Series: Elf Realm #1
Published by Amulet on August 2009
Genres: Children's Fiction, Faeries, Fantasy
Amazon • Amazon UK • Book Depository
When Matt's father breaks ground on a new housing development, he unwittingly puts his family in grave danger. They are swept into the middle of a massive upheaval in the Elf Realm. The living, tunnel-like Cord, or "Low Road", through which the elves travel, is being slowly destroyed, causing the magic barriers between the elfin world and the human world to disintegrate.
The Elfin kingdoms differ greatly from one another: Some are peace-loving, while others are prone to war and destruction. As dark factions look to seize control of the entire Elf Realm, apprentice mage Tuava-Li must defend her kingdom's territory - even when that means cooperating with Matt, a human and the elves' natural enemy. With the help of a troll named Tomtar, Matt and Tuava-Li work to keep the Elf Realm, and the human world alongside it, from certain destruction.
“You take the high road, and I’ll take the low road…”
I happened to be in the Junior section of my local library when I spied this enormous book with an elfin face peeking out along the spine. The Low Road is the first in a middle-grade series about Matt and his family and their interactions with the Elf Realm. It’s a dark series for such a young audience – there’s plenty of violence and people frequently die. In fact in the first few pages an elf is shot, a man killed and his daughter cursed to lie alive at the bottom of a creek for thirty years. Harsh, right?
Well, this is just the sort of book I loved to read at primary school – chunky and action-packed. It has very convoluted storylines, with everyone following their own plans for domination or salvation. I’d recommend for older MG/teen readers rather than the younger ones.
Early on, the Elves and other creatures of the forest risk having their homes torn apart by Matt’s father’s housing development. I was worried this was going to turn into a preachy environmental book, but by the time I got most of the way through, I was pleasantly surprised. The story comes into its own and while there is certainly an environmental message there, it doesn’t overpower the adventure or the political wrangling.
There are beautiful illustrations scattered throughout the book, although they are slightly creepy with their enormous eyes! The illustrations are all of characters, but the writing itself brings the fairy realm to life with its sacred trees and the Cord through which the elves travel around their realm.
The interactions between the humans and elves were probably quite realistic – there’s no trust and each side is terrified of the other. It’s nice to see elves portrayed as dangerous rather than cutesy for a change, although the humans themselves came across as pushy, and I liked Matt’s sister Becky better than Matt himself. Anna’s story completely broke my heart and brought me to tears on more than one occasion! Then there’s Prince Macta and his cronies – such nasty pieces of work but they provide a fair bit of comic relief throughout the story. It’s a fantastic cast of characters.
Although there are some slower sections through the book while plans were progressing on all sides, the action-packed end of the book had me chewing my fingernails. I was so surprised by the huge cliffhanger at the end! After 500 pages I was really expecting an actual ending, but now I need to scour those library shelves to get my hands on the sequel!
– I loved everything about this book. The action was exciting and I really cared about what was happening to every character. Get your middle-grader into this series today!