The Secret Country (The Secret Country, 1) by Pamela Dean, 2003 (originally published in 1985). 384 pages. Published by Firebird. Source Own/Bought.
For the past nine years, cousins Patrick, Ruth, Ellen, Ted, and Laura have played at "The Secret"-a game full of witches, unicorns, a magic ring and court intrigue. In The Secret, they can imagine anything into reality, and shape destiny. Then the unbelievable happens: by trick or by chance, they find themselves in the Secret Country, their made-up identities now real. They have arrived at the start of their game, with the Country on the edge of war. What was once exciting and wonderful now looms threateningly before them, and no one is sure how to stop it . . . or if they will ever get back home.
Edward Fairchild, Prince of the Enchanted Forest, Lord of the Desert's Edge, Friend to the Unicorns, and King of the Secret Country, wished he were somewhere else.
The Secret Country and I have a few years worth of history. The first time I read it, about five years ago, I just fell in love with the world and couldn't sleep after finishing the first book, so I begged (yep, I was that desperate) my mom to get my the next two books so I could know how it would end.
I really like how the book starts out with the main characters, Ted, Laura, and their cousins Patrick, Ruth and Ellen, playing what they refer to as the Secret. A game that they created to play each summer when they visited each other, I thought it was interesting to see how involved the world of their game was (trust me they had lots of different plots woven into their game).
It also gives you a glance into what will happen later on in the book and it tells you a little bit about each of the characters, yet it doesn't give you the full scope of the various plot lines that run through the book.
What makes The Secret Country so good is Ms Dean's ability to weave an engrossing fantasy tale similar to that of The Chronicles of Narnia, which just might explain why I love it as much as I do. Being the first book in the series it was at times a little slow, but not so slow that you'd get bored out of your skull waiting for something to happen. In short, The Secret Country is a slight introduce you to the word and characters type book; although a lot more entertaining this most books that I give that label to.
One of my favorite things about this book would have to be how Laura, Ted, and the others now how things are supposed to go, yet are trying to change the outcome of some things because they'd rather not do what would be required of them as befits the roles they are now filling in the Secret Country. Plus I absolutely loved the court mystery and intrigue that they found themselves in, so good especially since there is so much more to be figured out in the next book.
I for the characters, the book mainly follows Laura and Ted in this installment. With little doses of Ellen, Patrick, and Ruth thrown in so that you don't forget about them (I'm pretty sure they have bigger roles in the next two books).
While each of the characters are vastly different from one another I really enjoyed how each one of them reacted when they crossed over from our world to that of the one they'd often played at. Patrick's theory of how/why they are there might just be the most entertaining with that he believes they are suffering from a mass hallucination over not being able to continue the secret during their first summer apart.
Hmm, it is definitely hard to pin-point why exactly I loved The Secret Country so much, but one of the biggest reasons would have to be Ms. Dean's writing. In my opinion, she is one phenomenal writer, and no matter how many times I read The Secret Country trilogy I just love it even more.
Other than a couple of typos, I don't have any real complaints about The Secret Country, well that I can think of at least.
Final Verdict: The Secret Country a beautifully written fantasy adventure.