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.
I bought the second book from a book fair, read it, and just had to get the first one.This is a great story and the plot keeps evolving, but remains relatively straightforward. A bit frustrating with Annie and son not sharing enough, but I guess that is part the whole story. Overall, a hard-to-put-down adventure book almost from page 1.