Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Castles in the Air" by Ilana Waters

Castles in the Air
by Ilana Waters

Ten-year-old Wikkley McStag and his family are born farmers, happy to work the land. But then they - and other royal subjects - are forced to buy strange, useless machines. Money starts running out. Now the McStags have two days before they lose their farm. As the eldest child, Wikkley must journey to the palace and ask for the king's help. His loved ones only hope his reckless nature won't get him in trouble once he's there!
When Wikkley arrives at the palace, he finds an unnecessary castle being built right into the sky. The same thing is happening in a neighboring kingdom. When royal foolishness leads to disaster, it's up to Wikkley to save several lives. Will his recklessness finally come in handy? Or will it mean the end of his family, his farm, and possibly ... his life?
From the fantasy world of The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt, Ilana Waters brings you another alternate-medieval adventure. If you like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, don't miss meeting Wikkley McStag!

Suddenly, there was a strange vibration beneath my feet. It felt like the very stones underneath me were . . . quakin’. The others felt it too. Servants and lackeys looked at the ground around ’em, confused. Then, a rumblin’ sound came from deep within the castle. It grew louder and louder, till you could hardly hear yourself think.
Finally, the king yelled, “What the devil is going on here?”
There was a great crash that must have been off in the distance, but sounded much closer. Then there was another crash, and this time we knew it was closer. The entire ground beneath us seemed to wobble, and the walls began to sway.
A breathless page rushed in. His eyes were round with panic, and he could barely get out the words:
            “Run for your lives, everyone! Hart’s and Landia’s castles are falling!”
The first thing I heard after that was a woman’s panicked scream. It was so loud that it cut above the thunderous rumblin’.
Then everyone started screamin’ and hollerin’ and shovin’. They ran for the huge front doors as fast as they could. It wasn’t easy, what with the floors movin’ and all. Enormous stones fell off in deadly chunks and came hurtlin’ down—sometimes within inches of people. There was dust and smoke and confusion.
I hurried along, tryin’ to follow the crowd and keep my head. It was wilder than a buckin’ bronco in there!
But then I noticed something funny. There were two small, dusty figures in the space between the castles where the hedge had been. They were tryin’ to crawl outta the wreckage, but rubble blocked their way. It looked like two children, a little girl and boy. Them tykes couldn’t have been more than three years old.
“Oh my gods!” shrieked a woman. She pointed at ’em. “It’s the prince of Hart and the princess of Landia! They’re trapped between the castles!”
“Someone DO something!”
I decided to do somethin’ reckless.
I’d have to act quickly. There was no room for hesitation, no margin of error. And I was strong, but was I strong enough to move the boulders blockin’ the way? Or carry both children out? There was only one way to know for sure. I threw off my satchel and ran into that disaster as fast as I dared.
“Hey boy—where are you going?”
“He’s gone to rescue the prince and princess.”
“That’s madness—he’s dead for sure!”
My heart was poundin’, but I ignored the townspeople’s cries. Somewhere in there were two terrified, helpless children ’bout to be crushed to death.
I heard a sickenin’ craaack to my left, and an enormous wall started comin’ down towards me. I could just ’bout hear the shrieks and gasps from the crowd. I hurled myself to the right, and the wall fell where I’d been only seconds before. There was a whizzin’ noise on my other side, and I ducked just before a piece of pillar flung itself at me. I was chokin’ on soot and ash, and I could barely make out the children’s cries.
“I want Daddy!” one voice yelled.
“I want Mommy!” wailed the other, followed by coughin’ noises. “Mommm-eeeee!”          
The fallen rocks that blocked their way were larger than they’d appeared. They were at least twice my height, with no natural footholds for me to climb on.
“Look out!” I heard someone from the city cry. I glanced up just in time to see an enormous beam of wood comin’ towards me. I leapt outta the way, and the beam swiped past me, then cracked in half on the ground. But it gave me an idea.
I pushed one end of it towards the rubble blockin’ the children. Woo-whee—it was heavy! I pushed it higher and higher till it almost cleared the top of the stone pile. Then I ran up my newly-made ramp. Just as I’d thought, the prince and princess were standin’ ’bout two feet down on top of some rocks.
“C’mon—take my hands!” I cried. They each grabbed an arm, and I pulled ’em onto my hips. Then the princess pointed a tiny finger above me and screamed.
The top of an enormous turret was hurlin’ towards us. Its pointed end was directly in our path. There was no time to run back down the ramp. Clutchin’ the children to my sides, I slid down the beam as fast as I could. The pointed turret followed us, its deadly tip inches away from turnin’ us into shish kebab.

Castles in the Air is a pleasure to read. It is written in a conversational manner, like someone is actually reading you a story and you can feel the voice and tone in the words. It's fabulous. There's also a lot of adventure and whole new ideas introduced in every chapter. The world Ilana has created is magical and just absurd enough!
Being a novella, it is swift paced and you could easily gulp it down within hours! Wikkley is very adorable and makes a perfect hero for a middle grade fantasy - he is kind and caring, bold and a little reckless, not to mention, very funny! I think most readers will find it very easy to relate to him and his way of looking at things adds much of the humour to the tale. The story, like any children's book, has a moral; it teaches about family and being brave and doing what it takes. However, though meant for children, the novella could ideally be enjoyed by anyone. At least, everyone who has a little child somewhere in them, who would appreciate such a playful story as this one!

About the Author
Ilana Waters is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey. When not creating content for websites, she works on middle-grade and young-adult fiction ... and nibbles string cheese. She once pet-sat an electric eel, and enjoy walking in circles around the park for no particular reason.
Her first book, The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt: Book I of Hartlandia is a middle-grade fantasy. Castles in the Air is a 70-page novella also set in the Kingdom of Hartlandia. Ilana is currently writing Book II of the Hartlandia trilogy, due out later in 2013!

Ilana has also written House of Cards, a young adult book. You can also read my blog post.