Prairie Fire Review - The Nexus Ring

Prairie Fire Review of Books
Reviewed by: Donna Gamache

The Nexus Ring (Veil of Magic: Book I) by Alberta writer Maureen Bush is a fantasy for young readers from about grades three to five, but one with a definite Canadian setting. The story begins when Josh and his sister, Maddy, and their parents start their return trip home from Vancouver Island to Calgary, following a vacation with their grandmother. Josh is eleven, very interested in drawing and painting, while Maddy is just seven, more interested in playing games. To keep Maddy from being bored during the trip, their mother invents a game in which the children must locate various treasures to pass through different 'magic veils' as they travel along. Before long, however, the game turns into a real magical adventure.

While on the ferry to the mainland, Maddy finds a green stone ring in the gift shop and decides to buy it, although a strange, almost menacing man desperately wants it too. Once on the mainland, the family begins their drive homeward, but Josh soon realizes that the man, whom he describes as a troll because of his ugly appearance, seems to be following them. Josh worries that he might steal the ring or kidnap Maddy, but his parents simply believe he's playing along with their mother's game.

However, following a stop at the Giant Cedars, their parents mysteriously drive off, leaving Josh and Maddy behind. It seems that the strange troll/man is determined to have the ring and has cast some sort of spell on their parents. An elegant, cloak-dressed woman called Aleena suddenly appears and offers to help the children escape from Gronvald, the troll.

She takes Josh and Maddy through a mysterious magic veil into another world, still in the mountains of BC, but co-existing with the human world. Before long, they learn that Aleena is a water spirit and cannot be trusted either, as she also wants the ring. In trying to escape from the clutches of both Aleena and Gronvald, the children meet the 'otter-people' and learn that the ring must be returned to the giant of Castle Mountain (in Banff National Park) for safekeeping. But to do so they must escape both natural dangers (such as an avalanche and dangerous rivers) and the magic of Aleena and Gronvald.

Children who enjoy fantasy will find this an exciting book. As an adult, I particularly enjoyed the liberal use of Canadian place names and geographic features. Young readers could be encouraged to follow the route taken by the children as they head home from Vancouver Island to Calgary, and to check out some of the places mentioned or visited, such as the Coquihalla Highway, Shuswap Lake, the Giant Cedars Boardwalk, Castle Mountain, and so on. The writer has also inserted interesting details of the real world, such as those about the Spiral Tunnels and the Great Cedars.

The Nexus Ring is the first children's book by Maureen Bush, but she is working on Veil of Magic, Book II.

Donna Gamache is the author of Spruce Woods Adventure (Compascore Manitoba) as well as many short stories for both children and adults.

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