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The Candle Trees by Anthony Holcroft

The Candle Trees is the new release from Anthony Holcroft and gives the young adult genre a cracker of a historical fantasy novel that delivers on every front.

Set in the forests of Argentina in the late 1800s, there is an adventure at foot. Julia - a young woman lost and then found by two women who are part of the original culture of the South American country. Adopting her as one of their own, they teach her the ways of the indigenous culture, gathering food, and foraging for medicinal herbs. Like the reader, there is a little fear that there may be some nefarious intentions for Julia from the two women, as if they may have cannibalistic tendencies. Clearly a bit of a colonial viewpoint that Holcroft is trying to highlight and debunk.

Julia is separated from her two caregivers, and she finds herself lost. That is, of course, until she meets up with a young man looking for gold in the opportunities that abound in Argentina. There is a contrast that is very quickly noted in the way Andreas connects with the world around him and how Julia’s caregivers look after the environment, people, and land.

Fast forward to more modern times, and 13-year-old Julian has to put up with his 90-year-old grandmother staying with the family during her final days. What’s worse, she is staying in his room. But the real treasure comes to light in the journal that documents the adventures of young Julia and her times in the jungle - as mentioned above.

The blurb of the book talks about the relationship between the two generations, but that is really limited to the first and last chapters - and it would have been great to read more about this relationship. This doesn’t, however, take away from the intrigue and interest that Holcroft creates in the construction of the Argentinian jungle and Julia's adventures.

The descriptions are highly poetic, particularly that of the Candle Tree with its beauty, majesty, and magical healing ability.

Overall, the feel of this book has elements of authentic traditional storytelling. It has that writing that is synonymous with the classics, an almost familiar style. A wonderful addition to the bookcase of any young adult reader! Loved it!

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Quentin Wilson Publishing


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