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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Glowing "Grail", December 27, 2005
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This review is from: The Greenstone Grail (Sangreal Trilogy) (Paperback)
Though you may not know it, Amanda Hemingway is already a well-known fantasy writer -- her pen name is Jan Siegel, author of books that blend modern settings with mythic heroes, villains and magic.

And that also sums up "The Greenstone Grail," which gives a new spin to Grail legends. Hemingway keeps things interesting with alien universes, water demons, mysterious deaths, ancient magic and a hero who is almost as mysterious as the grail itself. And, of course, lush writing and well-made characters.

Annie and her infant son Nathan arrived in Thornyhill, with invisible pursuers following them. Thirteen years later, Annie and Nathan are living peacefully there, near their friend Bartlemy's house. But their lives are disrupted when the legendary Greenstone Grail is located, and its rightful owner is trying to get it back.

To make things worse, Nathan has begun to dream himself INTO other worlds, even bringing a drowning man back into his own world. And he soon learns that the dying world of Eos -- where magic is "like electricity" -- has a connection to the Grail. What he doesn't realize is that a water demon and a sinister dwarf have an interest in the Grail as well... and in him.

The legend of the Grail -- in this case, the Sangreal -- gets a fresh feel in this book. Though Hemingway peppers her plot with pop culture references, there is a feeling of ancient magic and mystery to this book. Her writing is fresh and vital, even when taking a sci-fi twist on the burned, poisoned planet of Eos, or in the buried chapel of the Sangreal.

Hemingway takes her time setting up her plot, with plenty of foreshadowing and descriptions of the everyday lives of the characters. Then, she slowly infuses those lives with magic and otherworldliness, even if only by a sentence. The only flaw would be the jibes at organized religion, which don't seem to serve any purpose in the plot.

Hemingway's biggest challenge is Nathan -- she describes him as a natural hero, brave and tall and intelligent, as well as being magical. It would be easy to hate this kid, but she makes him genuinely likable. Annie and Hazel serve as undeerstatedly strong characters, although Bartlemy is too nebulous a character at present.

While "Greenstone Grail" can stand on its own as a world-hopping, taut fantasy story, there are half a dozen loose threads left at the end -- incuding two magical items yet to be found. Tantalizing and entrancing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent start to series, April 17, 2006
This review is from: The Greenstone Grail (Hardcover)
If one has to accept the fact that almost all fantasy books are now the beginning of a series (and we're just about to that point), then at least The Greenstone Grail is a compelling enough beginning to leave the reader wanting more while still resolving at least this portion of the story. Grail opens nicely with a bit of suspense and mystery as Annie Ward, carrying her infant son, is chased/herded, down a dark unfamiliar road by things dark and barely seen. She stumbles across a haven in the form of the small home of Bartleby Goodman, whose sight clearly has some power. From there we jump to when Nathan is thirteen years old and about to embark on the adventures of the trilogy.

Half the story involves a local legend regarding the Greenstone Grail, a family legacy lost centuries ago that seemingly has returned and is about to be auctioned off. The resurfacing of the cup leads to a legal battle, some strange mystical events, an old, usually harmless witch ("grat-grandmother" to Nathan's best friend) biting off more than she could chew, and eventually a murder or two.

The other half of the story involves Nathan's emerging and improving ability to dream himself into a strange dying world where magic exists and whose inhabitants (steadily decreasing) are becoming more desperate to find someplace to move where the encroaching "virus" that has killed off most of their universe won't find them.

It doesn't take the most astute reader to figure out that eventually the two stories will have something to do with one another. Meanwhile, toss in a vengeful waterspirit, a mysterious couple who just moved into the small town, Nathan's best friend Hazel who is both repelled and compelled by her own potential Gift for magic, a dog who is more than a dog, an old-time bumblingly benign inspector, an otherworldly princess, and a host of other items and you have a book whose numerous parts mesh together wonderfully well.

The plot is both complex and nicely compelling. The coming-of-age portion of the story is handled subtly and with humor. The characters could do with a bit more edge or vividness, with the exception of Annie who comes across strongly. If Nathan seems a bit too good or too wise/eloquent for the typical 13-yr-old, the author gives us a built-in reason for this.

All in all, Greenstone Grail stands out as one of the best of the many, many offering in young adult fantasy--better written, better plotted than most. It doesn't quite achieve the quality of the Bartimeus trilogy by Stroud or the Gregor series, and falls somewhere in between the two with regard to target age (though can be enjoyed by older teens/adults), but it is a welcome addition. Highly recommmended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Beginning To What Seems Like A Stellar Series, April 14, 2005
This review is from: The Greenstone Grail (Hardcover)
The Greenstone Grail is book one of The Sangreal Trilogy. The trilogy is set up right away by the tale of Nathan Ward. He is a smart lad who has strange dreams of another world: Eos. Eos is in big trouble. Years of magic use have contaminated the world. In a dream he pulls into our world, Eric. He is a very comical character. Nathan also has dreams of a cup. A cup that has mysteriously returned to England. The Grimthorn Grail as it is called in our world is shrouded in mystery and legends say it is the Holy Grail. But it's power is not this world and belongs to Eos. It along with a sword and a crown are the three items that can save that other world from destruction.

Throw in an underlining plot of a murderess water spirit and a bumbling police investigator and you have the makings of a great English fantasy trilogy. There is also magic in the form of a witch and a old man named Bartlemy. He takes Annie, Nathan's mother in when she is running away from unseen enemies in the prologue. These enemies are discribed in detail later in the novel. All and all this book is a building on a fantasy genre that has instances of Arthurian legends. And I can't wait untill The Traitor's Sword (Book Two) is released in the U.S.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unconventional and beautifully written, July 6, 2011
By 
Pop Bop "Pause and Reflect" (Denver, Colorado, United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Greenstone Grail (Sangreal Trilogy) (Paperback)
It's an English village murder mystery with a dour police inspector. It's a grail quest. It's a transdimensional world building adventure. And it's all anchored by refreshingly novel characters.
The hero is a gifted tween, but he is surrounded by a much larger and more interesting cast of secondary characters than is usually the case. It has Arthurian touches, but without all of the mismatched Arthurian baggage that usually surfaces in works like this. It has magic, witches, and spirits, but that all seems to fit seamlessly into the larger and more grounded narrative.
And, the book is beautifully written. Not overdone and not huffing and puffing toward the fey or "magical", it just reads smoothly with nice descriptive and character touches, and a very good sense of mood and atmosphere.
Just so much more than I expected when I found this overlooked work, and well worth a check out.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun and captivating read!, October 12, 2005
By 
Bethany Byington (Central Washington, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Greenstone Grail (Hardcover)
While waiting for the final Harry Potter book to come out, which could be years, I went on a quest to find a new series to start. Being picky because I still have Harry Potter on my mind, it was very tough to find a book that I'd be interested in.

When I saw the Greenstone Grail at my local library, I decided, "What the heck?" and gave it a chance.

It has been wonderful! It drew me in from the very beginning and made me want to read more and more. At the start, it reminded me a lot of Harry Potter - the pre-teen boy who thinks he's otherwise normal but then finds out he has super special powers and is "the chosen one" to help save a dying world. Then as I read along more - it started reminding me of The Neverending Story.

However, this book is a good cross between Harry Potter and The Neverending Story. The author makes it her own story and you aren't often reminded of other storylines while reading it. Her style of writing is different, and she gives you bits and parts of the storyline all throughout the book so that you're not kept waiting for something exciting to happen.

I'm glad I started this series, and am now waiting yet again for another book to come out. Oh well - March of 2006 is a lot better then some unknown date years down the road for Harry Potter book 7!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Writer To Watch, June 6, 2005
This review is from: The Greenstone Grail (Hardcover)
Amanda Hemingway is a writer to watch. This book "The Greenstone Grail" is a terrific book, and I like it a lot better than the books she wrote as Jan Siegel, although those were not bad, but seemed unfocused to me.

This "Grail" had been in the care of the Thorns of Thornyhill, but had been stolen prior to World War Two, and thought to be in the hands of the Nazis, until it surfaces at Sotheby's to be auctioned to the highest bidder. But in actuality it is one of three objects of power, along with a sword and a crown. It is also from either a different universe, or from the end of time.

The story starts with Annie Ward and her infant son Nathan being chased through the dark English countryside by somethings, harrowing her until she attains safety at the home of an elderly albino named Bartlemy Goodman (who turns out to be 1500 years old, with a talent for magic, and really good cooking).

Other reviews have called this book an "Arthurian fantasy" which doesn't make a lot of sense to me, as I find the only thing vaguely Arthurian is the quest for the Grimthorn Grail (aka the Greenstone Grail of the title.) Nathan, a 12 year-old of uncertain parentage (we know who his mother is, but who is his father, really??) has been having dreams of a strange world called Eos (which oddly enough means "Dawn") which is at the end of time, or perhaps just the end of ITS time. Whilst exploring the tangled English forest close to his home, he stumbles across the buried ruins of an ancient redoubt, and an altar, upon which he sees a vision of a large cup, the grail, filled with blood.

Nathan's nightly dream visions become more and more real, he can hear and understand the people in his dreams, and finally he disappears from his own time and space and appears in the world of Eos, where he saves a man from drowning by drawing him into our world.

Obvious comparisons are to Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books and Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence, but Nathan is no Old One like Will Stanton, nor is he Taran. One of the other things that make this book stand out from other similar books is the fine delineation of Annie Ward, a strong female character, Bartlemy, the gentle man who has lived on the outskirts of Thornyhill for as long as anyone can remember, and his dog called Hoover "because he vacuums up the crumbs". Of course his NAME isn't Hoover. That's just what he's called. And he too has been around for a long time.

There are a lot of things happening in this book, and because it is Book One of a trilogy, there are a number of things that go off on a tangent and aren't properly dealt with. We'll find out more in Book Two, The Traitor's Sword.

This is an excellent beginning and well worth looking for.
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4.0 out of 5 stars I feel as though I am there., January 21, 2014
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Got the book because I enjoyed her Fern Cappel Trilogy. A good read. I really like Seigel's characters, would like the female to show more common sense.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A true gem, February 17, 2009
By 
R. Lewis (Georgetown, SC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Greenstone Grail (Sangreal Trilogy) (Paperback)
Highly enjoyable and recommended. Author also writes under the pen name Jan Siegel. First of a trilogy, but actually has an ending, which is nice. Shades of "His Dark Materials", though not anti-religious. Skillfully blends fantasy and science fiction with history and legend. An 11-year-old boy is the protagonist, but it's not written for kids. However, there is nothing inappropriate in it - no swear words or sex scenes - and older teens would definitely get into the story. One of my all-time favorite series, that I often give to older Harry Potter fans looking for something new.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cannot be classified as a book for only adults or only teenagers, March 4, 2007
This review is from: The Greenstone Grail (Hardcover)
I'll leave the details of The Greenstone Grail to others here as they have already been elaborated upon. My purpose of writing a review is to note how remarkable this book is. I have been a reader for many years of various genres. Some have been disappointing and others have been very satisfying. I would put this book into the latter category.

Curiously, this story is a blend of fantasy and science fiction. However, my local library has it classified as an ordinary story. It is also listed in the adult section, while others have noted that it is more suited to teenagers. It can't be classified one way or another and that is a sign of a good story. A good story draws one in and shuts out the ordinary world. A good story makes one question the world around and look differently at the events that make up one's life.

While it is only a story, who hasn't longed to know something of the extraordinary? Our world seems bent on overwhelming reality. Reality is reality with its own set of rules, but we are primitives in modern accoutrements. Our very beings long for some of the mystical and unknowns that our early ancestors knew. If one book can bring out only a little of that, then it is a book worth reading. It has been a long time since I found a book that I felt ended too early. I look forward to the next installment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Geenstone Grail (Sangreal Trilogy), July 13, 2006
This review is from: The Greenstone Grail (Sangreal Trilogy) (Paperback)
This book kept my daughters and me on the edges of our seats. If you or your children enjoy Harry Potter then here is his match. We are weighting with bated breath for the next installment in the Trilogy -- What happens next??? I am sure will delight and fascinate!!!!!!!
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The Greenstone Grail (Sangreal Trilogy)
The Greenstone Grail (Sangreal Trilogy) by Amanda Hemingway (Paperback - December 27, 2005)
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