cover image Mountain Garden

Mountain Garden

Will Ottley, illus. by Chloë Holt. Perpetualaum Books (, $7.99 paper (104p) ISBN 978-0-9927763-1-2

When marauding wolves and once-friendly lions threaten the deer realm, a young stag named Buckan is dispatched to ask the Great King Stag for help. The elder stag instructs Buckan to find the Mountain Garden, “a magical pace that he had heard mentioned in the fairy tales of his fawnhood,” and to “embrace the power” he finds there. The king’s warnings that Buckan’s greatest challenges lie ahead and that things “are not always as they seem” prove true as Buckan journeys through the perilous Dark Forest, encountering a conniving bat, a treacherous crocodile, and a hostile mountain goat. Ottley’s first novel is less an animal adventure aimed at children than an allegorical tale about summoning inner strength in order to triumph over dark, threatening forces. Holt’s bold, inky b&w illustrations, which have the feel of violently stroked watercolors, accent Buckan’s journey with dramatic and ominous notes. Though this fable of trust, forgiveness, redemption, and the strength-giving power of love occasionally gets caught up in its own portentousness, readers (especially adult ones) seeking a dose of spiritual affirmation can take heart in its message. All ages. (BookLife)