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November 19, 2020

Clifton Chase Adventure Series by Jaimie M. Engle ~ a Review

by MK French

This year has been tough, particularly for children and their families. Many of our normal activities have been canceled or severely curtailed. With so many schools doing virtual learning, our kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens. Holidays are coming up but they might be looking different this year. Whether you are needing a way to entertain your kids that don't involve screens and gives you some much needed "me time" or wanting to do a family read together over the holidays, you will want to pick up this middle school adventure series from Jaimie M. Engle.
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Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light by Jaimie Engle

Clifton Chase and the Arrow Light
May 2020; Intense Publications; 978-1947796300
ebook, print (252 pages); fantasy
For some reason, Clifton was chosen out of all the other middle schoolers to a land of magical creatures and two princes. Clifton returned the arrow and went back home to a normal life, but he had to go back when he found out the princes were locked in Droffilc tower by the King. Enlisting the help of the magical creatures and the princess, Clifton hoped to help the princes and find out why the Arrow of Light had chosen him.

Geared toward middle-grade readers, this portal fantasy sends Clifton from a Florida schoolyard archery contest between rivals to meeting the dwarf Dane and his wife Liv in York, England. King Richard III is who they’re all afraid of, the first clue that Clifton was sent back to the past until he finds out he’s in 1485. The princes are Edward and Richard, and their sister is Elizabeth Tudor. Those are all historical figures, and the boys were locked in the Tower of London and never seen again. Just being in the past means that Clifton has the opportunity to change history.

Clifton is hardly the perfect hero, as he and Ryan were picking on each other and got into a fight in gym class. He refuses the call to adventure, and would rather stay home where he is relatively comfortable than to fight a potential war. Understandable, but if he does that, we don’t have a book to read. He has to learn the meaning of loyalty, friendship, and duty, and it’s definitely a hard lesson to learn. There are fight scenes, from helping the princes break out of the tower to being with the merpeople to being in the midst of battle against King Richard III. Any ordinary boy would fear it, and rightfully so. But he rises to the challenge in the story and ultimately learns that fighting for its own sake isn’t worth it. Defending others and restoring justice are much worthier goals to follow.

Clifton Chase on Castle Rock by Jaimie Engle

Clifton Chase on Castle Rock
November 2020;  JME Books; 978-1732878686
ebook, print (224 pages); fantasy
As much as Clifton would like to return to normal, two boys being bullied in his school look an awful lot like the two princes he knew in 1485. The Arrows of Light were stolen from his closet for Prince John of Nottingham, indicating that Clifton is meant to help Robin Hood and the people of Sherwood Forest. He’d rather not go, but Dane was alive at the time, and the temptation to warn him of the future is too much to pass up.

Ryan is still a bully, going after Clifton and younger boys, making Clifton feel small and useless. Add in a magical creature stealing the Arrows of Light, and it doesn’t take much more for him to return to the past. This time, he goes back to 1190, where Dane is essentially a teenager and argues with Liv rather than loves her dearly. Hearing the Arrows of Light were stolen automatically leads the two to work with Clifton, despite the dangers, as a Sheriff of Nottingham using the arrows to beat Robin Hood in an archery contest could spell everyone’s doom.

Robin Hood and the Merry Men don’t behave in courtly ways in the story and are prejudiced against the dwarves. There is bad blood between dwarves and humans that started generations before, adding additional difficulties to Clifton’s determination to help Robin Hood. He’s captured, ridiculed, and disbelieved by just about everyone he meets. The meetings with Robin don’t go as planned, and the archery competition is full of threats as well as the heavyweight that everyone’s freedoms depends on Prince John losing.

This is an interesting take on the Robin Hood story and reiterates that friendship and loyalty are the most important riches a person can have.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever. 

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