Owen R. Minter. The Shrouded Sword. 2019.
Some of you may be staying at home with the young and the restless---tweens and teens. You may be struggling to find ways to grab their attention other than the ubiquitous screens. I see you. In fact, I know those challenges myself, and that’s why I want to recommend a book that will engage the younger members of your self-quarantined unit. The Shrouded Sword is Owen Minter’s first book. He grew up in Martinsville, and lives with his family in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Set in the fictional southwestern Virginia town of Deadmoor, this is the story of the adventures two young people, Ethan Mosely and his sister, Jynx, have when they spend their Christmas break with their eccentric uncle, Socrates Maupin. Their pompous, selfish parents usually park them with relatives for the holidays, but never have they been left at Maupin’s rundown mansion, Gramarye. Facing weeks with no Internet or TV, the children believe this will be the worst Christmas break they have ever experienced. But they soon learn that eliminating access to media has the unexpected effect of opening new experiences.
For one thing, Gramarye presents a veritable world itself. Only one place is off-limits, and that is Socrates’s hangout, called the Solar. Of course, as forbidden fruit, it has allure, especially for Ethan. But there are plenty of other intrigues within the walls of Gramarye to engage any young, curious explorer. The place is home to Mrs. Gooch, the housekeeper and maker of delicious cookies; Fergus Bugg, the butler; and the malevolent Scafell Crag, the groundskeeper. Then there are the mansion’s grounds which include a vast maze that figures prominently in the plot.
Ethan, his new friend from Deadmoor, Amos Sprunt, and Jynx have dangerous adventures in this story, and yet the peril is mitigated by the forces for good that seem to align to help them, including a raven named Admiral Benbow, and Gramarye itself. Minter’s story refers to other legends, adventure books, and mysteries to build a plot line. The story works on its own without full knowledge of all those references, but gains layers of meaning when the reader takes the time to learn about the Arthurian legends, pirate adventures like Treasure Island, or Edgar Allen Poe. In this, it is not unlike other books with which young people may be familiar---Tolkein’s work being just one example. Read aloud by an adult, those references can be pointed out to younger members of the family, too.
An adventuresome tween, his sister, a sidekick, riddles, a maze, pirates, time-travel----all of these add up to a book that will captivate the younger members of your quarantined family, and perhaps help the adults revive the tradition of the read-aloud. This is the first installment of a planned three-book series, and I’m looking forward to the next adventure already.
Diane S. Adkins is a retired Director of the Pittsylvania County Library System.
Owen R. Minter was inspired to write The Shrouded Sword, a fantasy story filled with ancient magic and time travel, after creating a drawing based on Arthurian legend. The Shrouded Sword is the first book in the Gramarye Cycle series. When he’s not writing, Owen makes paintings with a leaf blower, reads, and enjoys coaching Special Olympics Athletics.
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