Your first book is a winner. Last year, I spent a good portion of my pleasure reading time reading through children's fantasy fiction series to answer those who are always asking me, "what do you think about so-and-so's series." Frankly, fantasy fiction is not my favorite genre. I suppose I have been spoiled by Lewis and Tolkien and am disappointed at anything less. Certainly, this is an odious comparison and unjust on my part, but, there it is.
When I heard your book was about rabbits with swords, I wasn't in a hurry to give it a try. I was not only pleasantly surprised, but confess that I couldn't put your book down. My first impression in that oh-so-important opening chapter was, "Good writing," "I wonder where he's going with this," and "Charming." If hooking your reader is important, I was game for reading on.
Soon after, I was off on a rabbit chase to beat all others. Those first few chapters had me hopping to keep up and breathless with suspense. My next observation was, "okay, this would be good for those reluctant readers," because of how each chapter spurred me on to the next.
Then the heroes reached safety in a community of refuge and I was able to catch up to them. You allowed me the breathing space to figure out the who, why, and what of things. I got to know the characters and be drawn into the intrigue and mystery that so puzzled them and me. My sympathy for them and their plight increased, even as they struggled and sometimes made poor choices in handling their situation, so that I was fully rooting for them to succeed when the final test came in the climax of the story, which you had so cleverly hinted was just around the corner. It surpassed my expectation for a triumphant turn of events.
Possibly one of the reasons many fantasy fiction stories for children fall short for me is that unbelievability of their "other" world, which is often so contrived or superficial. Your tale had the same quality I loved in Lewis and Tolkien, the certainty of absolute truth in an imaginary place. The talking animals spoke and acted in a realistic manner. Virtues of courage, loyalty, respect, friendship, and love were shown without moralistic prompts. In the end, despite discouragement, fear, and temptation to bitterness and mistrust, the characters gained wisdom. More than simple good overcoming evil, the predominant sense of hope is well captured and is what the reader carries away at the close of the story.
I don't usually like book reviews and critiques, perhaps a left-over loathing for school book reports, which usually ruined my original enjoyment of the book, nor do I appreciate movie trailers that leave you without curiosity to see them. I hope I have not given too much away here. Above all, I want to say thank you for sharing your tale with us, for all the thousands of hours you poured into creating. You told a story well, and that is not something many children's authors today have achieved. The Green Ember is a book that not just children, but people of all ages can delight in. Your book shows not just the struggles of life, but the beauty it holds too.
One last request: please promise there's a sequel coming. The Green Ember whetted my appetite for more from the inkwell of your soul.
For the joy of reading,