Posts Tagged ‘the ancient one’

Foundational Books: The Ancient One by T.A. Barron

Good afternoon, squiders! Today we’ll discuss The Ancient One by T.A. Barron.

(To be fair, we’ve discussed before. It was part of our Adventures of Kate readalong in 2016.)

My middle school had a program where they’d pick a local children’s author, and we’d all have to read a book by said author, and then said author would come to our school and talk about the book/writing/whatever else they felt was appropriate. In seventh grade, that book was The Ancient One by T.A. Barron.

(In eighth grade, the author was Will Hobbs, and we didn’t have to read a specific book, but by that point I’d read enough Will Hobbs to know that I didn’t want to read any more books about boys–always boys–surviving alone in the wild, so I was pretty over the whole experience.)

(My middle school was only seventh and eighth grades, thankfully.)

As I noted in the readalong discussion post, The Ancient One is part time travel fantasy, part pro-environment manifesto. And for some reason, it resonated extremely strongly with me, and may be the reason forests feature so heavily in my own writing.

This was my first exposure to T.A. Barron, and I went on to read the other two Kate books, as well as several of his young Merlin adventures.

It’s not my first foray into fantasy (that was The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, which I read in sixth grade the year before) but it was pretty early. And it kind of cemented the genre in my mind as something I liked and should read copious amounts of.

(I was reading a lot more science fiction prior to this, since that’s what my parents were into, as well as the standard reading lists we read in school, which mostly consisted of historical fiction and other depressing stories, offset by your occasional more upbeat thing like Maniac McGee.)

The book held up pretty well when we re-read it for the readalong, and I can definitely still see the things that drew me in the first time through.

(Plus I remember T.A. Barron being pretty awesome when he came for the talk, so that’s a bonus.)

Thoughts on The Ancient One or T.A. Barron, squiders? Favorite or first fantasy book you read that drew you into the genre?

The Adventures of Kate Readalong: The Ancient One

Aha! I bet you thought we were never going to get here! (Believe me, I was starting to feel that way too.) But here we go! And hopefully we run into less issues with the final book, The Merlin Effect.

As you guys are probably sick of hearing me saying, The Ancient One was a formative book for me, and reading back through it now, I can definitely see its influence on me and my writing. (As I said to a friend who was trying to guess which character/world I wrote in City of Hope and Ruin, if left to my own devices, my characters invariably end up in a forest.)

Anyway, The Ancient One, second book in the Adventures of Kate or the Heartlight Saga and, I believe, the most popular one. It’s got a score of 4.1 on Goodreads based on 1471 ratings, and a 4.7 on Amazon. Originally published in 1992. Did you guys read along with me? What did you think?

For a quick summary, Kate is visiting her Great Aunt Melanie up in a small logging town in Oregon. Next to the town is a large, unexplored crater, which has been left alone due to the interior being mostly concealed in fog and there being no way to breach the crater wall. Unfortunately, during a recent flight, someone was able to get a good look inside and found it full of old growth redwoods. The town’s logging industry is dying since all the other local trees have been cut down, so this is welcome news to the loggers. It is not welcome news to Aunt Melanie, who has put in an application to have the crater saved as a park. The loggers have decided to get what trees they can out before the park goes into effect.

So, on the surface, you have a somewhat standard environment vs. logging conflict, like you see in things like Fern Gully or Hoot or a dozen other movies/books I could name aimed at kids and teenagers.

Luckily that’s just the frame story. The real story starts when Kate, attempting to help Aunt Melanie, accidentally gets transported back in time to when only the native people lived in the area. And if Kate can’t save the crater in the past, then the crater won’t be around to be saved in the future.

Kate, luckily, perhaps because she doesn’t have an adult to lean on, does a much better job of not flailing around crying for help. She’s practical and level-headed, and takes ending up in the wrong time pretty well, all things considered. She does have moments of despair, but they’re much better spread out and more realistic than in Heartlight. I rather like the mythology incorporated into the story, but that’s always something I appreciate. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s pretty good, and I’m pleased to see if stand up decently against nostalgia.

There’s also lots of owls, and I like owls.

Read it, Squiders? Thoughts? I’d love to know how it felt the first time through.

For The Merlin Effect we’ll do discussion on…hmmm…let’s give ourselves some extra time and do Sept 15.

The Ancient One Discussion Delayed

Howdy, Squiders. This is just a quick note to let you know that the discussion of The Ancient One will be next Tuesday, August 2, instead of this Thursday, July 28. See you then!