The Ancient Realm
Agnes Adelaide Fordyce, an ordinary eleven-year-old girl, finds her life plunged into adventure one cold fall evening when a mysterious new babysitter named Octavia comes to visit. Her life in Blue Rocks Harbour, Nova Scotia, once filled with tedious chores from her German Nanny and teasing from her older twin brothers, is changed forever when she is introduced to the Ancient Realm, a secret society of Guardians who protect the precious natural resources of planet Earth.
The first book in a new fantasy series by Sarah Leith Bahn, The Ancient Realm combines a look at the beauty of our planet with timely concerns about our global ecosystems. Above all, we are taken on a magical adventure, from the shores of Nova Scotia, to the heights of the Himalayas, to the islands of the Indian Ocean, where we learn about the mystery and power of the natural world around us. Through Octavia, Agnes also learns about herself, and how important it is for each of us to dream, to appreciate the world around us, to fight for what we care about... and to believe.
"Nature acts as a secret source of magic and mayhem for the young protagonist in Bahn's debut novel. At the start of the book, 11-year-old Agnes Adelaide Fordyce leads a rather average, uneventful life. Having lost her mother at an early age, she lives with her father and twin older brothers in a remote fishing village in Nova Scotia. The amount of masculine influence in her life causes her to develop a tomboyish personality, but in spite of her active lifestyle and severe dislike of dresses, she still finds tales of princesses and castles appealing. Not only does this make her more relatable to a broader spectrum of young readers—from the prissiest of girls to the most adventurous of boys—it also puts her in the perfect state of mind when she encounters Octavia, a babysitter who is more than meets the eye. Octavia invites her to become Princess of the Bering Sea, one of the Guardians of the Ancient Realm responsible for protecting the natural world. As Agnes soon finds out, though, the greatest threat to the Earth comes from power-mad kings within the Ancient Realm itself. She finds this out remarkably soon, in fact. Within 24 hours, she becomes a princess, meets numerous new allies and enemies, faces life-threatening danger and must do all she can to prevent the collapse of the natural world. The narrative and structure of the book reflect this fast pacing. While Agnes has little problem accepting everything as it comes, readers who prefer easing into magical and mysterious realms may have difficulty adjusting. The greatest trouble lies in getting a grasp on several of the novel's secondary characters, as some of the more complex aspects of their personalities get lost in the rush. Not that any of the characters are without potential, though. All of them—and the entire story, for that matter—are intriguing enough to sweep readers away through the end.
Bahn presents a straightforward fantasy story plenty capable of engaging young readers, especially those with limited attention spans."
—Kirkus Review, The World's Toughest Book Critics
"Sarah Leith Bahn's The Ancient Realm takes the reader on a magical adventure while addressing real environmental concerns. Much as the Brothers Grimm wrote fairy tales to teach children about the darker facets of human nature, Bahn uses this imaginative story to educate young readers about environmental threats—and the importance of fighting against them.
The story begins in Nova Scotia, where 11 year-old Agnes Fordyce discovers that her strange new babysitter is a member of the Ancient Realm, a magical monarchy established to protect nature. Agnes accepts a position as its Bering Sea Princess, but quickly learns that being a princess is not all about castles and special powers. Like the creatures of Narnia under the reign of the White Witch, the members of the Ancient Realm live in fear of King Ector, a terrifying figure with icicles for teeth, who seeks to take nature's power for himself at any cost. Agnes agrees to face King Ector and stop his plan to destroy the world's seas, rivers, forests, and oceans.
Agnes' resourcefulness and courage grow throughout her quest, which takes her from Denali to the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean. Forced to acknowledge the destructive power of both nature and humankind, she grows to accept the Empress of Nature's explanation: 'we could never fully appreciate the goodness of this world if we didn't have the example of darkness beside it.' Agnes returns to her normal world with this knowledge, more confident and mature than when she left it.
Though it's ostensibly for children, The Ancient Realm's message about nature will resonate with all who appreciate it: 'love it, respect it, and don't ever abuse it, and in turn, if you are ever in a time of great need, it will take care of you.'"
—Wyss Foundation, A Charitable Foundation Dedicated to Land Conservation in the Intermountain West
"Sure to capture the imagination of middle-school readers."
—Marie Brown, President and CEO of Brown Publishing Network
"A bored girl and a misled boy are pitted against each other in a fearsome world of tempestuous waters, wicked cold, and cruel fires; nature's powers must be harnessed by a dogged eleven-year-old fisherman's daughter, Agnes, in order to unveil the spectacular beauty and hope that lives within both nature and humankind. Bahn's poetic and emphatic prose makes this imaginary and exciting epic a literary accomplishment."
—Susie Weber, English Teacher and Writer, thewritinglab.weebly.com
"Ms. Bahn's book is a fabulous, engaging story for young people and adults alike. Readers will revel in Agnes's courage as she discovers her own inner strength and battles to save the natural world. I will most definitely share this book with my class of third, fourth, and fifth graders and am looking forward to more from Ms. Bahn in the near future."
—Victoria Hubler, Oregon Public School Teacher, Corbett Schools
"I poured through The Ancient Realm perched on Agnes' shoulder as she
discovered a new definition of the natural world and stepped into a role of
lifelong responsibility with eager grace. As she discovered her unique new
capabilities, I cheered as she acted with a confident sense or right and good in the
face of unimagined threats to our rivers. [As the youngest child and only girl in my
own family,] I applaud Agnes' instincts and her ability to stand up to those who
naively overestimate the importance of tenure.
Peoples of the world have toiled to tax the wonder and resources of Nature, authoring a tenuous imbalance between human demands and the planet's needs. I can't wait to learn how Agnes and her fellow Guardians find ways to protect our rivers and other natural treasures."
—Risa Shimoda, Founder of The Shimoda Group, True Duchess of the Rivers, Former Executive Director of American Whitewater, and Previous Member of the U.S. Whitewater Freestyle Team