Noted Native American storyteller and author Bruchac turns to the Slovakian side of his family heritage to produce an entirely fresh and funny fantasy.
All his life, 15-year-old Rashko has suffered his family of fools: his absent-minded, naive father, his terminally innocent mother and especially his permanently happy, utterly simple older brother. His mental superiority is put to the test when, his parents inexplicably absent, the evil Baron Temny arrives at family castle with a small army. His brother is instantly enchanted (literally) by the Baron's oily "daughter," so it's up to Rashko to thwart the Baron and save their tiny domain. Bruchac intersperses Rashko's story with that of his long-ago ancestor, Pavol, who fought a dragon and defeated the Dark Lord. Readers will see fairly quickly that Rashko, for all his vaunted intellect, gives those around him far too little credit. Before the story's out, he will need the assistance of the many endearingly quirky secondary characters that round out the cast, from a couple of wonderful, telepathic wolves and the loyal, preternaturally aware family retainer to a pair of dashing jugglers. Rashko's wry voice reveals a teen whose sense of self-importance is balanced healthily by a goodhearted, winning decency.
The story recalls Lloyd Alexander at his wry, humane best; readers will be happy for every moment they spend at castle Hladka Hvorka. (cast of characters, places, Slovak glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Drawing upon his Slovakian heritage, Bruchac (Bearwalker) spins a good-natured and humorous fairy tale set in the castle of Hladka Hvokra. The only intellectual in a family known more for kindness than deep thoughts, overserious Prince Rashko chafes at his brother's gullibility and his parents' foolishness, perpetually concerned for their safety. Soon after the king and queen leave on an unexpected trip, the ominous Baron Tenmy shows up at the front gates of the castle (" ‘nvited guests' may not be the right words for a body of riders large enough to throw up so much dust," reflects Rashko. "Army of invaders is more like it"). As Tenmy and his entourage take up residence in the castle, announcing the betrothal of his daughter to Rashko's older brother, Rashko is forced to seek help, tapping into Hladka Hrovka's best-kept secrets to face his foes and discover his destiny. With its subtle focus on peaceful resistance and use of classic folk-tale elements, this story exudes a gentle sense of fun--even as the heroes battle dragons and evil wizards their victory is never in doubt. Ages 10-up. (June)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
Gr 5-8--Prince Rashko, 15, loves his parents and his older brother, Paulek, but is often vexed by their trusting natures and apparent simplemindedness. When the king and queen disappear and sinister Baron Temny shows up at Hladka Hvorka, Rashko feels the full weight of protecting the family castle. Paulek is besotted with Temny's beautiful daughter and accepts the Baron's claim that his entourage is here at his parents' invitation. Rashko sees through the thin ruse but must go along with the charade so as not to provoke an open attack. As Rashko uses his wits to keep the castle safe, he finds himself increasingly drawn to his ancestor Pavol, who defeated the Dark Lord in generations past. Indeed, as Temny's men entrench themselves, it is soon apparent that Temny is the incarnation of the Dark Lord. Drawing on Pavol's wisdom, Rashko is thrust into his own quest to save the kingdom from takeover by evil forces. Along the way, he realizes that he has been too quick to judge his brother and parents, and that their gifts will be just as important in saving the kingdom as his own. While Bruchac's stories often celebrate his Native American roots, this novel, set in the Black Forest in medieval times, honors his Slovakian heritage. The large cast of characters and the generous sprinkling of Slovak vocabulary may deter some readers, but the book is a solid choice for readers looking for fantasy complete with dragons, swordplay, and meeting the right girl along the way.--Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA[Page 96]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.