There is an incredible amount of action packed within this children’s book! A little less busyness may have added to the story’s dramatic effect instead of making it seem rather a long read three-quarters of the way through. However the story is imaginative and intriguing, and something stands out as a little different in style and creativity from many current children’s books.

Twelve-year-old Gabriel sets out on a quest to find his missing father. There are themes of the struggle between good and evil, bullies, honesty and dishonesty, the superficiality of appearances, kindness, an abusive parent, an overprotecting parent, magic, friendship, family and learning to trust. Trust is the virtue that is shown to overcome many obstacles in life. At times, the main character Gabriel does seem a bit unbelievable in his naieve and trusting outlook as though he has no inner voice of anticipation of danger.

A caution that some parts are quite horrific, particularly the opening which sets the scene of flesh eating (“just a peck of flesh”) and terrible, gnawing hunger that troubles the evil valravens. However, the author has set up this evil scene so that he can describe how it may be overcome by the powers of good.

I found the chasm of doubt chapter particularly encouraging for older children. It is only through strength of mind and grim resolve that the characters are able to overcome the taunting voices of the chasm of doubt. Abby finds the strength to ignore her own mocking voice of self-doubt, shame and dread. Each step she takes with the wrong mental attitude leads to her almost falling from the deadly high bridge. Each step of diverted thinking into riddles and good thoughts leads to her taking solid steps.

Altogether an interesting first children’s book from Hagen. A great read for those who like magic, wordplay, quest and adventure.

A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is currently a full-time mother of two.