THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD ELISSA LEADS a solitary life. She knows nothing of her parents--only that her mother is dead. Her caretaker, Nana, keeps her father's identity a secret from her. Meanwhile Elissa carries her own secret--the people of the valley must not know that she has the gift of speaking to animals. For now she is just a healer's apprentice in peaceful High Crossing, but Elissa dreams of a more exciting life, and of, one day, finding her father.
When an unexpected royal guest arrives at the Manor, Elissa's life changes forever. She leaves home with him, only to discover that she's become a pawn in a battle for his kingdom. Accompanied by her dear donkey, Gertrude, she is delivered to the evil Khan. Elissa's quest for freedom and the truth about her past leads to questions about the future. Is she the key to a prophecy--the prophecy of the Phoenix--that everyone seems to know about, except her?
In Book One of the Phoenix Rising trilogy, new author Erica Verrillo has crafted a classic--and often humorous--fantasy adventure with a strong, unwitting heroine.
A deep love of nature is evidenced in Verrillo's pastoral fantasy debut, the first book in the Phoenix Rising trilogy. Thirteen-year-old orphan Elissa lives in the serene village of High Crossing, where she is an apprentice to the healer Nana. A gentle soul, Elissa can communicate with animals and has forged a deep connection with a donkey named Gertrude. Word comes of soldiers on the way from neighboring Castlemar; among them is a man named Lord Falk, who, it is revealed, is Elissa's father. Falk takes Elissa with him when he departs; she learns that her father is planning to use her as collateral to secure the use of highly skilled soldiers from the vicious Khan. Khan's purposes are much darker: as Elissa is the heir to the throne, Khan intends to secretly marry her, though her young age prevents him from doing so. She escapes, ending up with a group of healers who reveal the story behind the castle the Khan now inhabits. Falk's naiveté in handing his daughter over to the Khan requires some suspension of disbelief, but that's a minor complaint in an otherwise charming and elegant story. Elissa emerges as a thoroughly lovable heroine, her toughness growing over the course of the story but her peaceful nature and love of life remaining ever constant. Ages 9-12. (June)
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Random House Books for Young Readers
June 25, 2007
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Excerpt from Phoenix Rising #1: Elissa's Quest by Erica F. Verrillo
Prologue The Ancient One sat huddled beside her fire, poking at the last faintly glowing embers with a crooked stick. “I am so old,” she grumbled. It was true. She was indeed quite old—so old that when she calculated her age, it was not in years but in eons. How many centuries had passed since her fire had last burned bright? She had lost track. But what did it matter? Her vitality, her beauty, her brightness had faded ages ago, leaving this empty, withered husk in its place. No one remembered who she was, who she had been. She could hardly remember herself. “Feh,” she said, throwing the stick into the fire. It blazed luminous against the coals but soon burned itself out. “I’ll never get it hot enough at this rate.” There was something she needed to do. Something urgent. But she was so tired. It was easier to doze, and to dream; she dreamt of the Fire—its flames rising high, consuming her with their intense heat. The Ancient One saw herself falling, burning, then rising up effortlessly, the living embodiment of light and life, her youth and beauty restored. Then the vision faded, her purpose waning along with it, like the dying embers of her fire. Perhaps she should get up, look for kindling. But movement had become so difficult. She felt as if every part of her body were turning to stone, and each breath she took might be her last. Like an old, neglected clock, she was winding down. She was dimly aware that when she arrived at her final tick, tock, tick . . . everything else would come to a halt as well. At times such as these, she wasn’t sure she cared. She dozed briefly and imagined the world slowing with her, stopping in its circular track—turning into a cold, dark lump of clay. Ending. Being one with the universe has its disadvantages, she thought. There are simply too many responsibilities. A spark flew from the hearth and onto the hem of her fraying robe. It glowed there for a moment, leaving only a little puff of smoke behind when it winked out. The Ancient One sniffed at the acrid smell of burning wool, so much like the smell of burning hair—or feathers. Then her eyes flew open. She remembered what she needed to do. The Fire must be lit! But not in this little hearth. No, what she needed was a bolt of lightning, a tempest to fan it into an inferno, and then a torrent to douse it when it had done its job. Then the Phoenix would rise once again and fly into the stars. An ember popped, reminding her that time was running out. The Ancient One forced herself to stand, a painstaking act completed in many small increments. She looked about, feeling the cooling draft of the hearth, the darkness, the hollowness in her bones. “I hope it’s not too late,” she said.