The Sunken Kingdom, by Kim Wilkins

‘Asa! Sky Patrol!’
Asa’s heart jumped. She leapt to her feet and glanced up the muddy slope at her younger brother, Rollo, who waved madly and pointed at the sky.
‘I’m coming!’ she yelled, pocketing in her damp skirt the coloured stones she had been collecting. She sped away from the mud, up the slop and onto the grass. A gull swooped overhead, and the heavy salt smell of the sea stuck to her clothes. Breathless, she grabbed Rollo’s hand and kept running.

Asa and Rollo are the two remaining children of the deposed Star Lands royal family. An evil sorcerer has overthrown their benevolent rule, buried half the world under water and killed Asa and Rollo’s parents and baby sister. Now the children are in hiding, in the care of their aunt Katla. The sorcerer, Flood, sends out sky patrols, boats borne aloft by hissing black balloons. These patrols search constantly for the two royal children, the only threat to his domination. So far, the children have avoided capture. They are as innovative and brave as Flood is evil. Rumours and fear rule their world. Two young children against an accomplished sorcerer, it’s going to be a tough battle. There are whispers that their baby sister may still be alive and the children are given a ghostly boat. So the quest begins.

The Sunken Kingdom is a collection of the four stories originally published as individual titles. Each title follows the quest of Asa and Rollo as they attempt to set their flooded world to rights. The two children have lost their parents and younger sister, as well as their kingdom. Their quest will impact not only on their family but on the whole of their kingdom. If they succeed, they will save the kingdom, if not, their world will perish. Each story sees their cause advance, but at each turn the two characters are tested. Each has been given a magical power, but the power must be used sparingly because its use brings consequences. The two innocent children must battle evil in many forms, and the children learn lessons in trust. Their judgements about other people, friend and foe, are forged by both successes and failures. They learn that appearances can be deceptive. These are grand stories, full of drama and excitement. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

The Sunken Kingdom, Kim Wilkins, ill D.M Cornish
Omnibus Books 2008
ISBN: 9781862917941

The Pearl Hunters, by Kim Wilkins

Constance Blackchurch abandoned all decorum and started to run.
Her books pressed close against her, bonnet loose and hanging around her neck, she ran. Down the Butterwalk arcade with its granite pillars, and round into narrow Farmer’s Lane with its uneven cobbles that threatened to trip her. Her heart thudded, her blood was hot. The sea breeze barely cooled the close summer heat; perspiration trickled down her neck.

It is 1799. Constance Blackchurch rails against the conventions that govern her life. Why must she learn French when she’d rather learn Astronomy? Why is her father always away at sea? Even when he’s briefly home in England, he seems to think her a nuisance. In the waters of southern India, a youth dives further and for longer than all the other pearl divers. Yet he is conscious that India is not his home, not where he belongs. Both Constance and Alexandre are constrained by their circumstances and their fate. Then Constance’s father makes a rare rash decision to return to India to search for her mother. Add a lonely colonial girl, a dishonest, gambling opportunist and the wilds of the ocean and the adventure begins.

The Pearl Hunters is a romantic and exciting tale of life at sea and in the East, set in a time when life in England seemed bound up with propriety and convention. Constance is sixteen years old, and although she’s grown up without her mother and only occasionally sees her father, has been well cared-for and educated beyond the level common for girls of her generation. In contrast, Alexandre has had few opportunities and to all intents has spent his life so far as a chattel of first one, then a second, owner. But he too has had some education. Kim Wilkins explores notions of captivity and freedom from multiple points of view. We see a different view of the same world from Constance, Alexandre, Constance’s father and De Locke, Alexandre’s ‘owner’. Each viewpoint character has their own chapter, but it is Constance’s view which is most frequent. Recommended for junior- to mid-secondary readers.

The Pearl Hunters, by Kim Wilkins
Omnibus Books 2008
ISBN: 9781862917514

Tide Stealers, by Kim Wilkins

Give it back!’ She ran boldly to the edge of the shore, but her voice was drowned out in the sound of the longship submerging again. Water rushed in to fill the gap; bubbles spewed upwards in streams. It all happened in moments.
Then, silence. Asa could hear her own breathing, loud in her ears.
’No, no,’ she whispered.
The Moonstone Star, her family’s magic, the last memory of her mother, was gone. And it was all her fault.

When Asa takes the Moonstone Star to the edge of the water to try to get its magic to work, it is stolen by Tide-Stealers, underwater outlaws. Asa and Rollo try to find it, but they must face ghosts, the tide stealers and sea giants to do so.

With their parents, King Sigurd and the Star Queen, dead, Asa and Rollo are the last hope for the people of the Star Lands. Flood, the evil court magician, has taken over the kingdom, using his powers to leave it submerged. In this, the second book in the Sunken Kingdom series, the adventures of Asa and Rollo continue, with help coming from an unlikely source.

This is an intriguing series, with all the elements of good fantasy – a well-woven fantasy world in turmoil, plenty of baddies, and heroes with huge obstacles to overcome. Of course, this is all condensed into a format suitable for younger readers, making it a great introduction to fantasy for primary aged children.

The Sunken Kingdom series is part of Omnibus Books’ new Fantastica imprint, offering fantasy tales for children from world-class fantasy writers. It seems destined for success.

Tide Stealers, by Kim Wilkins
Omnibus Books, 2006

Rosa and the Veil of Gold, by Kim Wilkins

When an ancient golden bear is found hidden in the wall of an old St Petersburg bathhouse, Rosa Kovalenka calls on her ex-boyfriend, Daniel St Clare, to examine it. Daniel has seen nothing like this bear, but is curious and sets out with his colleague Em to have it examined by an expert. But a series of inexplicable events causes them to become lost and in the dead of night they unwittingly cross the divide between their own world, Mir, and the land of enchantments, Skazki.

As Daniel and Em wander the wilds of Skazki, trying to return the bear to its rightful owner and find a way back home, Rosa is back in Mir, desperately trying to help them. She possesses ancient magic, but it is not yet strong enough to cross the divide and rescue Daniel, the man that she loves.

Rosa and the Veil of Gold is a fantasy set in both modern day and historical Russia, as well as in its magical realms, Skazki. There are some familiar events and characters – including various Tsars and Rasputin, who plays an interesting role. There are also, as befits any fantasy, many unfamiliar beings adding danger and mystique to the adventures of Daniel and the icy Em.

This is an absorbing read, with the Russian setting adding plenty of interest.

Rosa and the Veil of Gold, by Kim Wilkins
Harper Collins, 2005