The Saga of Moby Beast
by Norrie Charles
BookVenture Publishing

"But none you would hear
Could strike you with fear,
Or scare you to say the least
Than that terrible story,
The ghastly and gory,
Saga of Moby Beast"

His listeners thought he was mad. The village priest would tell a tale of a horrible beast that lurked in the swamp but which would one day awaken to feed on poor, unsuspecting folk like them. His horrific story made even the strongest men turn pale, yet they brushed off his words as the ravings of one deranged. After all, for decades the village had gone about its daily life in peace—for not even armies bothered to trample through its remote and isolated location. Imagine then the shock and terror of the residents of this small burg when an exhausted axeman stumbled into town and recounted his recent close call with the hideous creature. The next day brought ever-worsening reports of dire calamity as refugees from the outlying farmers came flooding in with what few possessions they could carry. Yet the most terrible tale of all came from the distraught miller who had watched his own daughter being carried off by the monster. None had the courage to venture forth to rescue her, but then the priest suggested that Sir Knight be called to help. But would even this famous warrior be able to face such a formidable foe?

In what appears from the illustrations to be an Elizabethan setting, Charles weaves an entertaining tale of monstrous menace, self-recrimination, perseverance under fire, and personal redemption. On one level, this is your standard story of the evil beast emerging from the wilds beyond to terrorize the innocent. As such, this plot has a long tradition in literature. Beowulf, an epic poem written in Old English, was the first such tale of this kind to be recorded in our language, and Charles' work definitely echoes it. The rescue of a young woman from evil's clutches is also a well-worn device, popping up in such ancient and modern classics as Saint George and the Dragon and Creature from the Black Lagoon. But what really sets the author's story apart from its predecessors is not its setting or variations in characters. No, what makes this tale stand out is its thematic depth.

Most tales of this type focus on the hero's courage and cleverness in defeating the monster. In the author's story, Sir Knight is a hero by false reputation. He has basked in the glory of exaggerated accounts of his exploits when he should have had the courage to dispute them. Bravado has led him from his comfy castle with the cheers of the crowds to bolster him into the stench and darkness of the swamp where true danger awaits. Once there, he must first battle his personal demons before engaging his physical enemy. This fight and the one he must take up after encountering Moby Beast are what elevate Charles' story from good to great.

Expertly told by the author in a series of six-line stanzas of engaging poetry and attractively illustrated by Angel dela Peña, this book should capture the imaginations of younger readers with its high adventure and impact older ones through its important message. Charles has taken a well-worn plot and crafted it into something unique and inspiring.

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