The Land Of The Silver Apples

Written by Nancy Farmer
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

This sequel to Newbery Honor author Nancy Farmer’s The Sea of Trolls finds the children of that book going underground after the Lady of the Lake steals bard-in-training Jack’s sister Lucy. Farmer’s 790 AD Britain is richly imagined and alive with magic of old gods as well as practitioners of the new Christianity.

There’s adventure galore for Jack as he’s joined by old friend berserker Thorgil and a new girl in his life, Pega, a slave. Of mysterious parentage, Pega is as beautiful in character as she is uncomely to look upon, and the quality of her singing exceeds Jack’s own, a source of envy. In their journey through a mushroom-rich underground, the Hobgoblin King Bugaboo falls into deep love and wants to make Pega his queen.

Lucy is found to be a changeling Elf with no desire to return with Jack. Elves in this universe are heartless fallen angels who dazzle all with the force of their “Glamour.” Jack’s actual sibling is called Hazel and is being raised quite happily as a cheerful hobgoblin. What’s boy wizard to do, except return with a half-elf who wants to be a nun and help a descendant of Lancelot regain his kingdom from an evil half-kelpie usurper? One gets the feeling that only a brief rest is in store for all before it’s on to Island of the Blessed in 2009.

Real characters with recognizable quirks and faults help keep the reader grounded in the exotic locales of this questing adventure. Although Jack’s petulance and sometimes willful ignorance can be hard to take, other characters take up the slack with grace, humor and courage to make this journey through mad monks, memory charms, changelings, elves and yarthkins a delight. Ages 10 and up.