What happens in Campbell’s Cove, must remain in Campbell’s Cove.
Campbell’s Cove is a town steeped in a rich history of dragons, witches and brave warriors. History tells of one Viking warrior who rose above them all to claim the ultimate prize. Hundreds of years later strange things start happening in the town. Could the Viking stories be true? Has the evil returned? Who can protect the people?
When school friends Peter and George take their summer holiday with Peter’s Granddad it turns into an adventure that they will never forget. Peter must face a future he could never have dreamed of and learn of a past that has been kept secret for hundreds of years. A fight for friendship and survival and a struggle against an ancient evil that takes them into the Caves of Campbell’s Cove and beyond.
The Viking’s Apprentice is the debut novel for author Kevin McLeod and as soon as I read the plot and saw the cover I went hunting for this book. When I realised it was an ebook only I downloaded the necessary apps and away I went head first. This is an excellent book, just as it looked like it would be. What McLeod does is he has created a world of mystery and magic within our own and even in this first book, for even as I read I could tell there would be a second, is he has engaged readers. He uses stories of an ancient time, seemingly simple, but with so much hidden meaning and history behind it, to reveal the past, explain a story and begin an adventure. However it is the way in which he does this is what was wonderful: by using characters to do the work for him he enables readers to learn alongside the children as they too hear the wild adventures of the past, hearing tales of heroics of Vikings and warriors, dragons and battles.
The story begins with Peter and his friend George going to stay with Peter’s Grandad at Campbell’s Cove for the holidays. We learn that Peter does this often and what we know of Grandad is he is a teller of stories, stories about the Cove’s history, rich in dragons, warriors, and witches. The descriptions in this story are wonderful, but it also allows the reader to create their own images. The images created as you read Grandad’s stories to the boys about when dragons were fought and villages were under threat are excellent. In so few words seemingly complete stories can be told. This is another clever trick by McLeod; readers are given the same position as the children in the beginning, we, as they, sit impatiently while Grandad recounts his stories. This is where our knowledge comes from and we must wait, unless you start speculating like I did, but McLeod gives nothing away until you and the children need to know.
In other books like Fforde or Colfer or Nix where you know the authors like to play with you so readers only get what the author wants them to have until they’re ready, McLeod does this as well, and uses the children wonderfully to do so. They are not exactly withheld information, but within the story characters respect the relationship between the boys and the Grandfather, and when questions are being asked the main response is, ‘I think it would be best for your Grandad to tell you, or ‘he wants to be the one to tell you’. I liked that part, we are being held filled with suspense about what exactly is going on, but there is a reason for it that you know will be better to help gain a full idea of the story.
That is not to say we stick with the children the entire time through this story. McLeod gives us both sides of this saga, and the ambiguity and secretive unspoken and unexplained snippets about the coming danger is very creative. This is where we are treated as a reader away from the children; there is no information though, only secrets and mysterious figures. What I always like is that there are unexplained actions that occur but we see no explanation of meaning we are left to try and figure it out for ourselves. For a book suited at this age and audience, it is rather intricate and mysterious, something I applaud.
Where this story begins to grow in excitement is when these two stories we’ve seen combine and the past seems to return, and perhaps the Vikings and dragons of Grandad’s tales are become less of a story and more of a reality. I am offering no spoilers so don’t even try, but I will say that I adored how this was revealed and how it played out. I really liked though that McLeod was able to capture the urgency in the story with his writing, you definitely feel that things have become chaotic, or have calmed down, or that there is an eerie feeling. This certainly helps create feeling of a story without actually making it blatantly obvious and announcing it to readers. By the end of this book you are hanging out for the next one, McLeod has set up this story very well and he adds just enough to make you want to keep reading about these characters and see the effects and consequences o the events in this book. I look forward to continuing this series.