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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Beatrice’s grandmother, her guardian, is gravely sick and might not recover. Haunted by her own dark shadow and scared to think where her life might go if her grandmother dies, Beatrice goes about her chores with a numbness that is so unlike her. She desperately wants to find Elijah and ask him to spare her grandmother’s life. But, when feeding the chickens, her dog Barley runs off into the woods, leading the ten-year-old girl into another world, Fenland, one in which the animals can speak and it is in dire need of Beatrice’s help to save it from extinction. It’s a quest full of unimaginable dangers, but Beatrice knows it’s one she must pursue in order to save her grandmother – if she can – as well as save Fenland.
M. Byron’s young people’s fantasy novel, The Struggle for Fenland: Quietly We Fall, is a haunting story full of tragedy, grief, sickness, and all the evil a dark shadow can project. The story is told in the third person narrative, beginning in a wooded area where George, a ground squirrel, analyses the dilemma presented with a glass shard protruding through the entrance to his home. George returns to the story later, but the story then changes its point of view to Beatrice and her concern over her grandmother and the chase that leads her to Fenland. There is a lot of action, excitement, and drama as the story progresses through Beatrice’s quest. Like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Gene Stratton-Potter’s Girl of the Limberlost, this story has a lot of human-animal interaction, concern by young people for different creatures, a fantasy alternate dimension, and considerable passion for the world in which we live. The beauty of nature and the horrors of the evil that threaten it make this story a powerful testament to all that is good and bad, beautiful and ugly in the world. A heart-wrenching story.