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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Gichi Manidoo is a fantasy novel written by Charles J. Musser and illustrated by Nancy Aphroditae. Federico couldn’t help but feel the simmering animosity of Carl Mulligan, the homeowner of the house he was to sell. As he inspected the old house, Federico encountered a woman standing in the shadows of the dusty boiler. At first, Federico thought she was a trespasser, but she claimed to own the house. Her name was Marie, and she was Carl’s wife -- not his daughter as Federico had initially thought. Federico and Marie swiftly became friends, people who genuinely enjoyed each other’s company; however, he couldn’t help but worry as the anger and controlling nature of her husband became increasingly apparent. Then, one morning, Marie failed to appear for what had become their pre-work ritual of drinking coffee together by the lake they both loved. Instead, a young girl appeared. Her name was Elizabeth, and she gravely told Federico that Marie was in the hospital and was dying. She said that Marie wanted him to listen to her story and to believe. Federico could save her. Torn by doubt, fear and confusion, he agreed to listen to Elizabeth’s tale.
Gichi Manidoo held me captivated from the moment I found myself vicariously living Federico and Marie’s first meeting in that dusty boiler room. This is a book one can read again and again and still find so much to discover and delightedly revisit. Musser’s characters make it hard to resist getting caught up in their lives and adventures, and his plot works on so many levels. While this is a fantasy, Musser addresses real-life issues, especially abusive and controlling spouses and the plight of those who allow themselves to be caged by their partners or family members. The intensity of this work increases as the black orbs seem poised to destroy all of nature, and the underlying suspense kept me on edge and unable to put the book down. Gichi Manidoo has something for everyone. There’s adventure, magic realism, classic quest fantasy in the school of George MacDonald, and romance. I was awed by this book. Nancy Aphroditae’s masterful pen and ink illustrations put the crowning finishes on this unusual and compelling read. Gichi Manidoo is most highly recommended.