It was clearly a tree that had no business being where it was. The hulking fig had endless branches, as thick as telephone poles spreading out and into the sky in every direction, deep green leaves fanning out across each branch, dominating the ground with dark shade. Ewan gasped again as he saw twirling staircases tacked onto the tree itself, the largest of them all an impressive spiral staircase wrapped around the fig’s lighthouse-sized trunk. Ewan looked up further and saw that the spiral staircase went up to a wide platform that accessed even more stairways that had been built onto the tree’s many branches, so that it resembled a gigantic tree house.
– Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith by Shaun Hume
Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith by Shaun Hume
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review. In no way did this affect my review or my rating of the novel.
Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith is a young adult fantasy novel about a pre-teen in England’s foster system who finds himself passed from one family to the next every year, usually around his birthday. After being informed that he is once again not welcome in his family, he finds himself transferred to a school, rather than another family. And not just any school – a school for other Lenitnes children who, like Ewan, can see the invisible Creatures that coexist with the non-magical world. In Firedrake Lyceum, the shcool for other Lenitnes children, Ewan Pendle discovers the vivid world of his mysterious parents, as well as a true home, as strange as it may seem. As this new world reveals itself to him, Ewan uncovers a plot against the queen’s life, and with the help of his new friends Mathilde and Enid, he comes up with a plan to save the queen’s life.
Undoubtedly the best thing about this novel was the incredible detail in Shaun Hume’s world development. Ewan Pendle steps into a hidden world in the center of London, and this world is beautiful and interesting and diverse. Students at Firedrake start out as Level Ones, and then before year two are chosen for their cliques, with whom they will develop particular strengths such as stealth, magic, or martial skills. This selection felt more realistic to me than many similar schools in fantasy literature. Rather than sorting characters by personality like many, the cliques of Ewan Pendle instead train them on skills they will use as adults. I also really enjoyed the pirates in this novel – it was great to see a minority group that was looked down on but still kicked butt. Enid maybe was picked on, but it was always clear that she was the one in control of the situation, and I liked that she had overcome her background rather than trying to ignore the ridicule or even suffered in silence.
I will admit that I struggled a little with Hume’s writing style. I will absolutely say that this is a matter of preference – others might read this book and have no trouble with it, but I struggled a little with the pacing. As much as I appreciated the details of his world, I often found that when I wanted the action to move quickly, the writing would slow way down as the scene was set before the action happened – and I was tempted to skip over descriptive paragraphs that were quite good in their own way, but they just felt a little misplaced to me. Add to that Hume’s generosity with adjectives, and while his strength is undoubtedly his rich description, I sometimes had trouble following the physical movements of the characters.
The characters in this novel, although somewhat static, were still fun to read about. Each character had their own positive and negative traits, had distinct personalities, and were internally consistent. Enid was clever and aggressive but still careful, and certainly protective of her friends. Mathilde was quirky and curious to a fault. Ewan was the moral core of the group, wanting to do the right thing no matter what the consequences. Often in fantasy literature especially, characters start to blend together towards the end, as they grow and change, but this trio stayed consistent towards the end, and their particular personalities mixed well.
In all, I would rate this book a 7 out of 10. It would make a great read for any readers of young adult fantasy, especially fans of Harry Potter or The Mortal Instruments. However, this is definitely a light read so if you are looking for something with more adult themes, Ewan Pendle may not be your best bet.