“The Phantom Queen” by Ven Begamudre
“The Phantom Queen” is a historical fantasy novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy a good story involving fairy tales, romance, and magic. Based upon Slavic mythology and culture, Ven Begamudre’s first young adult novel takes the reader into vividly-described landscapes, introduces complex characters, and keeps the reader guessing about the plot until the end. Immediately engaging, the tale begins with a storyteller who evokes lost love, questionable morality, and a world of danger, beauty, and adventure. The narrator is the Chancellor of the court for whom the storyteller is performing, but the plot follows two young characters: an orphan boy, Sasha, and an abandoned girl, Ekho, both of whom embark on separate but parallel journeys in an effort to save the kingdom of Mir from ruin. Also involved are forest creatures, an arrogant Tsar, a harried bishop, a strong-willed princess, and an evil creature known as Dhiavol. This book is unique in that it blends Slavic pagan, Orthodox Christian, philosophical, and magical elements into an exciting tale without being didactic. Its language is not difficult to comprehend and the author manages to incorporate explanations about the world of Mir without detracting from the story. Although this book is marketed for young adults, it is equally enjoyable for an older audience. Highly recommended for ages 10 and up. Published 2002 by Coteau Books, 312p. Pbk, $12.95.