The Way of the River

Kellandale Wood, Book One

Children - Fantasy/Sci-Fi
368 Pages
Reviewed on 11/20/2021
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Shan Spyker loves to make things with words and ink! Her passion for writing was first ignited when she discovered the world of publishing through her love of music, when at age 14, she created her first zine (it was a Duran Duran fanzine!). She's been 'zine-making ever since that time, originally creating in the traditional cut-and-paste methods, and into current times producing several online collaborative creative writing, music, art, and photography projects and publications.

She grew up along the shores of Lake Erie in NE Ohio and earned a BA in studio art, and later a degree with a concentration in web design and development. Following college, she worked for several non-profit organizations, serving as publication editor and author/writer for fundraising campaigns. Today she offers design and writing services to small businesses, academic publishers, and non-profits, as well interior book design through her graphic design business.

Some of her influences—some more recent and some life-long—include Hayao Miyazaki, Jamie Hewlett, Grace Lin, Vashti Harrison, Mary Stewart, Holly Black, Jason Reynolds, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Campbell, Thich Nhat Hanh, Damon Albarn, Joe Strummer, John Trudell, and Fatoumata Diawara. Her deep interests in nature, the environment, the pursuit of animal rights, human rights, and social justice strongly influence and inform her art and writing.

The Way of the River is her first full length novel, a fantasy/adventure based upon a series of collaborative family bedtime stories that has spanned three generations, and first told by her father decades ago.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite

The Way of the River: Kellandale Wood (Book One) by Shan L. Spyker is surefooted in its message with a plot that will endear itself not only to young readers but to adults as well. Siblings Elinora Wolton, 15, and her younger sister, Tillie, 14, live in a country called Eldmoor, on a landed estate known as Kellandale. Her cousins, along with her Aunt Camille, will be staying with them until her father and her uncle finish the completion of the community school. Life is pretty normal for the two siblings, except that they are forbidden to venture into Kellandale Wood, which everyone believes to be bewitched. But when they witness a sack being thrown into the river, they itch to investigate and break the long-standing admonition not to enter the woods. Inside the sack is a wolfhound pup that they rescue and name Henry. Elinora and Tillie discover that Kellandale Wood is indeed bewitched but in a positive and enchanting way, as it allows them to communicate with Henry and other woodland creatures.

Shan L. Spyker is so precise and simple with the characters in that she writes them with clear motivations that are reflected in what they say, and it does not complicate the message about our relationship with nature. Reading The Way of the River has transported me to my grade school age again. Creating a fictional country and combining it with spectacular sensory details, the story manages to create its own space that you can actually inhabit. It is the kind of setting that can pop up in your imagination. Elinora and Tillie both have childish spunk that is both appealing and relatable to young readers. In every way, this quietly majestic tale should be read not only for its message but because it is a triumph of good storytelling.

Liz Konkel

The Way of the River: Kellandale Wood by Shan L. Spyker is the first book in the series. Elinora and Tillie are total opposites. Tillie is always looking for something more exciting while Elinora feels more at ease when she can hide away. The Kellandale estate keeps them isolated (and Tillie bored) and sits along the edge of supposedly haunted woods. For the last couple of centuries, no one has dared to enter the woods and even the sisters' parents have forbidden them from ever going inside. The sisters are then drawn into the woods when they catch sight of a mysterious stranger leaving a parcel behind. Out of curiosity the sisters explore forbidden land and stumble upon a lost wolfhound pup who they discover has unique abilities. As they bond with the pup and learn of his tragic past, they learn of a horrendous circus led by a man obsessed with Kellandale Wood and uncover the connection their own family has with the woods.

The discovery of the woods also gives the sisters a chance at exploring other parts of themselves, whether it's pushing boundaries of bravery and curiosity or dealing with a strained relationship with a former close friend. The first connection they make within the woods is with Henry, an abandoned wolfhound pup, who immediately shares an overwhelming moment with them. The meeting with Henry creates a catalyst that draws the sisters further into the secrets of the woods, creates a deep bond with the animals there, and puts them up against the greedy Coddlefin. Shan L. Spyker delivers an enchanting tale that highlights the bond between humans and animals through the emotional connections and the tragic circumstances of endangered species. The world of the woods comes to life through the animal characters as the sisters get to know their stories and their hidden society and culture with figures like the Lady of the Forest as their protector, a council of beings, and the Messenger. The animal characters create an emotional depth to the overall story through their individual stories that are woven together.

The story incorporates a variety of animals such as a wolf pack that views people and other animals as a threat and a baby elephant named Wildflower who was taken from her herd and is mourning those losses. Spyker captures the pain and tragedy each animal has experienced while also showing the relief and sense of safety they have when being rescued. The circus animals are woven throughout the story with their tragic stories highlighting greater issues that endangered species face, from being taken for entertainment to poaching. The Way of the River is a poignant story with emotional depth, rich storytelling, and themes of bravery and curiosity that bring to life a commentary about endangered species and the relationship humans have with animals.

Emma Megan

The Way of the River: Kellandale Wood (Book One) by Shan L. Spyker is a children's fantasy story that follows a group of children who venture into Kellandale Wood. This forest has a centuries-old terrible reputation of being haunted. When Elinora and Tillie go up in the tower in their manor house, while looking out, they see a man throwing something into the river within their property. They want to find what's been thrown into the river even though this means entering the forest, the same forest that their parents strictly prohibited them from going near. But Elinora, Tillie, and their cousins enter the forest anyway. Now they are at the start of a fantastic adventure that will lead them to the truth of the legendary enchanted woods and the mystic river that flows through it.

The Way of the River: Kellandale Wood (Book One) by Shan L. Spyker is a remarkable middle-grade magical adventure and by far the best children's book I have read this year. Shan L. Spyker is a truly great writer of fantasy. She has crafted a magnificent debut story with unique, unforgettable characters and fantastic creatures who work beautifully together. Their bonds and heroic deeds are so touching that it's impossible not to get attached to them and their magical world. The Way of the River has a clear, noble message. It encourages kindness and compassion toward all animals, the environment, and all human beings around us. It teaches both children and adults to cherish, love, and respect all living creatures. The magic, the charm of the writing, and the realm of fantasy will appeal not only to children but to grown-ups, too.