My thanks to Booktasters and the author for a review copy of this book.
Ela Green and the Kingdom of Abud is the first of a fantasy–adventure series set around the theme of humans’ disconnect with nature, and based on myth and legend.
Eleanor or Ela Green is fourteen and studies at a boarding school in Switzerland, Waldegg, a place with an interesting history and some mysterious happenings in the past. She is good-hearted and has a deep bond with nature, finding comfort, for instance in talking to the old oak tree at home. When our story opens, Ela is home for the holidays and when in the attic of her house, she comes across a strange bracelet and scroll with an unknown script. Turning for help to her uncle Archie, a scholar, she finds the bracelet is the path to a hidden land, one she can reach using the spell on the scroll. Back in school, she makes an attempt and after working out how it is to be done, actually finds herself in a mysterious place, in the presence of none other than Yggdrasil, the tree of myth. Excited but also nervous, she finds that she is the subject of a prophecy because of her good heart and connect with nature, and must undertake a journey in this land to find something. The journey is not a simple one and she must face challenges that will test her in many ways. She decides to confide in Uncle Archie who agrees to help.
Meanwhile at school too, all is not well, for her nasty headmistress Miss Peterson and the school’s new owner Count Sigismund are taking a special interest in Ela. But is it Ela or the bracelet that they’re really interested in?
Alongside these developments, we get some glimpses of past events, both the happenings at Waldegg and how Ela’s ancestor came by the bracelet and scroll, taking us to not only ancient Egypt but also Atlantis!
This was a fun and enjoyable read that also brings up issues of relevance to the current context, including man’s insatiable greed, destruction of nature—be it trees or the oceans or all that comes in their path—and also our increasing disconnect with nature and inability to understand or communicate with it.
Being the first book in the series, this one essentially introduces us to the story and characters and sets the scene for what is to come. We learn a little of Ela’s story, how she became the subject of the prophecy, how the bracelet and scroll passed into her family’s hands and some glimpses of the connection her school and some there have with the land of Abud. There are of course plenty of questions still to be answered, some to do with Ela herself and others about the prophecy and what it really means, and what some of the characters hope to achieve, which I assume will be resolved in subsequent instalments.
Ela and Archie are likeable enough, though one does wonder about Archie’s interest in the magical world given what he already knows about it. I liked Ela’s bond with trees and nature, though I think it would have worked better had it come through more before the adventure started rather than in retrospect. Also I felt that when Ela is shown as really wanting to go to the mysterious world she learns of, her reaction on arriving there of wanting to run back immediately was a touch extreme. But other than that it was nice to see how she navigates this new world using her qualities.
The descriptions of the world itself were vivid and enjoyable—the colours, the trees, music and its magic. Given its connection to legends, one also wonders what magic it truly holds and what the wrong person might do with it. The weaving in of different mythical aspects from Yggdrasil himself to the Egyptian god Thoth and even Atlantis was something I also enjoyed very much (also historicak aspects like the mention of the Rosetta stone)
Though I knew this was a first in series, I’d have preferred that we got a complete story with threads open to be explored rather than being left on a cliffhanger especially since we only just start to explore Abud, and are barely finding our feet. We’ve also met two different sets of ‘villains’ whose interests seem opposed but are yet to see what they’re really after.
Overall I quite enjoyed this adventure and look forward to exploring more of this world. A small dampener though was some references to old Egyptian medicine etc. which sadly reflected the typically Western/colonial stereotyping. 3.8 stars