The Voting Tree by Gareth Griffith
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Number of Pages: 263
Published: November 5th, 2018
Source: Review copy provided by the author via Lodestar Author Services in exchange for an honest review.
Opening Line: "In the Land of Pelas there was winter and there was war."
The Voting Tree is a fantasy adventure involving a fig tree and an ancient prophecy. A prophecy foretelling that the true heir to the throne of the Land of Pelas will be restored and will bring an end to the constant winters plaguing the land. The story opens in the City of Golden Towers where a war has been raging between two bitter rivals, Lord Boreas and his brother the king. Desperate to acquire control of the kingdom, Lord Boreas attacks the city planning to kill the king. The story then jumps ahead to the year 2000 in Sydney, Australia where Sam Archer is starting his first day in a new school. Sam quickly meets Hamish, Sylvia, Athena, and Oscar who invite him to explore the fig tree near their school. It is Sylvia who encourages Sam to place his hands in a hole leading to the roots of the tree which then portals them to Pelas. It is here that they meet the young heir, Pelagius. From there the story alternates between the children's lives in Australia, and their portal adventures trekking through the icy landscape as they make their way toward the city and a confrontation with Lord Boreas.
I quite enjoyed the distinct differences between the two worlds. In Pelas, the five friends have to deal with all of the hardships of a place that is endlessly cold, they also have to defend themselves from Lord Boreas' men who are searching for Pelagius. There's the dynamics of war and how to gather support from the villagers to be successful once they try to take back the throne. Within Pelas, the children had special roles and magical abilities. Sylvia and Athena had the ability to speak with animals, and Oscar was found to be the Prince of Talos, aware of battle strategy and adept with a sword. Sam and Hamish provided friendship and protection to Pelagius. Each of them "awakened their true self" while they were in Pelas.
In the real world, Sam and Oscar were initially being tormented by a bully who was spreading lies about Oscar to try and intimidate him. While their teacher seemed at odds with how to deal with the situation. Trying to balance being diplomatic, but also seeing the unfairness of the situation. Hamish was dealing with his own family troubles at home resulting in him sleeping over at Sam's house while his parents sorted out their problems. I found it interesting that the two worlds never really overlapped with one another. That when the children were at home, they never had extensive conversations about Pelas. Or that when they were in Pelas, they didn't really talk about home. Griffith described this as a veil between the two worlds, not allowing them to see the other side clearly. Yet, their experiences in Pelas still managed to change them in positive ways. Sam developed confidence and Oscar awakened the leadership qualities of a prince and learned how to defend himself when he most needed it. Overall, this was a very fun story with lovely elements of friendship, adventure and finding courage.