Long ago the Faerie Queen created portals between our world and hers, so that children could summon help from faeries whenever the need arose. But a wicked entity called the Shadow Knight is endeavoring to control the doors between the two worlds, and only evil can get through. It falls to two imaginative eleven-year-olds—Victoria Deveny, from 1890 Britain, and Elliot Good, from 1966 America—to thwart his plan. The Faerie Queen dispatches the youths on separate quests to retrieve orbs of power that will ultimately defeat the Shadow Knight. Their bravery and friendship are tested as the children travel to fantastic realms and face life-threatening dangers—from dragons to flying pirate ships to a wicked sorceress queen—before they're reunited to confront the dreaded Shadow Knight.
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B. E. MAXWELL is captivated by British fantasy literature of the nineteenth century, as well as by the work of Victorian artists such as Arthur Rackham and Cicely Mary Barker. These influences inspired him to tell his daughter and his niece the story that would become The Faerie Door, his first novel for young readers. He lives in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter 1Northumberland, England, 1890 ~ Victoria Deveny was very cross. She stood beside her bags on the platform of the small railway station at Cotby, watching the Blue Comet Limited puff away into the distance, until the black smoke from the locomotive’s stack dissipated against the far-off treetops. Victoria scowled and twirled her parasol in annoyance. She tried fixing the porter with a contemptuous look, but her efforts were wasted. He continued to nap in his chair behind the ticket window, his green visor pulled down low over his eyes. Victoria folded her arms, sighed, and prodded one of her brown leather bags with her toe. After a bit she sighed once more and sat down on the wooden bench in the shade beneath a posted railway timetable. Uncle Dexter had probably forgotten all about her! How dare he! Her eyes narrowed menacingly. If he really had forgotten, he would regret it. Finally, she heard the rattle of an approaching carriage. Her uncle’s driver was very apologetic, thrice regretting his tardiness and twice begging her pardon. Victoria tossed her head and stepped disdainfully past him up into the carriage, her nose high in the air. "Fetch all my bags and hurry, if you please," she said as she settled into the velvet cushions. "I have been waiting quite long enough. And do be careful—there are breakables." In a moment they were off, down a long wooded lane leading from Cotby toward Summerwind, her uncle’s estate. As they drove, Victoria found her anger fading. The day was beautiful and her summer holidays had barely begun. No more French conjugations or Latin verbs for three whole months! And best of all, no grueling ballet practices under the exacting eye of Mademoiselle Andre, repeating the same postures at the bar and the same formal steps over and over again. The carriage moved between sunlit fields and shaded hedgerows. After following a slow curving rise, they reached thickets of purple lilac and the scent of the blossoms filled the interior. Victoria heard the drowsy hum of bumblebees, even over the rattle of the wheels. One especially large bee buzzed in through the carriage window and flew about aimlessly for a moment before realizing its mistake and flying out again, without so much as a how-do-you-do. Despite all her efforts to the contrary, Victoria smiled at the beauty of the day. The carriage descended into a hollow and rumbled across the stone bridge that spanned one corner of a dappled pond. A dragonfly flitted alongside and then abruptly darted away to disappear across the water. Victoria felt a thrill as they reached a bright meadow brimming full of blue cornflowers. She could finally glimpse the rooftops and chimneys of Summerwind just ahead. Out in the meadow, a hundred feet from the carriage, Victoria’s uncle Dexter sprang into view, butterfly net in hand. He was gesturing enthusiastically, wearing field tweeds, pith helmet, and thick-soled expedition oxfords. Her uncle did not even seem to notice her carriage, but continued leaping eagerly toward a large butterfly, whose meandering flight was taking it farther afield by the second. Victoria rolled her eyes. And to make matters worse—if that were even possible—Penrod Periwinkle and his bookish sister Adelaide burst from the undergrowth to join her uncle. They, too, were armed with huge butterfly nets. Adelaide clutched her hat to her head with one hand and waved her net at Victoria with the other. She was the only one who bothered to notice Victoria’s arrival at all. Then, with shrill cries of "Nymphalidae" and "Camberwell Beauty," all three madly dashed off. Victoria shook her head and shut her eyes to blot out the sight of her uncle and his ridiculous friends. "Whatever butterfly that is, I am positive that it is quite safe indeed—especially from them!" she muttered to herself. Victoria had noticed, however, that the butterfly sported an exceptionally large wingspan. In fact, she hadn’t ever seen one quite half as large! By the time the carriage passed through the wrought iron archway, Victoria already had its door half open. Before the wheels had crunched to a halt on the gravel drive, she was halfway up the steps to the formal entrance doors, where Summerwind servants awaited her arrival. First in line was Mrs. Hampstead, her uncle’s housekeeper, head of the maids and kitchen staff. Beside Mrs. Hampstead stood Sheffington, the butler and chief of the menservants. Accompanying them was Ellen, an upstairs maid. At least I have a welcoming committee among the staff, thought Victoria. Mrs. Hampstead greeted Victoria formally. Although the housekeeper seemed incapable of exhibiting affection in the customary sense, she had two traits that Victoria admired above all. She was both punctual and predictable. One could set a railway timepiece by Mrs. Hampstead’s activities. If Victoria wished to prowl the house at night, or explore its attics at odd hours, she had only to memorize Mrs. Hampstead’s unvarying schedule to know precisely where she would be at any given moment. This knowledge had served Victoria well in times past. Sheffington bowed stiffly, hands held rigidly at his sides, his thumbs aligned precisely to his trouser seams. Victoria was always amazed at how he could fasten his collar so tightly and keep his tie so perfectly straight. Sheffington had lines of seriousness permanently etched in his face, but his genuine fondness for Victoria was revealed by the slight smile that appeared only when she was present. Victoria said a polite hello to Mrs. Hampstead, but as she reached out to shake Sheffington’s hand, she quite shocked him by quickly embracing him instead. "Hello, Sheffington. I hope you are well!" she said solemnly in her deepest and most serious tone, which was neither very deep nor too serious. Sheffington coughed, then beamed. He replied that he hoped she would have a delightful summer holiday. Ellen smiled at Victoria as she curtsied, properly clad in her starched uniform, lace apron, and prim ribboned cap. Victoria greeted her affectionately, and as the two of them disappeared into the house, a footman was summoned to help with her things. "I am going to have many adventures this summer, Ellen, and explore all the secrets of this house!" Victoria promised. As they ascended the first flight of stairs, she paused, dancing on alternating feet, to tug off her side-buttoned boots. "Has Mrs. Hampstead excused you from your other duties so you can be devoted to me?" "Yes, miss, just as usual for your holidays," Ellen replied. "And I have set out some suitable clothes for you." "Thank you, Ellen. Have you seen any of the strange lights out in the wood, like we glimpsed last autumn, before I had to return to horrid old Prosingham?" "Yes, miss, I saw them once, and Clara saw them a second time. The last time was perhaps a fortnight ago." "I will get to the bottom of this," Victoria declared. "And you must cover for me when I disappear on my excursions." Ellen smiled. "I am at your service, miss." As they climbed the last few steps, a clock struck the Windsor chimes in a distant corner of the house. They entered a short hallway that led to Victoria’s suite of rooms. To the right was the door to Victoria’s bedchamber, and to the left was the nursery. Some of Victoria’s earliest memories were of playing in that nursery. Nothing ever changed at Summerwind. If she rummaged about in the toy chest, she was certain she would find some of her favorite playthings. But she would not find the big rocking horse. For it had frightened Victoria so much that her uncle had it taken away. It had alarming glass eyes, and once when she had a fever, it had vividly haunted her dreams. In her delirium it came alive, rocking down the nursery passage, mouth agape. But instead of neighing, it groaned a horrid human-sounding groan, and its eyes blazed crimson. When the maids awakened her from her dream, she realized that it was she herself who had been groaning. Victoria took off her gloves and her boater, tossing them onto the plush cushions of her window seat. The window seat, where she often slept, was one of her two favorite things about the room, the other being the elaborately carved bookcase completely filling one wall. Next to back issues of Chatterbox Magazine, rows and rows of leather-bound volumes lined the shelves. Victoria didn’t remember most of the stories she had been read as a child. She was best at making up her own adventures as she went along. Copyright © 2008 by Bruce Maxwell All rights reserved. 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