The Magician’s Workshop, Volume Two by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr

I’m back with book 2 in the series, the continuation of the story and it is mega! Read on to know more about the book and what I thought about it.

About the Book:

The Magician's Workshop, Volume Two

Return to the world of The Magician’s Workshop: Where Dreams Become Reality.

In Volume Two, the Festival of Stars has finally arrived, and the Color Ceremony is about to commence. As children from all over the islands gather to stand before a puller, one question remains: who will have a Color, and who will be found void?

Rejoin your favorite characters as they step forward and receive a label that will have the power to dramatically alter the course of their lives forever.

My Thoughts:

Where the first book was light-hearted with the focus on introducing us to the world and characters, the second book takes the story ahead more seriously. A shift in the direction of the plot adds more to the magic of this series.The declaration of whether our characters have color in them or not is finally given out.

It’s interesting how parallels are drawn between the colors and personality traits. We are shown how people change when color is discovered in them as well as when it isn’t. The distinctions cast between having color and being void is indeed quite unfair. The pressure on the children to have something in them is immense and with high expectations, sometimes it is easy to lose one’s own individuality and identity. It becomes difficult to read about the characters and how they feel throughout this ordeal. Family bonds, friendships and even relationships are strained through this adding to the already declining morale. This is the kind of coming of age idea where after the color ceremony, the children are considered to have “grown up” or are adults. It is a freaky concept, one that can create or destroy a person and the bonds they share with those around them. The harsh rules and manner in which they are enforced do not make it any easier.

The Master Magician turns up with words of encouragement along the lines of color, no color, it doesn’t matter, but to accept all anyway. This comes across as a surprise and a rather new concept to everyone who think that the ultimate goal is to be found with color and then to train to get into the magician’s workshop. No-one seems to know or understand the hardships that it entails or even those that follow this kind of dream. There also seems to be an underlying sub plot to change how things are perceived in the islands for so many years. We meet some rather interesting older characters who though briefly introduced in Book 1, have more importance in this and probably further on. There is talk of how everyone should be equal irrespective of whether they have color in them and this seems to threaten a lot of people. This is a difficult idea to change and would take a lot of work.

Now that everyone has found out their place (it feels harsh to write it this way, but I cannot think of another way of articulating this), it’s time to move further, to train, to find new goals and to deal with the next stage of life. The authors slowly emphasize the importance of two characters, Kai and Layauna, and the story slowly shifts focus with more of the later chapters written from their points of view. Coming out with the kind of colors they have, it will give us a sense that the tests that life will throw at these two will be harder and that they will need all the help and support from their friends and family. It is also clear that now, having been declared as adults, our beloved characters cannot let their guards down and need to be careful about whom they trust.

This book continues on in chapters from where the previous left off. The authors flawlessly craft the story to take us further and draw us in. They maintain the playfulness and style of expression which is quite refreshing and enhance the concepts and story. It is easy to experience everything with the characters and this is one of the main things that drew my attention.The style of writing, the description about each projection only add to the soaring imagination of the reader. A wonderful feat achieved successfully by the authors. Kudos to the work they have done and the time they have spent in creating this world.

It has been a while since reading Harry Potter, that a series in this genre has kept me hooked. I will say it again and again that this is one mega awesome read! Keep projecting and I hope that the next book comes out soon.

The Magician’s Workshop, Volume One by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr

I was provided with a free copy of the book by Wondertale in exchange for an honest and magical review! “It’s going to be mega” is what I was promised and it definitely is mega! Read on to know more about the book (first in a series) followed by my thoughts!

About the Book:

The Magician's Workshop, Volume One

Everyone in the islands of O’Ceea has a magical ability: whatever they imagine can be brought into existence. Whoever becomes a master over these powers is granted the title of magician and is given fame, power, riches, and glory. This volume of books follows the journey of a group of kids as they strive to rise to the top and become members of the Magician’s Workshop.

Layauna desperately wants to create beautiful things with her magical powers, but all she can seem to do is make horrible, savage monsters. For years she has tried to hide her creations, but when her power is at last discovered by a great magician, she realizes that what she’s tried to hide might actually be of tremendous value.

Kai just wants to use his powers to have fun and play with his friends. Unfortunately, nearly everyone on his island sees him as a bad influence, so he’s forced to meet them in secret. When one of the creatures they create gets out of control and starts flinging fireballs at their town, Kai is tempted to believe that he is as nefarious as people say. However, his prospects change when two mysterious visitors arrive, praising his ability and making extraordinary promises about his future.

Follow the adventures of Kai, Layauna, and a boatload of other characters as they struggle to grow up well in this fantastical world.





My Thoughts:

Whoo whoo whooosh! That’s how the story flowed and finished in a flash of color, before I could find my bearings and return to the surface!

A wonderfully written story of a world where everyone has magic and can do magic, the authors take it one step further into the world of augmented reality. We are introduced to a myriad of people, both old and young and follow them on their various journeys. This book, the first in the series, is mainly an introduction. We are given a glimpse into the islands of O’Ceea and it’s inhabitants, their lifestyles and personalities.

The story is well written and though initially it may seem a tiny bit confusing, everything starts to make sense after a while. There are vivid descriptions that inspire the reader to imagine even further than what the authors have already shown us. The concept of projections and the fact that it forms the basis of the plot line makes this idea all the more interesting. It forces us to draw on our imagination and experience a new kind of high while reading. Just imagine being able to create anything that you can think of, make something you dislike taste or smell or even look better! So much fun! As everyone in O’Ceea say, it’s mega!

The authors introduce many characters, children around the age of 16 mainly, who are on the verge of being “tested” to find out whether they have “color” in them or are “void”. These terms will start to make sense once you read the book! As we meet each character and get to know them, the authors prepare us to embark on a journey that will see these characters traverse through their lives on the paths they are destined for. They are well-developed and many have a complex past with a lot of ups and downs. Each one has their own experiences and talents to speak of. With everyone in this world being able to do even a basic form of magic, it becomes rather interesting to see where the authors take us with this concept. It comes across as a story of growing up, moving forward in life no matter what is thrown at you as well as following your dreams among others.

The story ends rather abruptly, ensuring that once this is finished, the reader will be left wanting for more. Having been given just a taste of the magic, the reader is left hoping for more and more. I really enjoyed this book and will stop my vague review here to avoid jumping into plot explanations and revelations. So jump right in to experience a new kind of magic! Definitely worth the read and will leave you craving for more and more and more!

In conversation with Neil Hanson

I have had the pleasure of talking to Neil Hanson, whose new travel memoir, Pilgrim Wheels: Reflections of a Cyclist Crossing America was released in March. Here he talks about how he started writing and what inspires him as well as some information about his book.

Neil Hanson - Author Photo

What/who inspired you to start writing?

I don’t know that it was any single person or any single event. I will say that as a teenager, I fell in love with the stories of Mark Twain and Alexander Dumas, and probably from those early years always wanted to write. I was lucky in that writing came easily to me, so I was able to hone and improve my skills as the years went by.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’d call myself a pretty average middle-aged guy. I’m very active (cycling, hiking, fishing, etc), and like everybody else, have to work for a living and to support the fun things I like to do in life. One thing that is a bit unique is the level of eclecticism in my life, the things I’ve done, the interests I have. I’ve made my living in many different ways, and am always eager to explore the next adventure life drops in front of me. I was married for 30 years, and we raised 3 great children together. All three of those children live close to me still, and I have two grandchildren. My wife and I divorced a few years back, and am engaged to a wonderful and beautiful woman who also has 3 grown children and two grandchildren, so my family is about to double.

Who is your favourite author?

I still love Mark Twain. I also love the historical fiction that Ken Follett has been publishing. There are a few new fantasy writers I love, including Patrick Rothfuss and Anthony Ryan. Craig Johnson is an author of westerns that I really like. As for classics, John Steinbeck is hard to beat. Oh, and Neil Gaiman of course.

Which is the best part of writing a story?

Learning what the characters and the story have to teach me. Watching and listening to the story emerge.

How much inspiration do you draw on from real life experiences, with respect to plot, characters etc?

Close to 100% of what I write is a reflection of real life in one way or another.

What kind of impact do your stories have on you?

In many ways, the stories define the adventure I had in a whole new way. I get to relive the adventure in slow motion, feeling all the different aspects, colors, smells, and feelings all over again.

What was the original inspiration for your bicycle trip across America?

 I wanted to take a bike ride. A long bike ride. Hundreds of miles, just me and my bike. Why? No particular reason, it just sounded like a neat thing to add to the checklist of “fun and exciting things I’ve tried.” The idea became an adventure. An adventure to plan for and to move toward. A box to check off. Eventually, I was clipping into my pedals in Monterey, California, pointing south along the coast on a beautiful summer day, discovering America and me.

The trip didn’t take shape to be a journey of discovery. I wasn’t trying to heal from a lost job, or a failed relationship, or trying to discover myself. I just wanted to ride my bike a long ways, with a really open mind, to see how I did riding 100 miles a day, day after day.

But then things evolved a bit, and I began to discover more about me, about my journey, about the people I met. About America. It didn’t start off as any sort of pilgrimage or deep journey, but rather as a bike ride. But it morphed into this journey that discovered me, and a pilgrimage I didn’t really expect.

How far did you travel on this journey and did you deviate at all from the route youd originally planned?

Total distance was just over 3300 miles, just under 125,000 vertical feet of climbing. My average rolling speed was 14.2 MPH, the lowest temperature I rode through was 35F, and the highest temperature I rode through was 119.

My route did evolve as I rode, sometimes due to road closure, and sometimes just because I felt like trying something different. This book takes me up to Medicine Lodge, Kansas, which is almost exactly halfway, though Kansas is probably where I deviated from my route more than anywhere else.

Are there any moments that stand out as being especially meaningful or emotionally transcendent as you travelled?

 Beginning in the lush forests of Big Sur, climbing over the coastal range, then spending a couple of days drawn further and further toward the Mojave, really set me up for the depth and meaning I found out on my own in the deserts. Standing on the side of a deserted highway in the Mojave, not long after sunrise, feeling the power and vastness of the desert around me, swallowed in the silence, was one of those moments I write about in the book. Another was the afternoon ride through the heart of the Sonoran, mesmerized by the sensual dance of distant dust devils in the wind, fascinated by the cars disappearing into the shimmering heat of the asphalt in front of me as oncoming cars would appear out of that amorphous mirage.

 If someone were to propose a trip like yours, what advice would you give him or her?

 First, take the time to decide what it is you’re looking for in a ride. I really like the general route I took, although in hindsight, I probably would make some small changes. What I love about my route is that I was able to find some really fine roads to ride on, I saw a wide variety of landscape, and I feel like I really experienced the heart of American culture.

Second, I can’t stress fitness enough. Be sure you’re fit to complete whatever distance you’re setting out to ride. I’ve read several accounts of cross-country trips where a good percentage of the joy was lost until the rider slowly became fit enough to do the ride.

Third, I’d recommend thinking hard about the “style” or riding you want to do. Do you want to be fully loaded and self-sufficient or minimalist? One of the things I noticed in the accounts I read of other cross country trips was that sometimes folks didn’t think this through a lot. It’s easy to overlook, and my “pack” dwindled considerably as I rode, learning more as I went about what minimalism really meant. Too often folks burden themselves with lots of gear, mostly because that’s their “vision” of touring on a bicycle. Many of them then end up spending a fair number of nights in motels anyway, and eating at diners.

 How has this journey changed your impression of our country? Do you feel the same about America as you did before you decided to bicycle across the mainland?

 I grew up in Kansas, a product of Midwestern kindness. So I pretty much expect most people to be kind and generous. Even with that as a starting point, I was continually humbled and heartened at the generosity, kindness, and true concern that I encountered from people across America. Sure there were some rude drivers, along with a few other exceptions, but generally I was overwhelmed by the goodness and camaraderie people shared with me. From the young woman I met at the airport in Monterey to the old rancher who pulled over and gave Dave and me ice cold water on a 100+ degree day in Kansas, the goodness in people warmed my heart.

 Are you working on a sequel to Pilgrim Wheels? If so, what can you tell us about it?

Pilgrim Wheels takes the reader up to Medicine Lodge in western Kansas, and the next book will take the reader from Medicine Lodge out to Annapolis on the east coast. From the time I left the Big Sur coastline in California, all the way across the western half of the country, I was nearly always riding in some form of “The West.” The landscape varied from semi-arid to deep desert, the air was always dry, the views and landscape big and sweeping.

 But Medicine Lodge is where that changed. I swept down into Medicine Lodge out of the big Medicine Hills, with vast views across landscape that is iconic American West, and emerged riding east into increasing humidity and rich farmland. From that point all the way to Annapolis, the journey took me through various forms of the “Old America,” one made up of lush farmland, deep woods, humid air, wide rivers, and more history.