and how these had changed, although not so much as to be unrecognisable. Charlie really shines in this tale because of his interest in history, and sometimes being a swot or know-it-all is very useful.

Once again author Wendy Leighton-Porter infuses historical facts with realism and a sense of ‘now’ for young readers. History can be cruel and many times was, but she does not shy away from hardships, decisions, warfare, and the kinds of things we, as modern readers, only discover in the pages of a book. One wonders how things would have turned out if the other side had won, if something had turned the tide in an event, and the kids learn once more that one cannot tweak history to make any changes. The title of the book, The Shadow of the Norman Arrow, is significant in relation to the death of King Harold on the battlefield and I enjoyed that subtle reference. History comes alive under the author’s skilled pen and any young reader will be drawn right into the magicality of history populated by characters that are not dry as dust mentions or mere names in the pages of a boring book, but are real people with dreams and ambitions.
For anyone who has seen the Bayeux tapestry, they may or may not have noticed a strange heraldic looking beast among the characters featured; an animal actually, rather resembling Max wearing chain mail and a helmet …
Could that possibly be Max in the bottom left hand image?
 
If you’re looking for more adventures, then please visit The Quest Books, where Middle Grade authors Cheryl Carpinello, Wendy Leighton-Porter and I have teamed up to offer readers an array of exciting quests. Sign up for our monthly newsletter with exciting exclusive material and get your choice of any e-book on the site FREE!
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