Category Archives: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Lights, Camera, Novel: Alexander Key’s Escape to Witch Mountain.

If you’re in the right age bracket, you might remember Escape to Witch Mountain from your childhood. Which format and version you recall depends on your generation. Novelist Alexander Key first wrote the book in 1967. Key began his career as a well-known illustrator who eventually transitioned into writing. His writing can be described as science fiction for kids. Key was born in Maryland and spent many years in Florida before moving to the mountains of North Carolina with his wife and son. A fan page on Key says that he and his family made the move after they “decided Florida was growing too fast.” Much of Key’s work is currently out-of-print. Escape to Witch Mountain is one of Key’s best known titles. The book tells the story of orphans Tony and Tia who possess supernatural gifts and are on the hunt to figure out their origins before the evil Lucas Deranian reaches them first.

In 1975, Disney released a film adaptation of the novel directed by John Hough, which, at the time, became one of their most popular live-action movies. The movie follows the basic plot from beginning to end with some noticeable modifications. First, the setting was relocated from the East coast to the West coast, where the movie was filmed. In the novel, Father O’Day helps the children on their quest and protects them from Deranian. In the movie, O’Day plays the same role, but his character is a widower named Jason O’Day. Deranian is the central villain in the novel, whereas in the movie he becomes ancillary to his mastermind boss, Aristotle Bolt. The child actors who play Tony and Tia aren’t perfect physical matches for their book counterparts who are supposed to look unearthly with their olive-skin and light hair. Instead, they look like wholesome child actors.

 

This clip, from TCM, shows Tony and Tia’s arrival to the orphanage. The movie’s portrayal is much lighter and more innocent: Miss. Grindley is kinder and Truck, a bully at the orphanage, is much less threatening. Yet the most surprising change is Tia speaking. Muteness is a major feature of her character. In the novel, Tia is seen as an oddity because she does not speak out loud. Instead, she carries a pad and pen around to communicate with other people. She is able to converse with her brother telepathically. Another clip from TCM shows that the movie still includes her telepathic communication with Tony.

Disney created a sequel called Return from Witch Mountain in 1978, also directed by John Hough. The same child actors, Ike (now known as Iake) Eisenmann and Kim Richards, reprized their roles as slightly older Tony and Tia. Bette Davis and Christopher Lee starred as the movie’s villains who hoped to manipulate the siblings’ powers. Four years later, Disney released yet another sequel, Beyond Witch Mountain with a new director. By this time, the original Tony and Tia has grown out of the roles and were recast. The plot appears to pick up from after the original 1975 Escape from Witch Mountain adaptation and it ignores the story-line from the 1978 Return from Witch Mountain. This second sequel was created as a pilot for a possible TV series. But since no networks expressed interest, no other episodes were filmed.

Over a decade later, in 1995, Disney remade Escape to Witch Mountain as a made-for-TV movie. The movie shared some elements with Key’s story, like orphaned siblings with powers (renamed Danny and Anna). Most of the TV movie departed from the original plot though, for instance Danny and Anna are initially separated. Finally, in 2009 Disney produced its latest rendition, called Race to Witch Mountain with Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb and Carla Gugino. Like the 1995 adaptation, Race only shares some passing similarities to Key’s novel and the 1975 film. Adolescent Tony and Tia were remodeled as teenaged Seth and Sara. As the years passed, it seems that each revision departed further from the original, maybe as a means to refresh and modernize the story, while still maintaining essential characters and motivations.

Escape to Witch Mountain and its many adaptations are nostalgic classics. Alexander Key’s novel is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog and has been previously blogged on here. The film and TV adaptations are not available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. If you’re local to the area, Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and Race to Witch Mountain (2009) are available at the Chapel Hill and the Durham Public Libraries and could make an interesting back-to-back screening of two adaptations thirty-four years apart.

Sources consulted here: The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s BooksJenny’s Wonderland of Books blogLos Angeles Times (on the child actors from the 1975 & 1978 films), New York Times, Roger Ebert, TCMTCMDb, Thru the Forgotten Door: Into Alexander Key’s Magical Worlds (Alexander Key Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2004), Wikipedia (Alexander KeyEscape to Witch Mountain — Novel, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1975 Film, Return from Witch Mountain, Beyond Witch Mountain, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1995 Film, Race to Witch Mountain), The Witch Mountain Experience (Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2007)

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Filed under 1970-1979, 1975, 1978, 1980-1989, 1982, 1990-1999, 1995, 2000-2009, 2009, Children & Young Adults, Key, Alexander, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Jennifer Estep. Midnight Frost. New York: Kensington Publishing, 2013.

Midnight FrostGwen Frost can’t stop having nightmares. They’re eerily realistic and they all end the same way, with dreamy Logan Quinn, Gwen’s (almost) boyfriend, stabbing her in the chest. Since Jennifer Estep’s last Mythos Academy installment, Logan and Gwen’s developing relationship has been brought to a screeching halt following Gwen’s arrest and trial for the crime of releasing Loki from his imprisonment. Now Gwen has no idea about Logan’s whereabouts. And his absence is weighing heavily on her, along with the increased attention from the rest of the student body. Students don’t just point and stare – they’ve created a phone app to track Gwen’s every move.

She might be Nike’s Champion, selected by the Goddess herself, yet Gwen has her doubts. She isn’t strong or fast like the other students of Mythos Academy who have warrior lineages. Students descend from Vikings or Amazons, or even Spartans. Gwen  is just a Gypsy, albeit a Gypsy with the mysterious skill of psychometry, a magical trait that allows her to learn about people or objects simply through touching them.

And the Reapers want her dead.

During a botched attempt to poison Gwen in the Library of Antiquities, librarian Nickamedes is poisoned instead. Professor Metis works what magic she can to keep Nickamedes alive, but it’s up to Gwen and her friends to seek the antidote to the deadly Serket sap. Their trek leads them to the Denver branch of the Mythos Academy. A rare flower, Chloris ambrosia, grows in the Eir Ruins near the school and contains the antidote to cure Nickamedes’ poisoning. Despite an early threat en route to Denver, the journey feels easy, a little too easy. Sure the Reapers want to kill Gwen. But why are they luring her all the way to Denver?

Midnight Frost is the fifth book in novelist Jennifer Estep’s Mythos Academy series. In this volume, readers will discover a few more details about Gwen’s father, Tyr Forseti, plus some unsavory information about her paternal relatives. There is a map of the school’s Library of Antiquities in the front of the book and a few brief indices at the back of the book on the Warriors and the Magic, the Mythos Academy, the Students, the Adults, and the Gods and the Monsters to get readers entrenched in Gwen’s world. Estep keeps her characters relatable. She merges the supernatural with the everyday; characters possess extraordinary powers yet exhibit normal teenaged impulses too. Estep also blends many strands of mythology. What other book could readers pick up that combines elements of Norse, Egyptian and Greek mythology, and feature a cheeky talking sword?

Young adult readers ages 13 and up will enjoy this mythological urban fantasy series.

If you’re new to this series, start by reading our first entry on Estep’s Mythos Academy. Or, check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, Children & Young Adults, Estep, Jennifer, Mountains, Novels in Series, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Robin Ford Wallace. The Woman Who Loved the Sea. United States: CreateSpace, 2013.

Piney Point Island is home for Claire.  Claire’s mother, a volatile, unstable person had trouble putting down roots.  She didn’t plan to stay on the island, and every few years threatened to leave, but then her mood would blow over and stay they did.  Their neighbors, the Flannerys, became a second family to Claire.  Mr. Flannery, a high school teacher, charmed Claire and his own daughters, Juliet and Cordelia, by quoting Shakespeare, Robert Burns, and the other masters of English poetry.  But Mr. Flannery wasn’t just a romantic dreamer, he was good about money too.  Over time, he bought up property at one end of the island and built houses for his daughters.  When he built a new house for himself, he sold his original house, just a cottage, to Claire.

Claire, barely twenty and a waitress, was proud to have the money for a down-payment, and she was determined to make the little cottage her home for life.  But then into her life walked Richard Danthe, a rich boy doing penance for bad behavior by working as a pizza delivery man.  Claire fell for Richard and after they married, she helped him develop his career.  But once Richard’s business grew, they moved to Charlotte, far from the island and the sea that Claire loves so much.

Claire’s marriage to Richard, which had been stale for years, is finally undone by Richard’s dalliances with two high school girls.  As The Woman Who Loved the Sea opens, Claire is back on Piney Point Island.  Claire has no plans, except to watch the sea, paint, and renew her friendship with the Flannerys.  Cordelia and Juliet are the same as ever, but they are worried about their father who is drinking too much and appears to be under the spell of Leslie Orange, an ambitious realtor.  Ms. Orange want to develop Piney Point, and she has allies, including a boorish artist whom she is playing off against Mr. Flannery.  Claire aligns herself with Cordelia and Juliet, but what help can she be when her vengeful husband Richard is intent on compelling her to come back to Charlotte?  And then, there is that new mystery man in her life–a beachcomber who admires her paintings and excites her passion–and who comes and goes like the tide.

In The Woman Who Loved the Sea, Robin Ford Wallace mixes the familiar elements coastal development and a vengeful spouse with fantasy and a bit of Shakespeare.  It makes for an interesting read.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Wallace, Robin Ford

Edward Lazellari. The Lost Prince. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2013.

The Lost PrinceWhat if your entire life was an illusion? What if you were living a double life — and you didn’t even know it?

In Awakenings, the first book in Edward Lazellari’s Guardians of Aandor series, readers meet Cal MacDonnell, a police officer, and Seth Raincrest, a struggling photographer. At first glance, the two men seem to have little in common – except for one distinguishing characteristic. Both men suffer from retrograde amnesia. They have no memory of their prior lives. Unexpectedly and inexplicably, fantastical creatures begin to hunt down MacDonnell and Raincrest. Over the course of the novel, Lazellari develops, through multiple plot lines and perspectives, that Cal and Set originate from an alternate, medieval land, called Aandor. They traveled to Earth to protect the infant prince of Aandor from a group of assassins. But the prince was lost and their memories were wiped clean after an accident.

With the sequel, The Lost Prince, Cal and Set gradually remember more details about their former lives. During the prologue, more characters experience sudden seizures that return their memories of Aandor. Malcolm Robbe is an industrial titan and the top weapons producer in America. Allyn Grey is the reverend at the First Community Baptist Church of Raleigh. Or so their earthly memories would lead them to believe. Recollections of Aandor and their botched mission complicate their relationships on Earth. Reverend Grey, for example, shocks his family by integrating his pagan beliefs from Aandor with his Christian ministry. And Cal’s wife, Cat, is set on edge when Cal remembers his betrothed, a wealthy and beautiful lady.

However, the search for the prince is the driving action in the second chapter of this series. The guardians, with their refreshed memories, are desperate to get their hands on the prince before the vicious sorcerer Dorn finds him. Dorn is bent on purifying Aandor from supposedly lesser races. He lives in the neighboring land of Farrenheil and wishes to control Aandor.

Daniel, the thirteen year-old prince, stumbles between regular danger and momentary safety. Dorn and the guardians aren’t the only ones searching for Daniel. Law enforcement and the press have branded Daniel as the “teen killer” after murdering his abusive stepfather. For the time being, Daniel is safe, but only marginally so.  Seedy private investigator Colby Dretch has sheltered Daniel with his sister Beverly and her lascivious sixteen year-old daughter, Luanne in a trailer parker situated in the “boonies” of North Carolina. However, Colby doesn’t hold Daniel’s best interests at heart. He has a secret agenda. Dorn employed Colby to locate and deliver Daniel to him. Now that Daniel is willingly in his care, will Colby surrender him over Dorn? Or will Cal and Seth or another one of the newly awakened guardians rescue Daniel first?

Although Lazellari has included enough detail for new readers to catch on to the story, readers might want to start with the first book in the series for a fuller experience given the length and intricacy of the novels and the quantity of characters. Lazellari handles the complexity of the characters’ double lives well. The characters express a range of reactions to their reinstated memories. Some are not troubled by the duality, while others are conflicted by the duality and where they truly belong.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Lazellari, Edward, Nash, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Wake

C.K. Volnek. Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island. United States: Spark Books, 2011.

ghostdogofroanokeIt feels like fate when Jack Dahlgren’s family inherits his great-aunt Ruth’s home on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. His dad has lost his job, and all the family’s savings are gone. But twelve-year-old Jack doesn’t want to live on Roanoke Island, especially in a house that the kids at school say is haunted. He also feels responsible for his little sister’s accidental fall off of a nearby sea cliff, which put her in a hospital in Raleigh. On top of everything, a hurricane is bearing down on the Outer Banks, howling like a monster.

…Or is it a hurricane? There’s definitely some stormy weather, but there’s also something dark and scary living in the woods near the Dahlgrens’ new house. When Jack investigates, he finds a mysterious, vanishing mastiff, and something much wilder. Later, Jack meets and befriends their Algonquin neighbor, Manny Braboy, who explains it all– the evil living in Jack’s woods is a Witiku: a demon summoned by the natives of Roanoke Island in the sixteenth century to rid the island of all invaders. Incredibly, Manny tells Jack that he, Jack, must be the one to defeat the Witiku. The twelve-year old is skeptical, but when Manny takes him back to the sixteenth century to observe the events of the Lost Colony unfold, he begins to believe. Will Jack defeat the Wikitu? Will Roanoke Island finally be at peace? Will Jack ever be happy in his new home?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Dare, Historical, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Volnek, C. K.

Brenda Tetreault. Prophecies and Destinies. Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2012.

propheciesanddestiniesIn this, the concluding installment in the Bounty Cove Chronicles, all the couples we have come to know in the previous five novels must work together to defeat the evil that has been feeding on their kind for aeons.

At fifteen years old, Lily Sullivan is nothing but trouble. The feisty red-headed teenager’s obsession with her good-for-nothing boyfriend Trevor finally causes her father to take action–he sends her to live with her Aunt Tess in the small town of Bounty Cove, North Carolina. Within a year, Lily has forgotten Trevor and fallen in love with Colby, a quiet local boy who doesn’t push or pressure her. But then Colby moves away. He promises he’ll be back for her, and Lily believes him, but it still breaks her heart. Twenty years later, a man collapses on her doorstep– it’s Colby, finally able to return to the one woman he never stopped thinking about. Now that they’re back together, nothing can stand in the way of their love.

Or so they think. A dangerous evil that has been haunting Bounty Cove for ages is rising, and Colby is its target. Bounty Cove has always been a strange crossroads between what regular humans believe in and what actually exists. Until now, no one has been able to explain why; those affected have simply had to accept the strangeness of their abilities, or those of their significant other, and move on. Now, everything is going to become horrifyingly clear and it’s not only Colby and Lily who are in danger, but all of Bounty Cove. Will Colby, Lily, Devil, Angeline, Natali, Britt, and the others be able to stop the malevolent force seeking to destroy their lives after they have worked so hard for peace?

Check out the final reckoning in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coast, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Tetreault, Brenda

Jennifer Estep. Crimson Frost. New York: Kensington Publishing, 2013.

With the Norse chaos god Loki freed from his prison, Gwen Frost should be extra careful. Besides an evil god, she also has to look out for his Champion, a murderous girl called Vivian, and her army of Reapers. Life at the Mythos Academy, high in the supposedly peaceful mountains just outside of Asheville, has never been more dangerous. And yet, Gwen has never been so happy. Logan Quinn, the boy she’s had a crush on forever, has finally asked her out. He’s even given her a winter present– a beautiful snowflake necklace. They’re sitting together in a local coffee shop when Gwen’s reality finally comes crashing down around her. She’s arrested by the Protectorate, her world’s governing body, for the crime of…freeing Loki from imprisonment.

It all seems like some ridiculous joke. Gwen almost died in the attempt to keep Loki from being unleashed on the world, and now she’s being accused of helping him to escape? The Protectorate is very serious, however, in its accusation. Soon the entirety of Mythos Academy knows that Gwen is an evil Reaper, and they all want revenge. This would be uncomfortable in a normal high school, but at Mythos Academy, a training school for the descendants of ancient warriors, it’s definitely deadly. Will Gwen be able to survive not only Loki and his Champion, but the anger of her fellow students? Will she ever clear her name? And will Logan stand by her during her trial, even when his father is the head of the Protectorate?

Young adult readers ages 13 and up will enjoy the continuing adventures of Gwen and her friends in this fourth installment in the Mythos Academy Novels.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, Children & Young Adults, Estep, Jennifer, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Antony John. Elemental. New York: Dial Books, 2012.

In the future, there will be a plague so great that it almost wipes the entirety of the human race off the planet. Sixteen-year-old Thomas lives with a small band of fourteen survivors, including his father and his brothers, Ananias and Griffin. This post-apocalyptic world is all Thomas has ever known, but like many teenagers today, Thomas feels as though he doesn’t belong. While everyone else in their small colony on Hatteras Island can control the four elements in some way, Thomas has no power. The others even seem afraid to touch him, as though his lack of power is contagious. Then, one stormy day, everything changes.

The adult Guardians (as they call themselves) have failed to predict a terrible storm. Quickly, Thomas and the other children flee to a shelter on the abandoned wasteland of Roanoke Island. But when they try to return, they discover something far more horrifying than a storm’s damage– their families have been kidnapped by pirates. Vowing to resist, the youngsters retreat back to Roanoke Island. With each passing day, they discover that their powers grow stronger and stronger, and that they possess more and different abilities than they ever thought. Spying on the pirates reveals still more– there is something special about Griffin, Thomas’ younger brother, and the pirates want him enough to kill. Although Thomas knows he doesn’t have a power, he has also been feeling stranger and stranger the longer they stay on Roanoke. Is it possible that the Guardians lied as well when they said he didn’t have a power? And if he does, what could his power be?

A gripping take on the legend of the Lost Colony, this dystopian novel brings the past to life in a future just as haunted by pirates, disease, and mysteries as the 16th century.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Dare, John, Antony, Novels in Series, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Jennifer Estep. Dark Frost. New York: Kensington, 2012.

Gwen Frost is supposed to be a normal high school student, or at least as normal as any of the superhero-like kids she attends the Mythos Academy with can be. Unbeknownst to the residents of Asheville, the elite private boarding school nearby isn’t filled with rich kids, but with the descendants of mythological warriors.  Unfortunately, the Greek goddess Nike has chosen Gwen to be her champion. This means that the evil Reapers, servants of the Norse chaos god Loki, want her dead. Or at least she thinks that’s why.

Gwen’s mother was also Nike’s champion, until she was killed in a car crash two years ago. As Gwen soon discovers, the car crash was no accident, and her mother was guarding a dagger of terrible power that the Reapers want more than anything. Convinced that Gwen knows its whereabouts, Loki’s mysterious and wicked champion plays a deadly game of cat and mouse, trying to trick her into revealing its hiding place. Gwen knows nothing, other than that she must find the dagger before the Reapers. But with her best friend Daphne in crisis, a pregnant Fenrir wolf on her hands, and confused teenage love on her mind, it’s hard to focus. Will Gwen be able to overcome her personal demons in time to face the very real demons?

Young adult readers ages 13 and up will enjoy this third book in the Mythos Academy Novels.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Buncombe, Children & Young Adults, Estep, Jennifer, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Jennifer Estep. Kiss of Frost. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2011.

High school is a hard time for a lot of kids, and Gwen is no different. The popular girls tease and snub her, and the handsome boy she has a crush on is dating an Amazon. Literally– Savannah is an Amazon, a direct descendant of those powerful ancient warriors, just as her boyfriend (and Gwen’s crush) Logan Quinn is a Spartan. At the Mythos Academy high in the mountains above Asheville, ancient mythology is still alive and well in the several hundred young men and women who attend school there. At Mythos, they learn fighting skills and the history of their illustrious ancestors. After, many go on to become the heroes that defeat the very real monsters living on into the modern age.

Gwen isn’t a hero, or at least she doesn’t think she is. As a Gypsy, Gwen has the power of psychometry: she can read others’ memories and emotions simply by touching them or their belongings. Logan and his warrior buddies are trying to teach her how to fight, but it’s not working very well. Then the whole school heads off to a resort in the Smoky Mountains for Winter Carnival, a yearly holiday where students ski, drink hot chocolate, and like typical high school students, go to wild parties. Gwen doesn’t want to go– she’d rather stay at Mythos and read in her room. But Daphne, Gwen’s best friend, refuses to let her stay behind. Soon, they’re all on a bus to the fancy resort, and Gwen should be excited…except something sinister is going on. Last year, a Reaper, one of the chief enemies of heroes like the Mythos Academy students, tried to kill Gwen and failed. Maybe it’s paranoia, but Gwen is getting the distinct feeling that it’s happening all over again. Will her winter holiday end in disaster, or even death? Will Logan Quinn ever notice her? And, worst of all, will Daphne drag her to all the late-night parties?

Young adult readers ages 13 and up will enjoy this second installment in the Mythos Academy Novels.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Buncombe, Children & Young Adults, Estep, Jennifer, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Science Fiction/Fantasy