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Posted 7/14/03: Oak's Book Review: Pentalia

For twelve year old Alexandra Elizabeth Bosk and her little brother Michael, it started as just another ordinary day, at least until they found themselves running to escape a mysterious blue fog and falling into a hidden cave - and the strange, magical world of Pentalia, a fantasy novel by Amanda Evans and illustrated by Susan Tate.

Written for children ages eight to twelve, Pentalia takes the reader into a fantastic journey to save the king of a land where trolls attack without warning, seemingly solid objects are portals to new locations, and magic crystals can transmute matter and enable humans to understand animal speech. While the story takes intriguing twists and turns, and explores psycho-social concepts that will keep older readers' interest, the modest 109 page length and simple language utilized throughout make Pentalia a perfect introduction to fantasy for the younger reader too. Concerned parents will be pleased to know that although there are some scattered segments of violence, they are not overly graphic or gory in description. And, while magical items turn up regularly, there is no mention of witchcraft, wizardry or other reference to anything even vaguely associated with "the occult," so you probably aren't going to be put into the position of having to remind  any well-meaning individuals who the parent is, if they find this book in your child's possession.

Rated on a scale of, say, one to Harry Potter, I have to give this book a.. well, I've never read Harry Potter so I don't know what to rate it exactly. But I do think most children from beginning readers to those around the 6th grade level would enjoy this novel. Older or more advanced readers may find the writing style a bit juvenile, but will still probably enjoy the storyline. All in all, I have to recommend this book to both Pagan parents and to anyone else looking for ways to introduce their children to the exciting world of fantasy.

Pentalia copyright © 2001 Amanda Evans, is published by Sunflower Press, Austin, Texas, ISBN 0-9647783-0-0 with a listed price $13.95. You can buy Pentalia online at  www.pentalia.com.
 

Posted 7/8/03: Let's see, what hasn't gone wrong lately?

This spring, the rear end in my old (usually) reliable Isuzu Trooper finally gave up the ghost. Not that I didn't have a little warning. It's been making noise and vibrating for, oh, about five years, ever since the first high-speed fourteen hour drive from east Tennessee to Tulsa, Oklahoma and back. It never occurred to me when I bought the thing that the differential could be dry, but apparently it was. By the time I got back to town, the driveshaft was flailing around threatening to beat its way through the floorpan. "Well," I figured, "the damage is already done. Might as well drive it until it breaks." So I tightened up the pinion nut and secured it with a bit of thread sealer, topped up the gear lube and continued to drive it. That worked until earlier this year, when I found myself on another trip to visit my Mom in Alabama. 

I was just about to hit Chattanooga when the rear end began to make what my first wife used to commonly refer to as "a funny noise." But this was not the same noise the engine in her car used to make when she'd drive it for a week with the oil light on. This was more the sound I'd imagine would result if you were to toss a chain-link fence through a high-speed industrial chipper-shredder, sort of a roaring/screeching/metal-rending sound. I quickly weighed my options. I could either pull over and be stranded two hours away from both home and my destination, or I could limp along at a greatly reduced speed and hope nothing actually flew apart before I got there. Being the adventurous sort, I naturally chose the second option and immediately dropped down to 70 MPH for the duration of the trip, enduring the vibration by clenching my teeth (to keep my fillings intact) and my cheeks (to keep from flying out of the seat and hitting my head on the roof.)

Amazingly, I made it. When I got there, the rear end was actually smoking, but the car still moved of its own accord. Not so amazingly, I had to replace the entire rear end. Oh well, it was bound to happen sometime, so about $700 later I was back on my way home. The car performed flawlessly, and I made it into the driveway with five minutes to spare before I was supposed to meet our daughter Willow at her school for an awards dinner. I ran in for a quick bathroom break, grabbed my camera and jumped back in the car to head for the school. I backed out of the driveway and made it another 200 yards before the timing belt broke.

That was another $130, since the next day I had to have the car towed in and repaired while I was at work, but it should hold the engine for a while. Now at least I can worry about other things, like the leak that sprung in the fuel tank. To find (and fix) that, I had to remove a protective skid plate that surrounded the tank. This item was standard equipment on the '86 Trooper, because this was a rough, tough, off roadin' machine. Ironically, it was also the reason the fuel tank rusted through because it rubbed on one corner. Tank is now patched and the skid plate is serving to hold some junk in my garage. I don't off-road much anyway.

What I do enjoy is websurfing. This also became sort of an adventure this summer because the cooling fan went bad on my PC's power supply. It still turned, just not very fast. It also made its own "funny noise," sort of a "grunk-grunk-grunk.." sound. After a few hours of this, the CPU would overheat and the PC shut down until it cooled off. Then it would reboot and run fine for another couple of hours, or sometimes even days, before dying again. After several weeks of this aggravation, I finally laid my hands on the power supply from an older PC. This unit wouldn't fit my case but the cooling fans are identical, so this weekend I changed out the fans, an ordeal that took a couple of hours. After everything was back together and working fine, the replacement fan started making its own racket, sort of a sewing machine sound, and was apparently the reason the old PC was trashed in the first place. 

Oh well, no matter. I've since found another used power supply and have verified that this one has a good fan motor. When I have time, I'll use it to replace fan #2. And that should take care of the problem. 

And I can finally write the book review of Pentalia that I promised Amanda over a week ago. 

Without earplugs.

At least unless something else goes wrong. 

- Oak

Posted 6/14/03: Sometimes I can't tell whether it's because I'm getting older or if the world is just spinning faster, but it seems harder and harder to keep up with everything lately. They say the memory is the first to go. I'm not sure that's exactly right. My personal theory is that our memory is somehow tied to our hair, because it seems that the more of it I lose, the less I can recall (at least of what happened before my first cup of coffee in the morning.) I believe it was Liath McTire, author of Notes from The Little Witches Coven and Marching Society, who postulated that the Pagan community needed an equivalent word to "crone" for older Pagan men, eventually suggesting the term "crank." I could live with that - Goddess knows I feel a bit cranky sometimes myself. I think I'll look up ol' Liath and see if he ever expounded on that thought (if I don't forget!)

Got a bit of a spiritual recharge last month at the annual May Moon Madness festival, a private Beltane festival held near Gatlinburg in the beautiful mountains of Tennessee. It's always good to get away from computers, work, telephones and the rest of the mundane world, but this year there was the special treat of live entertainment by Emerald Rose, a four-man Pagan group specializing in Irish-Celtic music. I'm also glad I took some cash with me because Amber and I are now the proud owners of personally autographed copies of their CDs' Celtic Crescent, Bending Tradition, Rants & Rambles and Fire In The Head (so eat your hearts out!) 
If you've never heard Emerald Rose, you owe it to yourself to check 'em out!
 

I just got another treat, this one completely unexpected. Here's a retelling of an old Irish legend, rewritten for younger readers by Amanda Evans, author of the fantasy novel Pentalia. (Thanks for sharing, Amanda!)

A Faery Tale: The Story of Etain
retold by Amanda Evans

Note: The Irish have legends that tell of a race of people, the Faery, who look just like normal humans, but are immortal and invisible to humans, unless they want to be seen.  Pronunciations: Etain (ATE-tawn), Aengus (ANG-gus), Midir (MY-ter), Dagda (DAHG-duh), fith fath (FEE-fah), Fuamnach (FOO-ahm-nahkh)

Once upon a time, long ago in Ireland, there lived a beautiful girl. She was the fairest maid in all the land and the daughter of a king. Her name was Etain.

The maiden had golden tresses of hair and cheeks as red as the foxglove flower of the mountain.  Her eyes were blue like the hyacinth blossom, and her skin was as white as the snow.  Her body was slender, long, and soft.  Etain was the most wondrous maiden that the eyes of men had ever seen.

On a fine, spring day, a nobleman came to visit Etain and her father. He rode a white horse and wore a mantle of green.  At his side, he carried a sword, and a silver shield hung over his back.

The man dismounted and said, "Oh great king, my name is Aengus Mac oc, and I come from the land of Faery in quest of your daughter, Etain. My foster-father, Midir, king of the Faeries, wishes to marry her."

Etain's eyes grew wide with excitement at the thought of going to live with the Faeries... (continued)

Amanda Evans is a children's author and former school librarian.  Her fantasy novel, Pentalia, written for ages 8-12, is available at www.pentalia.com.


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