When the evil wizard Soldrin conquers the kingdom of Ashmirl, he unleashes a merciless torrent of death, destruction, and chaos. His ultimate goal? To obtain "The Elven Chronicles," an ancient book that holds the secret of the Portal to Forever, which - once in his hands - will grant Soldrin the power to control the world. With King Eldric, the rightful ruler of Ashmirl, locked away in a remote dungeon, it's up to his youngest son, Prince Leerec, to thwart Soldrin's evil plans; however, when Leerec is apparently assassinated, the onus falls on the shoulders of his son and daughter, Josh and Silfa, to defeat Soldrin and spare Ashmirl from ultimate annihilation. Brave though they may be, Josh and Silfa are hardly prepared, though, for the challenges that await them as they endeavor to free their beloved homeland from Soldrin's tyrannical grip...
Taut and well-crafted, The Portal to Forever is an engrossing fantasy tale. In it, author Bonnie Sullivan Raymond introduces the reader to a host of intriguing characters in a grand, sweeping retelling of the ages-old tale of good vs. evil. Rife with subtle spiritual undertones, the Portal to Forever is pushed along by a strong central plotline highlighting the dutiful - though daunting - quest of a young hero and heroine compelled to defend their cherished homeland and honor the memory of their fallen father. Though ostensibly geared towards younger readers, Raymond's epic narrative has something for everyone, particularly die-hard fans of well-told, imaginative fantasy. A solid, richly compelling debut.
My son doesn’t like stories with magic or time travel. He has a low tolerance for inconsistencies, and a fine-honed skill for spotting them. He probably wouldn’t like The Portal to Forever by Bonnie Sullivan Raymond. But there again, it’s probably not written for him. The fast pace of this story kept the pages turning for me. The very human reactions of the not quite human protagonists keep me intrigued. And the tie-ins to 9-11, justice and the modern world give the tale a thoughtful immediacy.
The author creates a large cast of characters and distinguishes each of them deftly, so the reader is never left trying to remember who was who. Sometimes it’s tone of voice; sometimes it’s something neat in the name, a special relationship to an animal, or some curious magical skill that casually slips into the reader’s awareness.
The two protagonists are apparently normal children whose father has died. They do have a couple of odd abilities—and one has a peculiar preference for bananas over apples. But they know nothing of the quest they’re about to embark on, or of the fact that their father is actually alive, just in a different world.
The history leading up to events in the book is nicely and concisely told. Characters and worlds are introduced straight away and our own world suddenly becomes a part of a much wider story. There are battles in this tale, winners and losers, and deaths, but all dealt with gently under an overarching sense of justice and right and wrong. God is mentioned too, and legends of unicorns. There are separate story-lines following different characters, but they never become confusing. And there’s a secret which has to be discovered and kept safe.
I don’t know if the author is planning a sequel. With such a richly detailed world, I’d imagine she could write many more books to continue the tales of her fascinating characters. I rather hope she does, and though my son won’t read them I hope others will.
I'll admit it--I'm a Tolkien and Lewis junkie. That's why I was so pleased to find The Portal to Forever, an easily digestible fantasy book for middle schoolers. The Portal to Forever is a fantasy book along the lines of "classic" mytho-fantasy works such as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia--but in a very short, fast-paced format. The book (which is presumably a stand-alone novel) operates on the premise that there exists an alternate reality populated with elves, dragons, dwarves, trolls, wizards, and everything else you might expect. This world (naturally) has a link to ours--and all others like it--through something called the "Portal to Forever."
The story is about a prince among the elves who is whisked away from his home and family in our world just in time to avoid stepping onto Flight 93 on 9/11. (The other passengers are rescued but presumed dead on Earth.) The basic gist of the story is that this prince (Leerec or "Lee") finds himself faced with the takeover of the kingdom of Ashmirl by an evil wizard who is holding his father (the king) hostage. Several years after being brought back to Ashmirl (and leading the resistance forces of the elves), Leerec's wife and half-human children--named Josh and Silfa--are brought to Ashmirl by a good witch named Hecate in order to keep Soldrin the wizard and his sister Brinel from getting the Elven Chronicles, which means that they need the help of a dragon named Falon. Are you confused yet? Don't worry, there's a handy "who's who" at the back of the book to help keep things straight.
This book, though interesting, is plagued by an unfortunate calamity: the punctuation is rather irregular. Confident readers will have no problem dealing with this aspect, but younger readers might be confused, especially if they are just mastering the rules of grammar. This difficulty can be easily overcome, however, by making use of a tried-and-true homeschool tradition--reading aloud! Though this book was not written specifically for homeschoolers, it is well suited to family read-aloud time. The chapters are relatively short, extremely fast-paced, and easily digestible, and there are even sketches at the back of the book to inspire young imaginations. For parents who grew up reading Lewis and Tolkien, this would be a great way to introduce your elementary/middle school children to the world of fantasy. Toward the end of the book, there is one use of the "D-word," but it can be easily skipped or replaced by some suitable euphemism by a parent reading aloud.
The only thing that really could be improved in this book, in my opinion, is the writing style. The book reads rather like a very old fairy tale in that the characters are primarily plot devices--one-dimensional, serving to further the action more than anything else. But this is perfectly all right for an elementary/middle schooler. There is one other thing, though, that really bugs me, even though it is barely a blip on "The Scale of Review-ery." The author never defines what she means by the word "elf"! The words "elfin features" and such are used with the assumption that the reader intuitively grasps the overarching concept of "elfishness." So be prepared to answer when curious minds ask, "Mommy, what's an elf?"
I know that some Christian parents might be put off by the strong presence of magic, witches, wizards, "demons" (so-called--more like ogres than anything else), and other elements that are commonly found in fantasy. To this I can only respond that others have argued both sides of the issue far more eloquently than I can possibly do. While I (as a Christian teenager) believe that "magic" in fantasy can serve a God-honoring purpose if used correctly--as in the case of C.S. Lewis's "Deeper Magic" in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" such matters are entirely left to the parents' discretion. On the whole, The Portal to Forever has some excellent moral lessons, such as showing courage in the face of adversity and doing your duty even when it's difficult. And, of course, there's poetic justice when the villains all meet some unfortunate end or punishment.
The discerning reader will have noticed that I referenced C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien often in this review--for good reason. This book is HEAVILY influenced by their works, to the extent that walking trees make up their minds to overthrow an evil wizard (in addition to some other familiar scenarios). With that said, The Portal to Forever is an interesting, fast-paced book that will serve your family well as a read-aloud, particularly as an introduction to fantasy as a genre.
Poetic Monthly Magazine Issue #46 - November 2009
Bonnie did an excellent job with her first novel. In "The Portal to Forever", a wizard is determined to get in his possession 'The Elven Chronicles' a book with mighty powers. He has demons, trolls and gargoyles scouting for this book. He has even imprisoned the king and the prince because they will not reveal the location of this book. When the king's other son and his family come to the rescue, the confrontation between the wizard and them is one to enjoy and reread over and over. I recommend this book to anyone who wants adventure and has an imagination.
Posted 08/08/09: I heard about this book from a neighbor, who works in child education, who had bought it from the publisher's web site: authorhouse.com. She thought it quite wonderful. I went there and bought a copy and also went to the author's web site: bonnie-raymond-books.com. After reading this book, I can recommend it highly. I have since bought five copies as gifts for family and friends. "The Portal to Forever" is a well-written fantasy-adventure tale for children and adults that would reward any reader.