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The Secret of the Labyrinth
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      Disguised by a slightly different tone

Title: Forrest Tales: The Secret of the Labyrinth

Author: C.J. Lewis

Publisher: PublishAmerica; (March 2004)

Genre: YA fantasy

ISBN: 1413710352

Paperback: 140 pages


Rating: 2 Points out of 5


July 17, 2004


Edward Forrest is a twelve-year-old boy who lives in a small dark house, has few possessions, barely gets anything to eat, and has holes in the ceiling of his bedroom. His two obnoxious sisters make his life even more miserable. A daily routine for Edwards is cooking, cleaning, turning on the heat, retrieving the newspaper, and going to school.


The boy has generationalLightin his background, making it very likely that he will have the same abilities when he grows up. Olive knows this, and since she hates the idea that he may possess inherent “special powers”, she practically ignores his existence. Olive raises Edward in such a way as to deny him any knowledge of his past or any parental love and compassion.


However, Edward receives supernatural assistance. 


Using a map Edward searches for a buried treasure. After finding a uniquely engraved ‘coin’, Edward is taken to a place called Southwyck. A village that appears to each nation in turn once a year, a time when guardians gather those chosen - a dimensional portal of sorts. Here he learns that the coin is his invitation to The Academy of the Oracle. He is totally dumbfounded with the news, but accepts, desperately wanting freedom of the physical clutches of his unhappy life and family. 


Galan, his guardian immediately begins preparing Edward for the journey to the large compound called Brynnfeld. Edward boards a brightly painted, horse-drawn wagon quickly making new friends, and eager to see what awaits him in his entirely new, and soon to be, exciting life.


On arrival, The Empress Mother greets them, she introduces staff and the Lord of the Manor gives a welcome speech. Edward soon discovers that First-Year students will learn to unleash the mysterious powers within. That is until Edward joins a club called The Skobi


The Skobi however, have other plans sketched out for The Academy of Oracle and everyone in it. Edward wants out, but how?


The non-magical world is known as Common World’, and depicted as being "self-centered". Those within Brynnfeld, on the other hand, are depicted as being very generous, of being physically normal, and of living in harmony.


If all of this sounds too familiar, it’s probably because it is. Readers will quickly find the numerous similarities to the HP series, such as the robes, uniforms, school, headmistress, groundskeeper, spiral staircase, great hall, etc. (There is even a ‘Malfoy” type). From start to finish I was able to spot 19 similarities that stuck out like a neon sign on a dark deserted highway. Is this coincidence or creativity? You be the judge.


  Reviewed by Betsie




An Interview with CJ Lewis




Betsie: To start this off, why don't you give an idea of what the book is about?


The book can be about a lot of things; it depends on the reader and what they are looking for.  The storyline takes us on a journey with Edward Forrest, a young man of 12 who is being raised in meager circumstances.  He finds ways to escape from his harsh existence and to cope with being unloved by his surrogate family.  When he becomes abandoned, he embarks on a hunt for treasure that takes him far from his home in the Common World where he finds a new home at the Academy of the Oracle.  He and his classmates are faced with an evil tht lurks just outside the Academy walls.  Edward walks on the very brink of destruction.  He must deal with peer pressure, making wrong choices and discovering how to recover from those choices.  Within the walls of The Great Labyrinth, he finds his treasure and answers to his most heartfelt questions.



Betsie: Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life?


I grew up in California and Washington State.  We moved often when I was a child—I’m not sure exactly why.  I attended 11 different schools by the time I graduated.  Since we only had one TV and my father was usually watching it, I spent most of my time in my room reading.  When I didn’t have any more library books to read, I would open the encyclopedia and just start reading about people and places.  I guess I was the proverbial bookworm!


Betsie: Who were your earliest influences and why?

I can’t really pinpoint any particular writer that I wanted to emulate.  I suppose that is because I never considered myself a writer and it was not something I aspired to be when I grew up.  I enjoyed reading all the Beverly Cleary books when I was in elementary school.  By the time I was in high school, I fell in love with classic English literature.  It was so romantic!



Betsie: What would a typical day be like for a writer?


I envy most writers who have a schedule of writing each day.  However, I have a three-year-old and can only write when he is sleeping!  Most of my day is devoted to my two children, keeping up with the household chores, and writing and promoting when I can.  There are many nights I have creative inspiration and quickly write the ideas down on a spiral notebook on my nightstand. 



Betsie: How long have you been writing and in what capacities?


I always liked to write stories (thankfully most of them went into the trash!)  Some of my earliest work was in junior high school and was published in the end-of-year school publication.  I didn’t really write anything of merit until I began this series two years ago while on a military tour in St Louis, MO.



Betsie: Which is more difficult to write - Fiction or nonfiction and why?


     I have only written fiction, which I enjoy very much.  I would imagine non-fiction would take a lot of research before beginning a project.  I have little time for that kind of work up front.  With my books, I have some research, but it is not very intense.



Betsie: Has there ever been a time when you wanted to throw in the towel and give up? And if so, how did you defeat those instincts?


     During the process of trying to find an agent or find a publisher, it was extremely discouraging.  Especially when I read some articles that indicated agents and publishers rarely even read what you submit to them.  At this point, even my husband was telling me it wasn’t worth it.  But, I had a story to tell and a message to get out—I had to keep plugging away no matter what.



Betsie: What is the hardest part about being a writer?


     In my case, I think the hardest part is time management.  Raising a young family, writing, and promoting takes more hours in the day than I have! 



Betsie: Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?


     Before beginning the book series, I enjoyed pleasure reading, learning the piano, and anything artsy-craftsy.  I still enjoy movies and listening to music.


Betsie: Articles and media alike make it sound as though the only way to rise to the top is to sacrifice. What do you find to be good sacrifices?


     I think sacrifice is a part of success because it weeds out the ones who are not committed to their project-whatever it might be.  It also provides the kind of life experience that polishes our heart and soul.  That’s why I think it is difficult for the very young to write and have their work published.  They just haven’t lived enough life yet to be able to write about the sorrows and joys we gain during the hard times. And finally, I believe overcoming severe challenges helps to mold our character for the better.



Betsie: What question do you get asked more than any other?


     “Where do you get your ideas?”  This question comes mostly from students I see during school visits.



Betsie: What’s the coolest thing a reader has said to you?


     Although I have had some wonderful feedback from young people and adults alike, I was most touched by drawings students made for me at an elementary school.  When I saw how my story blossomed into a visual expression by these children, I was awestruck.  That’s when I realized my words were creating images in their minds.  My story was now a part of them.  I found that very humbling and it was a tender moment for me.



Betsie: What has been your feedback from readers? What do they say to you about their interpretations of your book?


     So far, it has been incredibly positive.  Adults and young people alike have been enthusiastic.  There has only been one reviewer so far that had something negative to say.  It wasn’t that she didn’t like the way it was written, she didn’t like the spiritual undertone of the storyline.



Betsie: Do you think that as a writer you are more prone to watching what goes on around you and observing behaviors than most people are?


     I think as a writer you have to be an observer.  I had some experience in observing during the years I was painting.  As a painter, you have to notice the details, the nuances and tremendous color palette around you.   Also, the writer Lois Lowry made this observation; writers that she has known have another thing in common, they are constantly narrating their lives as they happen.  I would never have admitted this before, but it’s true.  When I visit places or experience situations, I am always “telling” someone about it in my mind.  I always thought I was just talking to myself, but now I know many writers do this.  It’s nice to know I’m not crazy!



Betsie: Who are some of the authors you consider to be "don't miss"?


     I don’t have a particular favorite to recommend for leisure/pleasure reading.  Sorry!  I jump from author to author and book to book.  I don’t devour any particular genre.  I usually stay away from mystery, horror, romance, and science fiction.  One of my favorites was called “The Long Walk.”  It is a true story about a man who escaped from a concentration camp in Siberia and walked across the Himalayas and through the Gobi desert.  A true survivor story!



Betsie: If one were looking to start his/her own career as a writer, what would you suggest his/her first step to be?


     Keep a journal, practice writing things down.  I keep a small notebook in my purse and have one by my bed.  Whenever an idea comes, write it down—otherwise, you might lose something of value.  Try to write short paragraphs that evoke an emotion in a reader.  Read! Read! Read!  Doing a lot of reading will instill an instinct for writing.



Betsie: What kind of movies do you enjoy?


     I love stories about overcoming obstacles.  I also enjoy the old movies, musicals, and movies like The Quiet Man.  It all depends on my mood—which varies greatly day to day!



Betsie: What is your favorite city to visit, but one that you wouldn’t want to live in?


     I recently visited Tokyo and surrounding cities.  I loved the people and the rich culture of Japan, but would not want to live there.  The crowding, high cost of living, and humidity (not to mention the difficult language) made it a nice place to just visit.




Betsie: What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked in an interview?


     If the story of Edward Forrest was true.  It’s not—it’s just a fantasy!



Betsie: What’s the best part of being a writer?


     I didn’t realize that I would be able to interact with talented artists and creative individuals.  On the second book of the series, I was enchanted by a lullaby I heard on a CD I purchased.  I was able to contact the recording artist and receive permission to use the lyrics in my book.  I was thrilled to be able to converse with this talented woman.



Betsie: What's next?


     I plan to have five books in the Forrest Tales series.  I have begun the third installment.  I am also putting together a collection of short stories with inspirational themes, and have an adult story to get down on paper, which is based on a true story.  That should keep me busy for the next couple of years.  There is a film company looking at The Secret of the Labyrinth, and that may involve some of my time as well if it gets negotiated.