Kevis Hendrickson has created a gentle tale full of humor and morals in The Legend of Witch Bane. The novel opens with young Princess Anyr being taken away by the evil High Queen. Some years ago, the kingdom agreed to sacrifice ten girls a season in exchange for peace.
This time, though, things are different, both because the High Queen is determined to have one of the royal girls and because Anyr's brother refuses to accept the loss of his sister.
Thus begins an adventure that is as much about growing up and taking responsibility as it is about magical beings.
Hendrickson's tale is fairly easy to follow. As in many quest-driven stories, the young adventurers travel from one place to another, facing obstacles and danger. They often attempt to get out of danger by fighting, but ultimately learn that the power of love and confidence trumps brute force.
Each adventure is entertaining in its own right. Hendrickson slips in allusions from classic mythology, fairy tales, and even nursery rhymes. In one humorous escapade, Anyr even comes to face with a mean old lady who lives in a shoe.
This is not to say that the story does not have its moments of pathos. The story's heart is that of three brave children struggling against a cold, evil world, and the emotional arc of the relationship between the children is never far from the surface. All in all though, this story is hopeful, optimistic, and entertaining.
I was put off by the length of this novel at first; at 300+ pages, it seemed too long for a children's story. I am happy to say, though, that I sailed through it in less than three hours, so engrossed that I didn't realize time was passing.
Hendrickson's only downfall is his stylistic choice. He uses an unseen narrator, a grandfatherly type who one can imagine telling the story to a child before bed. At times, this narrator can be somewhat intrusive, interrupting the narrative to say that he feels it is best to change scenes. This is a minor point, however, and easily overlooked because the story itself is interesting.
Legend of Witch's Bane is suitable for preteen children. It includes some violence and a death scene that may be upsetting to younger readers. It is sure to evoke interest in those children who enjoy battles of good vs. evil, complete with magical creatures, places where you can see into the future, and the like.