Author: C.S. Einfeld
Illustrated by: Aaron Einfeld
Year published: 2011
Publisher: Goethe Books
Number of pages: 259
Recommended age: 8 to 13
Child Rating: ★★★★★
Grown-up Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewed by: Renee and Danielle (Mother and Daughter)
Summary (from back cover): Princess Fiera’s nemesis, Lord Darkwater is up to no good. The White Castle of Doru is under attack by the greatest army Princess Fiera’s ever seen. Lord Darkwater is poised to crush the tiny kingdom of Southnut unless the king gives Fiera up to become his wife.
Well, f-f-fungus! She’s having none of that! The race is on for Fiera to outwit Lord Darkwater’s Dragonfly Riders, Bat Brigades, and even a giant faerie-eating Spider to save herself and, before it’s too late, her whole world.
What it’s about: This book tells a story about Princess Fiera who is a faerie living in a world called Doru, which is on a big oak tree. Doru is divided into four kingdoms: Southnut, Northbark, The Eastern Branches, and The Western Leaves. Princess Fiera lives in Southnut. Lord Darkwater is a bad faerie who is trying to marry Fiera and take over all of Doru because he wants all of the oak syrup. Oak syrup is important because it helps the faeries and animals who live on the oak tree. Fiera and her pet firefly Sparky escape from Lord Darkwater and go to find Old Mother Oak Tree, the spirit of the oak tree, who can help them. Along the way, she gets help from some ants, a Mexican crow, a caterpillar, a squirrel, and another faerie.
What I liked and disliked about it: I liked alot of different things about the book. When we first started reading the book, I was wondering how the author knew that there were real faeries. I thought maybe I could look for faeries on trees, bushes, or in a forest. I’d like to know from the author if she’s ever seen any real faeries or knows where to find them.
I liked Princess Fiera because she’s a faerie and I like faeries. I liked how she was brave enough to go on her adventure and how she cared about all the creatures who lived on the oak tree. I liked the magical pool of tears that Fiera and Old Mother Oak Tree made together and how powerful it was. The story was good because I liked how they were in danger and then they were safe, then in more danger, then safe again – that made it cool. I liked how they would meet up with new creatures who were either friends or enemies. Some of the parts were so sad that I almost cried like when the baby Rhino beetles were chained to the oak syup rigs until they died.
I didn’t like that it took so long to get to the good part and that all the other animals could talk but not Sparky. Why couldn’t Sparky talk? But it’s ok that Sparky didn’t talk because it would probably sound weird for some reason. Probably because my Mom would do a bad accent like she did with the other animals. I wished that animals really could talk like they do in this book because then my cats and I could have conversations.
My bottom line: This book was AWESOME! I would recommend this book to probably just girls who are 8 years and older because younger kids might not be able to understand or pay attention (like my little brother when he listened to the story).
What it’s about: Neverdark is a beautifully illustrated magical tale about a feisty princess faerie appropriately named Fiera who, with the help of various friendly animals, must brave many enemies to seek help from Old Mother Oak Tree – the spirit of the tree in which the faeries and other lively creatures inhabit. The book places a twist on the contemporary issues of the environment, capitalism, and conflict by situating the story in the context of a mystical world of faeries, Doru.
Lord Darkwater is the villain of the story. He is the capitalist who is intent on marrying Princess Fiera and taking over all of Doru in order to have complete control over the oak syrup – Doru’s most precious resource and a necessity to ensure the survival of the faeries and various other creatures in the tree. Princess Fiera must take destiny into her own hands to prevent Southnut (her kingdom) from being destroyed by Lord Darkwater.
It is up to the courageous little princess, with her loyal pet firefly Sparky at her side, to save the day for all the creatures of Doru by braving Lord Darkwater’s vast armies and spies to climb to the northernmost past of the tree (Northbark) to reach their final hope. Will Fiera and Sparky be able to reach Old Mother Oak Tree in time before Lord Darkwater succeeds in overthrowing the last remaining kingdom in Doru?
What I liked and disliked about it: Einfeld draws us into the story by vividly describing an imaginary world plagued by many of the same social issues we currently face in real life. For example, descriptions of oak syrup rigs designed to extract the characters’ most prized resource necessarily conjure up images of oil rigs greedily sucking up Earth’s most coveted natural resource. The book itself has such a strong messge about these issues and with the vivid descriptions of the dying oak tree, you can’t help but draw the parallels to the greed of oil barons, clear-cutting, wars, diminishing rain forests, and so on.
Einfeld develops endearing characters in Fiera, her pet firefly Sparky, and the many creatures who help them along the way. I loved the character of Fiera because she experienced a range of emotions and reactions that would be expected in this situation. She expressed her fear, determination, loyalty, and especially her compassion when witnessing the destruction of the oak tree as well as hearing the plights of the other creatures she meets along the way.
The other characters in the book were such a hoot! Ask my kids and they will tell you that whenever I attempt an accent, it always ends up sounding like the Count from Sesame Street, or put another way…like I’m from Transylvania! So, while Manuel the crow is from Mexico and Hamish MacSquirrel is Scottish, really they all sound like they’re from Transylvania. This is where Aaron Einfeld (the illustrator of Neverdark, hubby of the author, and I understand, the linguistics consultant) would have come in handy with the interpretation of the dialogue! Regardless, we all had fun experimenting with accents while reading this book!
While the themes in the book are quite serious, the story itself is not overly dark. Because the book has a good versus evil theme, there are elements of the book intended to create tension. So, yes, there is a nasty overlord, armies of dragonflies, nasty bats, and a big spiderweb (with the suggestion of an equally big spider). There is also the mention of sad elements like the demise of certain creatures and of the oak tree itself. That being said, the book is not frightening nor gruesome. Also, the language is very tame. For example, swearing consists of phrases like “Bug guts!”, “FFFUNGUS”, “What on Oak?” – – you get the picture!
As with any story, it is necessary to begin with the introduction of the main characters, the description the setting, the relating of any backstories if necessary, the setting up the plot, and so on. As mentioned by my daughter above, it did take quite a few chapters to get the story rolling. However, that being said, I do believe that this was necessary in order to fully understand the story and for the plot to make complete sense. I only mention this, because I think a child would need to be at least at a middle-grade reading level (grade 3 +) to be able to read and fully understand the story.
My bottom line: I read this story to both my children. My son (5.5 years old) listened to and liked the story but there were parts where he lost concentration because it was too long and complicated a plot. I really enjoyed this book and really enjoyed the story. You never knew what would happen next and we were excited to see who Fiera would run into around the next corner. I highly recommend this book to both boys and girls aged 8 and over.
**Disclosure: The author provided Mother Daughter Book Reviews with a review copy free-of-charge. **
Please check out our INTERVIEW with the author of Neverdark, C.S. Einfeld.
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