by Steve Augarde
Generations of children, particularly English ones, have entertained fantasies about little winged people living at the bottom of the garden. Midge Walters isnt really one of those children, but thats all right. The little winged people at the bottom of her garden are no fantasy.
Actually its not the bottom of her garden. Its a hill topped by an impenetrable forest, in the middle of the derelict farm owned by Midges uncle. She has gone to stay with Uncle Brian for a few weeks while her mother is on tour with the orchestra. The last time she was there was when she was born, and the last time she saw Uncle Brian was when she was almost too young to remember, but even though shes a sensible city girl, she takes to Mill Farm like a fish to water. Right off, it feels like home.
But nearby Howards Hill is home to a different sort of people. The five tribes of Various live there from the winged Ickri huntsmen to the cave-dwelling Troggles. Their small world is getting smaller and harder to live in, as the soil grows thin and the winters harsh. Big people Gorji giants, as the Various call them surround them, and their last bit of non-Gorji land is failing. What will become of them?
The winged horse Pegs sets out on a perilous mission to find out if there is a place nearby where the Various could hunt, harvest, or (failing all else) move. But a mishap on his return journey traps him under a piece of abandoned farm machinery. And who is it that finds him, frees him, and heals him? Yes Midge. Pegs is a very magical horse, and he knows somehow that Midge has a role to play in saving the Various. Midge, on the other hand, knows her uncles plans for the land where the Various live. So Pegs makes a fateful decision to bring Midge into his secret world, and share her news with the leaders of the five tribes.
It is a fateful decision because no Gorji has seen the inside of that forest since the days of nearly forgotten legend. It is fateful because of a band of two-foot-tall, winged cutthroats whose deadly enmity turns Midges fairy tale into a life-or-death drama. Add a pair of young lovers from opposite ends of the tribal pecking order...a daft old queen and the explosively temperamental General who really rules the Various...a pair of cousins who show up earlier than expected, one of them nicer and the other nastier than one would hope...a spooky, witchi woman (complete with green skin and poisoned darts)...and a vicious barnyard cat who isnt above snacking on little men...and what begins as an errand of mercy, winds up in a thrilling battle for survival.
Plus, theres plenty of room for more exciting adventures in this world daringly created by a sometimes jazz musician, animation artist, and pop-up-book illustrator. In fact, the ending really leaves you panting for more. This book is a fascinating new take on the old tales about little people at the bottom of the garden. It is a thought-provoking, well-written, and exciting story. And it is the first book in a trilogy! How can you beat that?
Recommended Age: 12+
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