After the Bloodwood Staff

Fiction - Adventure
282 Pages
Reviewed on 11/10/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Saifunnissa Hassam for Readers' Favorite

In Laura E. Goodin's adventure novel After the Bloodwood Staff, a fictitious novel of the same title becomes the basis of an adventure. Sybil Alvaro believes the novel After the Bloodwood Staff, written by her favorite author C. G. Ingraham, is not entirely fiction. Hoyle Marchand, who loves to read adventure stories, agrees to go with Sybil in search of the mysterious Bloodwood Staff in the mountains west of Sydney, Australia. Ada is a spunky and street-smart young woman who befriends the two Americans in Sydney and joins them in their trek into the mountains. The story's pace, action, and tension ratchet up when it appears that someone else is also searching for the Bloodwood Staff. Why should a reddish wooden staff with a carved, leaf-like blade - that may not even exist - exert such a strong attraction?

I thoroughly enjoyed Laura E. Goodin's After the Bloodwood Staff for its strong characters and rich imagination. I loved the way Goodin interweaves the search by Sybil and Hoyle with Ingraham's novel, its clues, and hints of the location of the Bloodwood Staff. I loved the twisting turns in the story, the layers of past and present. I was pulled into the story as the adventure spirals into a terrifying mystery, fraught with danger. I liked the realistic way in which Sybil, Hoyle, and Ada deal with grim and perilous circumstances so unlike any other experiences in their lives. The characters react with humor, irony, fear, anger, and courage, and their inner journeys evolve along with their outward quest. A well-crafted tale of adventure and mystery with a fantastical web of tangled storylines!

Rip-roaring adventure and a lot of fun

"If you’re thinking that I’m just a middle-aged woman who should stay at home with her cats and her book club for a couple of decades until its time to go into a hospice and die, then you can think again.’ (Sybil in Chapter One.)"

So, its been another dreary week of blah work and same-old, same-old, has it? Yeah, I know. You deserve something for yourself. So you head to a book shop (of course) seeking an old time adventure, a ripping yarn, a tale of deering do and plucky heroes, a tale that involves absolutely no commuter trains and no grey-walled offices. Oh look, here’s one with a cover of a faded mustard colour and the title, After Bloodwood Staff by Laura E. Goodwin, printed in enticing Art Nouveau font. Perfect.

‘Why would you want me along? Fat, unemployed, out of shape.. how would I stand up to pirates or savages or wild beasts or even leeches? …. The thought of trudging through a jungle picking leeches off his private’s and drinking blood from a cut on the neck of his pack horse .. ‘ ( Chapter One In Which Hoyle Meets An Adventurer.)"

You start to read. Hoyle enters a bookshop (good man; already you like him) after his pretty awful week. He selects an obscure vintage 19th Century adventure novel called 'After The Bloodwood Staff' which has a cover of faded mustard colour and a title printed in enticing Art Nouveau font .. (Uh, what?.. ) But a strange women snatches it out of his hands. Sybil has convinced herself that it contains a Vital Clue to a mysterious artefact. Next thing Hoyle knows, he is travelling to a far flung land (Australia) to trudge through gum-tree-jungles alive with creepy birds (kookaburras) in search of the artefact described in the vintage novel, the Bloodwood Staff. It’s a bizarre journey for a soft middle-aged city dweller to set out on with someone he barely knows. But then again, why not?

" ‘What is this, Lord of the Rings? he thought irritably. Be careful what you wish for. You wanted an adventure? You wanted to do something meaningful? Well, here you go.' (Hoyle in Chapter 21)."

In this twist on the classic vintage yarn, with chapter headings like 'In Which Things Go Badly Wrong' and 'In Which The Anarchists Descend Into Anarchy', the redoubtable Sybil leads Hoyle and Ada, a foul mouthed 'urchin' from Sydney, into one predicament after another. We get kidnappings, hideouts, bad-guys, murders, daring rescues, mad evil villains, mysterious ancient powers, and even romance! It's all here, the adventure that is going to take you away from that working day dreariness. You might even close the book wondering, as I did, whether to just leave your present existence behind and charge off on a crazy adventure yourself. I mean, apart from the leeches, why not?