Golden Acorn by Catherine Cooper

I stumbled across Golden Acorn (The Adventures of Jack Brenin) because it was free on Kindle (are you beginning to see a pattern develop?) and it seemed like the kind of story I would enjoy (ya/middle grade fantasy adventure).

It turns out the author, former Shropshire teacher Catherine Cooper, won the Brit Writers’ Awards Unpublished Writer of the Year in 2010 for this book which led to its publication.

Here is the author’s description of the story:

Jack Brenin’s life changes the moment he finds a golden acorn lying in the grass. He gets caught up in an extraordinary magical adventure and enters a world he only believed existed in legend. He’s sure he’s been mistaken for someone else. How could he possibly be ‘The One’ an ancient prophecy speaks about, he’s neither brave nor strong? He’s no idea why he’s expected to help, unsure if he wants to, or even if he can.

And the book turned out to be an interesting take on a very common story: young boy stumbles on magic, finds out he is the chosen one, has lots of self doubt but through trials and tutoring grows into the role thanks to his natural talent and character.

[More after the jump]

What makes the story interesting is the setting and the background. The setting takes place not in a school or any sort of magical community but rather the English countryside. And the background is not that of mgaicians or witches per se but rather a mix of Celtic mythology (tree spirits, nymphs, Druids, etc.).

The basic plot revolves around the fact that the magical trees (dryads and hamadryads) are dying and they need someone to help them find and put together a special cauldron which will unlock a gate that will in turn allow a return of the power to rejuvenate both the hidden world and its representation in our world.

Jack must not only be transformed into a raven but travel back in time. His training partner and companion is in fact a raven, Camelin, one of the more interesting characters in the book. Camelin was a acolyte to a druid and was the one responsible for the cauldron parts being lost initially. In order to escape the Romans he was turned into a raven.

Jack is the innocent and earnest young boy worried but willing to help once he understands the nature of the tragedy playing out in the forest. Camelin is the always hungry often rather caustic companion. He provides comic relief throughout as well.

As many reviewers have noted, the story is well done and has attractive and entertaining aspects but many will find it slow and even simplistic. The story really never gets going until late in the book when the final chapters race to the finish.  The characters are not particularly deep and the danger is minimal.

But there is something about the imaginative setting and lighthearted nature of the story that made it worthwhile. Good for bed time reading or for middle grades I would guess. Or for those who don’t mind a simple and meandering story.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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