FeaturedMiddle Grade

The Owl Apprentice and the Trees of Myth and Magic

By

Loved it! 😍

The magic-filled world of such creatures teases readers to recall when they saw as animals as no different than themselves.

Full disclosure - Erik DeLeo was born in Rochester, New York, where I enjoyed nearly 20 years. I no longer live there. Neither does the now Santa Monica, California author. Also we share a fascination with owls. That said, those facts had nothing to do with what drew me to finish, The Owl Apprentice and the Trees of Myth and Magic. The tightly plotted, highly descriptive, coming-of-age novel is reminiscent of Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son, where a naive boy is drafted to service as a witch hunter.


As Card’s main character DeLeo’s young owl, Screech, starts as an insecure bungler with wit and a big heart. That is where the comparison ends. DeLeo creates a magical owl world in a tense power struggle, and his “hero” wants only to join the ancient parliament of wizard owls that protect the giant sequoias. The whole saga seems boringly similar and familiar until Chapter 4. The apprentice is booted out.


Screech decided to fly towards the one thing that always gave him solace - the sequoia grove...They were majestic and ancient. He felt comfortable around the old trees and wanted to be there, especially now.

 

At that point, what once seemed an almost too familiar tale bursts into an unpredictable discovery quest that grabs the reader’s imagination. The plot goes from an assurance the little owl’s dream will never happen to an epilogue that even surprises Screech.


The characters, settings and well-paced dialog could have worked with humans. I wondered about why the author insisted on use of the usually solitary and nocturnal birds. I realized that if the characters were people a part of what happens in readers' minds might not occur. The magic-filled world of such creatures teases readers to recall when they saw as animals as no different than themselves.


The novel pulls readers through seemingly insurmountable obstacles that lead to a discovery about Screech’s nature and the forest’s deeper realities. Most middle school readers will not be able to put the novel down. Audubon members and adventure fans will also be drawn into this welcome break from the real world’s cynicism.

 

Reviewed by

I am a retired Creative Writing professor who teaches and writes in Central Florida. My fiction, nonfiction and poetry reviews go back more than 30 years in a wide range of publications. In addition to the cited genre areas, I enjoy history, politics, culture, and memoir.

Magic

About the author

Erik DeLeo was born in Rochester, NY. He grew up reading fantasy and science fiction and avoiding the sun. He now lives in Santa Monica, California with his cats Barnabas, and Caia. He doesn't charge them rent even though they eat a lot. view profile

Published on February 15, 2021

30000 words

Genre: Middle Grade

Reviewed by