May 1, 2019

The Hamelin Stoop Series from 12 Gates Publishing {Book Review}

The Hamelin Stoop Series {Book Review}
One of the age groups that is lacking in quality reading material--as in books I'd actually allow my children to read because they aren't filled with smut--is the post-elementary, pre-young adult genre. What is technically considered to be the "middle school" genre. Many of the chapter books for elementary are too young for this grade, yet the young adult genre is really more geared to ages 16+ and deals with a lot of less than desirable content (what I like to call smut!). It's even HARDER to find a good fantasy series to bridge this gap! 12 Gates Publishing is trying to fill this need starting with The Hamelin Stoop Series by Robert B. Sloan. Join me as I share our review of the first two books [Hamelin Stoop: The Eagle, The Cave, and the Footbridge (Book 1)
 and Hamelin Stoop: The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna (Book 2)] in this new fantasy series for all ages!

About the Book

"The campfire was almost out, but it didn't matter that they were letting it burn down to its last smoky smell. The trackers were coming, but for just a moment longer, Simon wanted to look at her lying in the crook of his arm and at the infant asleep between them. Funny what you think about when you should be panicked..." (The Eagle, The Cave, and The Footbridge)

Thus the world of Hamelin Stoop opens to the reader immediately thrust into the middle of the adventure. Hamelin Stoop is the name given to a baby boy who is discovered in an old tomato crate
inside the screened porch of a children's home in Texas. The staff at the orphanage adopts Hamelin and he grows up being raised by the adults and children alike at the home. As would be expected, life isn't easy for Hamelin as he longs for knowing who he really is, desperate to find his parents and to know what his name REALLY is. Sadly he sees his closest companions leave the home one by one. But it's the year that everyone forgets Hamelin's 8th birthday that everything changes. For this is the year that he runs away and guided by a Great Eagle finds a mysterious cave where he learns that he must pass a perilous test of courage if he wants to find his parents. For this is when Hamelin learns he is part of a larger story of a great struggle between the Ancient One and Chimera. A struggle between worlds where old stories of magic, evil, and enslaved children are discovered to be real. As Hamelin faces failures, fears, and hopes--he learns to just do as an old friend advised: "keep waiting and keep hoping." and discovers his part in the greater story around him.

The Hamelin Stoop Series:
Hamelin Stoop: The Eagle, The Cave, and the Footbridge (Book 1)
Hamelin Stoop: The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna (Book 2)

The author has stated that he is releasing book 3 soon and hopes to make this a 6-7 part series. These fantasy books were intended for the age group that is transitioning from elementary to young adult, for the middle-grade book selections are meager.

Our Thoughts On the Book

I faced my biggest challenge with these books as soon as I put it in the hands of my 13-year-old. While he is the target range, he groaned as he got started. Sadly, it quickly became obvious that he could not stand the fantasy aspect of the books and had troubles explaining the plot and characters---something he is actually very good at doing. He trudged through the first five chapters, but it was so slow going and "torturous" for my avid reader, that I just had him stop. LOL.

Thus I myself became the primary reader. The books had plots that moved quickly which I think is important for this age range. I found the characters to be a wide range of ages from little Hamelin to the children's home staff to the other older kids at the children's home to his two young adult friends to the villains Ren'Dal and Tumultor. This large age variance in the characters, as well as the book being written from multiple characters points of view (Hamelin, Charissa, Simon, Johnnie, Sophie, Ren'Dal, etc), makes it a good choice for readers even up to adult.

Book 1 sets everything up. It begins with showing the reader how Hamelin ends up at the children's home, the challenges he faces growing up and friends he makes along the way, where his real parents are, introduces the villains and overall conflict, the Great Eagle, and sets Hamelin up for his mission. We are introduced to characters who will obviously play a role in his life--people like Layla and Bryan, Charissa, The Great Eagle, The Ancient One, his parents, Ren-Dal, etc. We see him experience a lot of depressing things--primarily having to deal with the feeling of abandonment and loneliness. And having to face his fears and walk forward in faith.
Map from Book 2

Book 2 continues the story right where book 1 leaves off. Hamelin quickly learns that the answers he is seeking are going to have to wait and he's not happy about that. He meets new friends, Eraina and Lars, who help him find the kidnapped princess (Charissa) and together they go on a quest to find a jewel that will help Lars' family and town. Through it all, the larger plot to seize the kingdoms on both side of the Atrium of the Worlds continues--and we continue to discover Hamelin's role in it.

Some of the things I really appreciate about these books it that it really drives home how everything we do has consequences good or bad. Our choices affect others whether we like it or not.

There were a couple statements by the Great Eagle to Hamelin in book 2 that I really identified with and are lessons I'm trying to teach my children.

"You've already apologized. That's a good beginning. The consequences are still with us, but even your failure, in the hands of the Ancient One, may give us other opportunities. But that's not ours to know ahead of time..." (Chapter 1 "The Other Side", The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna)

This really emphasizes how God uses our failures and mistakes for His ultimate purpose, even if we can't see it at the moment. This is a HUGE boost of encouragement for any Christian. And a good lesson to teach our children while they are young.

"I know you want to find your parents, but what you have been summed here to do is not a task designed to make you feel happy. That may happen, if you succeed, but first of all you must do what is good and true..." (Chapter 1 "The Other Side", The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna)

Yes, so much yes. When we have to do what is right and godly, we won't always feel happy. But that's not what is important. Our happiness in this life is NOT the end all. Yet that is the message that is driven home to society today. "Do what makes you happy". These books really bring harder bolder lessons home through the various dialogues the characters have. And I LOVE it.

In the first book, one of my favorite parts was the Great Eagles' interaction with Hamelin at the bridge BOTH times. I won't spoil it, but the analogies to our walk in faith are HUGE.

I am sorry that my son didn't care for the book as one to read himself--but he says it wasn't the writing, as it was easy to read--it just wasn't anything he likes to read (he is 100% non-fiction in reading choice). On the other hand, I think he may appreciate it more as a read-aloud for our family. I also know that my younger son (Age 8) DOES love fiction and imaginative works, so I am hopeful that in the future, these books will be something he will enjoy reading.

All in all, I think these books are an excellent choice for those who love the authors C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald! Their fantasy element takes you on a great ride with amazing life analogies along the way! The age level is DEFINITELY upper elementary/middle grade and I truly would classify it as a young adult, but more along the lines of the way the C.S. Lewis are young adult. Enjoyable for younger ages as well, but meaty enough and deep enough for the older reader.

Want to Know More?

For the last few weeks, we have been reading The Hamelin Stoop Series from 12 Gates Publishing. You've read what we think--but what about other crew members? Make sure you head on over and read more reviews on this young adult fantasy series!
The Eagle, The Cave, and the Footbridge (Book 1) & The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna (Book 2) {12 Gates Publishing  Reviews}

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