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Beanstalk and Beyond
by Tony Padegimas
New Link Publishing, QTP, 2017, $17.99, 290 pages
Published: April 2017

Picaresque, coming-of-age adventure that combines several fairy tales and sets Jack in Britain at a time when representatives of the Roman Empire are thin on the ground and Saxons are the latest threat to survival — Saxons and giants.  Young Jack is the smallest of their mother’s three sons, but he is quick, inquisitive, and resourceful; not a fool who trades a cow for beans on a strange woman’s mere say-so that they are magic. His foray into the cloud realm is described with captivating humor and detail.

Back on earth, his mother has to fend off charges of witchcraft — how else explain the family’s sudden wealth?  And Jack finds that a grieving princess needs the singing harp even more than he does. An apprenticeship to a magician proves to be an even stranger experience than the beanstalk adventure. Later, he sets off on a quest that takes him across Hadrian’s Wall, into wastes where wild people live beyond the pale of civilization. But Jack doesn’t find his destiny until he reverses his steps and returns home, even if it is only to tread briefly, and lightly, in a place he has outgrown.

I am quite impressed by this blending of fairy tales and historical setting. The author is himself a wanderer, and he imbues this story with some of the compulsion a wanderer feels for the roads and ways that lead out to the world beyond one’s doorstep.  Here is a very human Jack who may be of immediate appeal to readers of all ages, but especially YA.  – Chris Wozney

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