The Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer

(Cover picture courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.)

Jack is amazed to have caused an earthquake.  He is thirteen, after all, and only a bard-in-training.  But his sister, Lucy, has been stolen by the Lady of the Lake; stolen a second time in her young life, as he learns to his terror.  Caught between belief in the old gods and Christianity (AD 790, Britain), Jack calls upon his ash wood staff to subdue a passel of unruly monks, and, for his daring, ends up in a knucker hole.  It is unforgettable—for the boy and for readers—as are the magical reappearance of the berserker Thorgil from a burial by moss; new characters Pega, a slave girl from Jack’s village, and the eager-to-marry-her Bugaboo (a hobgoblin king); kelpies; yarthkins; and elves (not the enchanted sprites one would expect but the fallen angels of legend).  Rarely does a sequel enlarge so brilliantly the world of the first story.

First off, let me say that the ‘AD 790, Britain’ part of this blurb is complete nonsense.  If you’ll recall, the first book apparently takes place in 793 AD.  So either the blurb writer is confused about the timeline or does not know that AD goes forward while BC goes backward.  If you’re really picky, let’s just say that this book takes place 3 years later, in 796 AD.

I love this book because  we finally learn why Lucy is such a brat.  That may seem like a lame reason to like a book, but I really, truly hated her in the first book and she’s even more obnoxious in this book.  But Nancy Farmer has an excellent reason for adding what seemed like the token cute character at first and a seemingly unimportant event sets off a series of events in motion that will change Jack’s future forever.

Of course old favourite characters like the Bard, Thorgil and Lucy reappear, but we’re introduced to many new ones: the slave girl Pega; Brutus, a descendant of Lancelot himself; the Bugaboo, king of the hobgoblins; Ethne, a Christian half-elf and many others.  My personal favourite characters include the charming and unpredictable Brutus, the Bugaboo and the Nemesis, who is a hobgoblin whose duty is to keep the Bugaboo from getting an inflated head.  Now if only all leaders had someone like the Nemesis…

With amazing characters, a fast-paced plot and extraordinary world-building, The Land of the Silver Apples is a fitting sequel to The Sea of Trolls.  readers will lose themselves in Nancy Farmer’s fascinating world where the old religion collides with the new rising religion, Christianity.  I can’t think of an author who puts a better spin on old fantasy clichés than Nancy Farmer while still staying true to the time period.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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