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"A triumphant addition to the exciting realm of fantasy adventure books for kids!"



This is the story of Root Karbunkulus, who is probably the same age as you and maybe even the same height. And if you are brave and clever, then you have that in common as well.


Perhaps that is where your similarities end. Unless, of course, you long for adventure. If you do, and you thrill over magic, then, there too, you are quite like Root.


Now, suppose you think the perfect companion is a trusty Hovermutt, and a cursed castle makes for a grand home (as long as you avoid the cold spots). Well then, you and Root are in fine company indeed. 


So, when Root’s magic fails, and her confidence wanes, but she must keep searching for the fabled Miist of Kalliope no matter what - even if it means facing Sea Wraiths and worse, big fat cheaters, what, dear reader, would you do?


 "Of all the middle grade fantasy books out there, this fantasy series for kids is empowering girls and boys with wild adventure and humorous abandon!"




"Rarely does a book come along that so captivates me that I know without a doubt it is the beginning of a new phenomenon." 

Readers’ Favorite


"Colorfully and deeply written"

Book Club Forum


"A smashing breakthrough hit!"

 Library at the End of the Univers


"I loved this book!" 

Teens Read Too 


"A wonderful work of fantasy! Excellent for use in the classroom" 

Student of Saga 


“I stayed up too late and got up too early to finish it. And then I wanted more.”

Lissa Pabast, Teacher


"A gorgeous and magical world! I am recommending it to my students." 

Teacher/The Reading Zone -


"Beguiling and clever!"


"Strikingly beautiful!" 

Kathleen's Book Reviews


“A tapestry that hangs in your mind long after the book is closed.”

Times Book Review


“A Fabulous Story!”

Café of Dreams


The Day It Happened



The Aunts had been extremely successful at the market, having sold every last turnip, beet, and carrot And, being that they had stolen every last turnip, beet, and carrot from their neighbours’ gardens, they were all the more pleased. 

“Three hunnered and eighty-six Junos!” Octavia bellowed, kissing a pouch of coins and tucking it into the humid folds of her huge cleavage.

Octavia was the eldest of the two Karbunkulus sisters. She was squat and pudged, with nostrils the size of barrel lids. Her teeth pushed out like wild fungi when she laughed, which wasn’t very often. Tonight being the exception.

Carblotta, on the other hand, was starved and scrawny as a dried-up bean, with limbs that dangled like thorn vine, eager to snag or scratch unsuspecting passersby.

The only similarities between the two were suspicious, beady eyes, and the delight they took in thinking they were enormously important. This night, under a fat eyeball of a moon, they felt important indeed, cackling over their profits and stopping repeatedly to count the coins.

They were not dim enough to take FogSquat Forest home. No, they valued their lives too much to risk an encounter with its slithering, howling inhabitants. Rather, they trudged the worn and mossy path of Woods Woods (this unique title resulting from a town vote). But they had dawdled too long. The moon seemed to jump behind a clutch of cloud and, before long, the Aunts could barely see at all. They staggered along the ground, blaming each other for being late. 

“This is yer fault,” Octavia snarled. “If you’d’ve moved them twig legs a yers faster, we’d a been home by now!”

“Don’t you go’n blame me!” Carblotta snapped. “Yer the one stoppin’ and countin’ every two steps! And now we’re out here like sittin’ ducks fer Pouch Biters an’ Rogue Haunts!” 

The Pouch Biters and Rogue Haunts in mind - though a marauding bunch indeed - had much better things to do than rough up a couple of spinsters. They, like most, were busy surviving a war. But still, a run-in could end badly, and the Aunts didn’t want their Junos going elsewhere – not after all their hard work. All that bending…and stealing. 

Octavia stuffed her Junos deeper and called Carblotta some not nice names as she trudged and tripped the path. Carblotta aimed a few indignities of her own and laughed when her sister walked into a gorse bush.

Amid all this, they hadn’t noticed the sudden stillness of the forest and the peculiar purple mist settling in about their feet. It was only when it was so thick as to diminish sight that they paused to take notice. Now normally, the Aunts, with a solid fear of nothing, would have tried to beat the annoying purple mist into submission, but this mist was different. There was magic in it. And it was not like any magic they had encountered before. This was a powerful Ember magic that made theirs seem puny by comparison.

Trying to avoid it, a sound cracked their ears so violently that they clutched each other and lunged for the first hiding spot offered, in this case, the deep hollow of a cedar trunk. Their orb eyes peered out into the purple. Something was approaching. 

The mist mingled with the night air, forming a luminous haze in which the Aunts could make out blurred movement.

Eventually, their eyes adjusted and saw what looked like a woman. She was in front of them and yet not in their world at all, like a ghost trapped outside a window. She had something in her arms and was running. A short distance behind her, two terrifying creatures with enormous heads and claws followed. On their backs were figures of men, though hard to tell. 

The woman cried out mysterious, unrecognizable words and immediately the mist ignited in a shower of iridescent sparks. When it cleared, the Aunts could see the woman concretely now. She was a mere three paces away, standing on the forest floor with desperate eyes and a long blue streak in her ebony hair. She looked around despairingly, and the Aunts, wanting no business with things like compassion, pulled themselves further into the tree.

Following a frantic search, the woman quickly placed her bundle down, and with another burst of sparks, she returned into the thick swarming otherworld, becoming a part of it again. 

The creatures then saw and came upon the woman. A man-figure dismounted his beast and approached her as she cowered at his feet. He lifted a long, crude weapon high into the air. As he brought it down, her voice, a horrifying shriek of terror, yanked the breath out of the Aunts. In that same moment, the purple night air exploded into blinding white light. The Aunts shrank back, eyes squeezed tight.

After some time, once the impact of the explosion had subsided, and it was clear they were still alive, they blinked and peered into the night. In front of them, the collision of worlds had left no footprint. They saw nothing but timid lights popping and gently gilding the leaves. When the radiance gradually faded, and safety seemed reasonable, the Aunts inched out of the tree’s cavity, eager to find the comforts of their home. The moon, however, was in no mood for shining. It remained steeped in cloud, offering little remedy for the gloom. Each step was taken with caution as they searched for the path. 

Blindly feeling her way about, Carblotta stepped on Octavia’s foot. It was an accident, of course, but Octavia let out a yelp and kicked her sister all the same. This, in turn, launched Carblotta into a curdling howl that ended with a thump to Octavia’s head. Before long, the two were reaching for each other’s throats in the darkness, planning to strangle, yank or at least poke out a few beady eyeballs. 

“Where are you, you little snotwart?” screeched Octavia.

“Where are you Farty McPigpuff?” replied her sister. 

Having given their whereabouts away, they were immediately en route for battle. 

Larger than usual and halfway between them, a tree root put an end to the joust. Both tripped on it at the same time, and were about to wail like cows in quicksand, when the moon at last emerged and sent an astonishing beam upon them. At first, they cringed for they were not fond of light as a rule and this particular beam was definitely brighter than should be. It landed, a strip of living gold, and browsed about, eventually sprawling itself across the gigantic root that had tripped the Aunts, and now lay between them. There, in a small cleft, lay a sleeping baby girl with a sweet tuft of pumpkin-gold hair. 

“Will ya look at that!” whispered Carblotta. “Looks t’me like a baby! But there ain’t no mama to it!” She gawked around. “Least not anymore!”

Octavia stepped closer. “Wait a minute. It’s got some belongin’s. And a note.” She wrapped her stubby fingers around the parchment and, with Carblotta lurking over her shoulder, read the hastened scrawl: 


Please help me. Take the child to the Robin’s Wing Nest.


Octavia sized up the baby. “Musta been that there strange lady’s kid, uh?” 

“It’s mine!” Carblotta hunched over the child. “I saw it first!” 

Octavia’s lips curled into a sneer. “And what d’ya s’pose t’do with it, then?” 

“Are you kiddin’? This is an omen, it is. Tellin’ me I been workin’ too hard. Why, I’m gonna raise this here baby as my very own maid!” Carblotta looked like an animal over its prey. 

Instantly, Octavia’s face reddened with envy. But she was slightly more clever than her sister. “Fine.” She smiled and lumbered away. 

This, of course, was no good by Carblotta who knew Octavia was up to something. “Whadya mean fine? Yer tellin’ me y’don’t want a maid fer yerself?” 

“If anyone’s gonna be a maid,” Octavia said, “it’s gonna be you.”

“How so?”

“Well, that there baby’s not even walkin’ yet. And I don’t s’pect it’ll even be crawlin’ anytime soon. Somebody’s gotta look after it and feed it and keep it alive. Now who’s the maid?” Octavia kept walking. 

Carblotta’s face tightened so hard it could have been an iceblock with eyes. She thought on her sister’s words, all the while still perched over the baby like a buzzard. The further Octavia got, the more her lips trembled from the strain. She ground her teeth. 

“Alright!” she spat. “I’ll let ya share it when it’s maid-ready, but then you have t’ help in the raisin’ of it.” 

Octavia swung around and waddled back. “You got yerself a deal, sister.” 

They hoarked into their palms and shook hands to seal the agreement. 

That was easy enough. The difficult part was in the naming of the maid. Inevitably, the debate (Orga versus Ratsy) turned to rage, and once again the forest witnessed the unbridled bruising of skin and scratching of scabs. When they were entirely out of breath and unable to force one more blow upon each other, the Aunts fell to the ground in heaps. 

Up to this point, the baby had slept soundly, but now she opened her eyes and, feeling sudden loneliness, let out a walloping cry. The Aunts shot irritated gawks at her with her tuft of pumpkin-gold hair, and her pudgy pink skin, lying there in the shadows of a giant root…and that’s when it hit them, at exactly the same time.


A good solid name. And more importantly, only one syl-la-ble. An hour or so later, a clump of rooster feathers and dirty socks was slapped together in the upstairs room, and the town of Shade Howl woke to the shocking news of a baby in the Karbunkulus household. A baby of all things! Poor creature! 

Poor creature indeed, but for the stout heart of little Root Karbunkulus, a heart which, despite all things pointing otherwise, intended to endure.


Half  Truths



The sight of the house was bad enough, squashed-looking and rebellious at the very end of Corks Prowl. But when a song rang from its windows, raw and ragged as ashes stuck in the throat, anyone who had forgiven its existence, now wished its violent opposite.


Happy Happy Birthday Morn

Now pass along the brew

Raise a glass t’bein’ born

A toast t’me ‘n yooooooooou!


Octavia and Carblotta Karbunkulus, better known as the Aunts - and called much worse behind their backs - had decided to commence Birthday celebrations a day early.

Normally, Birthday was a splendid affair, with its gatherings and song. But this Birthday, which wasn’t even Birthday yet, the residents of Shade Howl added, “Ear-pollution!” to their long list of Aunt offenses, the worst of which was the fact that their nasty carcass of a house was not a house at all! It was a halfhouse. A halfhouse! No one else in Shade Howl lived in a halfhouse! It was indecent, to say the least. And this particular halfhouse was, without exception, the worst of its kind. 

Lane cobbles halted at its dark iron gates, leaving a ragged path of thistles and quack grass snaking to its door. From a distance, one would probably not even notice its halfness. But the closer one approached, the more obvious it became. It was as if there’d been a quake, a crooked fault-line right down the middle of the house, effectively dividing it in two.

One half was sickly green brick with puce trim: Carblotta’s preference. The other half flaunted crooked planks in a shade Octavia lovingly called Mudly (Perhaps the neighbors would not have even minded so much had they at least chosen more polite colors!). A dormer window with broken lattice clung to one side. A round window with torn awning and a generous supply of cobwebs graced the other. 

The yard too was a perfectly divided lot of plant life, though of what species no one could quite describe other than “Insolent!” and “Barbaric!” Even Erna–Who–Knows-Everything-And-Who-Has-Very–Reliable-Sources had no idea what grew in that yard. What she did know was that it distracted from more important things like the SandPaper Festival and Mr. and Mrs. Turkey Gobble. And she couldn’t have that.

“Something should be done!” she would say nightly over meatloaf and ketchup. 

“Just leave it alone,” her husband would grunt in reply. 

Erna, of course, did no such thing. She went so far as to try and pluck the halfhouse vegetation for evidence of violation, but within an hour was forced to give up. She had no samples and an alarming chafe up her forearms. 

The only thing that was not halved in the halfhouse was the room at the very top, which seemed to push out like a hat or maybe even a large stick-out mole on a sloppy, squashed head. 

That was the bedroom of Root Karbunkulus, and it was not your average bedroom. This bedroom had a giant hole in its roof with a splendid view of the sky. Needless to say, the only furniture in this room, a sock mattress, was situated farthest from the splendid view. 

The Aunts had managed to overlook the hole in the roof, calling it art.  Root wasn’t so sure about that - especially during monsoon season - but she was grateful to have it. And she was grateful for the Aunts too, who so kindly took her in when her cruel mother had abandoned her. 

“Jest tossed ya in a ditch!” they had told her.

 “Yep, tossed ya an’ left ya t’die without a care,” they tsk’d.

“Dropped ya in a barrel, naked an cryin’,’” they said later when Root started asking questions.

“Threw ya out with ‘er very own trash!” they said when she wondered what her mother had looked like.

And when she dared to wish she had had a mother of her own, they said, “Nasty woman, never even named ya!” 

With each reminder of the monumental sacrifices they had made to keep her, Root grew more and more grateful. 

Thus it was, those foul sisters in that foul halfhouse managed to make good on their plan. They raised themselves their very own maid, a sturdy, obedient one at that. 

By age four, Root was clearing out entire rows of neighbouring broccoli in under a minute. By age eight, she scavenged Junke Lots, which brought even more money to the Aunts. They, for their part, did share the wealth; they gave her a brand-new bag to carry even more goods. And sometimes, after she rubbed the crusty, gnarled feet of Octavia and plucked the straggling hairs from Carblotta’s big black moles, they even promised to pay her. They never actually made good on the promise, but it was at least mentioned. No one could call them selfish! 

Now, with Root tipping adolescence, on this cold and damp Birthday eve, their generosity was in fine form. You see, Birthday was a national holiday for all those born, everyone, young and old and in between, which, of course, wouldinclude Root. So, in honouring the occasion, they gave her the gift of cooking for them. A gift that began like this:

“Root! Root you wart! Where’s our meat?” 

This came from Octavia, who was gathered around a table with Carblotta. Mr. Scrowl, their unfortunately frequent guest, the one who looked like a bleached prune, was also in attendance. As was Kluk, the house rooster. Kluk was a jerk of a rooster, but we shall get to that later. In the centre of the table, to frill the occasion, Octavia had placed her precious-ugly-fake-peony-that-she-actually-watered.

Carblotta was about to parrot her sister’s bellow but stopped at the sight of their maid skidding in from the kitchen. 

Root, of course bore no resemblance to the Aunts. She looked like a wisp of gauze next to their weathered pelts. And though the wind often tangled her long pumpkin-gold hair, it was nothing like the wiry scalps before her. And, just to be clear, the Aunts’ beady, black eyes were a far cry from the indigo hue that had settled into hers.

“Here y’go!” she said breathlessly as she shovelled thick, greasy sausages onto plates.

They, all of them, rooster included, ate like pigs. 

Watching them, Root’s belly squirmed. Yes, she was grateful for everything the Aunts had done for her, but more and more often she felt an overwhelming desire to clip their nose hairs a little too short. 

“Why’re you just standing there like a gobwad?” Octavia belched as she poured more brew into her cup.

“Yeah,” Carblotta echoed. “Get back t’work!”  

This was more than fine with Root. The sight of grease shining and smeared around Octavia’s fat lips was more than anyone could bear. And Scrowl’s habit of licking everyone’s plates was one of the vilest things she’d ever seen. 

Besides, she had more important things to do. She slipped back to the kitchen and, while pots steamed and pans bubbled, she pulled into the light a beautifully wrapped gift.

There are, apparently, parts of the world where birthdays are celebrated individually, marking a notch in years. The residents of Shade Howl and, by extension, the entire country of Lanlynne, found this to be strange indeed. Birthday was a celebration of life, not age. 

It came with CandleCrackers over morning rooftops, and Treat Drizzles hidden in bushes, waiting to be found. “Happy Birthday” was put to every greeting, and from corner bake stands, the deep rich aroma of maple cake drifted heavily.

But the best part of Birthday, by far, was the Gift Shift, those thrilling moments when gifts were swapped in random, from person to person, all day long, between families and strangers alike. What’s more is that at the eleventh hour everyone got to unwrap their Ender Gift and see what they got.

Root couldn’t wait to see what her Ender Gift would be, but she knew that a Starter Gift meant even more. A Starter Gift was wrapped with dear care and import, and offered to someone very, very special. Of course, that special someonewould not end up with it, but that didn’t matter. It was the wrap that counted. In such a wondrous swaddle, one knew, beyond doubt, one was cherished.

This particular gift was no exception. Root had gone into the forest every evening for a month, hunting the elusive scales of a Dragon Bloom. Now, she attached the last one and, under the moon’s winking eye, watched it dazzle in pulses of green and gold and red.  

“Root you slopsucker!” Octavia barked, immediately snapping Root from her reverie. “Round two!”

“Coming!” she called. Stowing the gift in her pocket, she brought out the sausage pan and loaded each trough for a second go. 

She did the same for dessert - both of them - and while the company cackled and clinked their mugs, she at last turnedfor her bedroom. She had a headache. Not the usual one at the end of the day; this one had quite a thump. Desperate for the dreaming comfort of sleep, she heaved a weary foot onto the stairs. But something snagged her pant leg. 

Remember Kluk, the jerk of a house rooster? Well, here now is proof in the pudding!  But first, a bit of background:

Kluk, best described as a spray of ragged, ingrown feathers over perma-bossy eyes, took no greater pleasure than to make Root suffer. Root, in return, hated him, and felt guilty about it because she loved animals and the rapport she often felt with them. But Kluk was one of those beasts one could quite easily hate, being that Kluk quite easily hated everything else. 

What bothered Root the most was that the Aunts called him Klook with an annoying long vowel. Doesn’t that just change everything, knowing that now? Kluk the rooster was Klook the rooster. And oh how Klook the rooster milked the sway of such a title. There was something about that long vowel that made him think he was much more important than a mere rooster. He was a Capital R Rooster. And a jerk one at that.

Especially now. For it was his crooked beak that had clamped Root’s pant leg. And it was his squeezy little eyes that now dared her to go any farther. Root tried to quietly yank her hem free, but all that did was spur a thrashing of wings. A good loud thrashing of wings that immediate got the Aunts’ attention.

Carblotta spit out a hunk of sausage and glared at Root. “Where’d’y think yer goin’?”

“To bed,” Root said, scowling at the foul fowl.

 I don’t r’call givin’ permission t’leave. You, Oc?” 

Octavia shoved Carblotta’s rejected sausage in her mouth and shook her head. “Nope.”

“But I—”

 “No butts in here save fer the one that’s gonna get booted if it don’t earn its keep,” Carblotta said. “Now, get on out and fetch us some goods t’sell!”

“But what about the Luck Teeth I scavenged already,” Root protested. “And that whole bag of Glimmery I got from the gutter!”

“Yer point?”

“And it’s Birthday tomorrow!”

Well, here it came at last: the big, blaring blast of familiar laughter. “You think Birthday applies t’you?” Octavia guffawed.

“You forget how you was found?” Her cackle fattened, joined by Carblotta’s high-pitched whinny. “Ain’t nothin’ Happy Birthday ‘bout that!”

Root squeezed her hands into fists.

“Y’best be fergettin’ ‘bout any special Birthday malarkey and be grateful y’gots what y’gots!” Octavia snarled. “Now, get on down t’Deadeye’s and get us some a his prize winnin’ corn!” As she said this, she pointed to Root’s raiding bag, which was crumpled on the floor. The bag immediately lifted off and flew toward Root, where it hovered expectantly. 

After a long resentful pause, Root wrenched herself from Kluk’s grip, grabbed the bag, and stomped to the door.

“And stay away from that Bratjacker that’s on the loose!” Carblotta hollered after her. 

Root froze. The Bratjacker. 

Now, certainly there existed many rotten souls within the borders of Lanlynne. You’ve already met a few. But there was rarely one more wicked than a Bratjacker. Root, for her part, had never seen him, but she didn’t need to. When so many kids go missing all at once, there was only one reason. 

Needless to say, any fool could see that there was no motherly love in Carblotta’s warning, no terror should the Bratjacker steal Root too. The Aunts merely begrudged someone else profiting off their hard work, even a shrewd calculating someone such as this Bratjacker seemed to be.

Deep down, in the quiet places of her heart, Root knew this too. The Aunts didn’t care for her, not truly. Still, she found herself wanting to stay and refill their cups, even treat everyone to a third dessert. Fear does that. And Root, despite an able body and quick wits, felt the fear of the Bratjacker like a hoist in her stomach. 

“Somethin’ wrong with yer ears!” Octavia snarled.

And that was that. Bargaining, clearly, was not an option. Root let the door slam behind her.

Halfway down the lane, as clouds moved in and fat raindrops fell, Root, and indeed most of Shade Howl, could still hear the Aunts’ belching contest.

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