Helga: Out of Hedgelands - Middle Grade Fantasy Novel by Rick Johnson

Rick Johnson
Helga: Out of Hedgelands
FREE DAY: 02/12/2013

"Moving with horrific speed, the kayaks approached Helbara and Helga's hiding-place. Suddenly they slowed, pausing about fifty yards away. Using only hand signals to communicate, the Wrackshee slavers silently peered here and there for any sign of their prey. Each time a slaver's gaze seemed to fix on their hiding-place, Helbara's heart raced wildly. 

Slowly, the Wrackshees again moved forward. They were now close enough that their stench nearly made Helbara gag, but, to her relief, their slow advance and darting looks indicated that she and Helga were not yet discovered. In the shadowy moonlight the deeply sunken eyes of the Wrackshees stood out like deep bowls against their pasty, pale faces. Even across the distance that still protected them, the moon set the dark sockets in sharp relief against the evil milk-furred faces. Living skulls. Helbarba shuddered. She could now make out the individual razor-sharp tips—glinting like pale vicious teeth—of the dozens of small throwing lances the Weasels carried on bandoliers slung over their shoulders."

     So begins a chain of events by which Helga is torn from her family, not once, but twice, and sent on an amazing search for those she has lost. Helga's quest leads her on a mind-twisting adventure of astonishing discoveries. 'Common sense' is often revealed to be nonsense and the meaning of family itself transforms. In paradox, contradiction, and enigma, she is able to escape from her own terrors and brings liberation to entire societies. In a climactic race against time, Helga bends 'reality' to thwart a death sentence, turning the tables on the insidious WooZan, and winning a breathtaking reunion with a family larger than she dreamed.

Escaping from the Wrackshee slavers, but losing her mother to them, Helga is rescued and raised by good-hearted beasts in the Rounds of Deep Springs. Questions about her lost family, however, urge Helga to leave the Rounds at age twelve. Most of the book is an account of the epic adventures and magical mysteries Helga encounters after she leaves the Rounds. In her quest to find her lost family, she endures a brutal exile by the half-mad ruler of the Hedgelands, where she came to reside after leaving the Rounds; survives a deadly attack by bandits; and escapes several more close calls; as she ultimately unlocks the secret of the hidden worlds beyond the Bone Forest.

As Helga's own dire circumstances move toward a climax, they inexorably reveal the deeply entwined strands of Helga's life and those of her lost family. Forced by a cascade of circumstances to confront deep prejudices and hatreds such as led to her own exile, Helga enters a surreal underground realm where her own survival, and reunion with her family, depends on breaking the ferocious power of mere illusion. 

Breaking this power is so terrifying to the very creatures it imprisons, that Helga discovers the true weakness of that power. This paradox is but one that unlocks the worlds of perception where flight from undeniable truths may be the only pathway to truth. Enigma? Yes, and that is the delicious point. Find out what your mind cannot do. Find out why.

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