BOOK 1 - THE SPLENDID SECRETS OF 66 LILLY PILLY LANE
A magical house. A secret past. And an awful decision. Will she claim her destiny... or save her sister?
Twelve-year-old Chia is blind and toils in the mines digging up diamonds for her evil stepmother, Priscilla. Her only thought is to rescue her twin sister Viola from a life at the palace.
Everything changes when a mysterious woman transports Chia to 66 Lilly Pilly Lane, a magical house where wondrous creatures live. To her delight, she's no longer blind! With an entourage at her side and magic at her fingertips, it's time to rescue Viola from Priscilla's clutches and start a new life elsewhere.
The trouble is, her new friends claim Viola is not as innocent and helpless as she seems...
Come on a magical adventure to discover The Splendid Secrets of 66 Lilly Pilly Lane, a middle-grade novel that will entertain and delight even the most reluctant of readers.
Ideal for kids ages 9+ and adults who love adventurous, page-turning fantasy stories.
The Splendid Secrets of 66 Lilly Pilly Lane features delightful and fascinating characters that include Chia’s pet duck that talks, a tree that speaks and a fussy pink fox. The conversations are entertaining as arguments ensue especially between Pip, Chia’s duck, and Jeremy, the pink fox.
Chia goes through a transformation in the book where she learns self-love and the beauty of the house on 66 Lilly Pilly Lane becomes evident.
The descriptions in the work are vivid from the presentation of the characters to the beautiful sceneries in the magical place and the melancholy surrounding the mines. The plot takes different turns that arouse excitement regarding the direction of the story. The Splendid Secrets of 66 Lilly Pilly Lane by Elena Paige is a delightful read that includes a powerful lesson.
The Splendid Secrets of 66 Lilly Pilly Lane (The Faren Chronicles Book 1) by Elena Paige is a fantastical adventure that will take young readers on an adventurous trip with twelve-year-old Chia, a blind girl working in the mines, to 66 Lilly Pilly Lane, a whimsical house where she is transported along with her duck, Pip, by a mysterious woman.
The story has lots of twists and turns and will keep young readers glued till the very end, leaving them eagerly waiting for Book 2. The author does a marvelous job portraying the many interesting characters and making them memorable to readers with their actions and deeds.
The plot has magic, fantasy, adventure, intrigue, and suspense and Elena Paige knits them together seamlessly, giving the story a good pace and fluidity. There is not one boring moment in the book as readers join Chia in an adventure of fantasy as she tries to break the curse put on her family!
Tiredness slid its way up Chia’s spine. Dirt furrowed up her fingernails. Cold wrapped itself around her body like fog hunting for a place to settle. She rearranged her head, trying to get comfortable. Oh, but how hard the ground was. How was she ever to feel good sleeping on this cold ground inside these dirty mines?
She hated this place. The horrid, rotten, suffocating mines. They were filled with filth and cold and darkness. She didn’t mind the darkness. That was at least familiar. She had lost her sight when she was two years old, and had no memories of seeing. No memories of the sun, the moon, the mines, or the diamonds she was made to dig for every day.
Chia shook off the dirt from her hair. She imagined she was shaking out long and well-washed hair like her twin sister Viola’s, rather than her own short, dirty hair. How she missed Viola. How she longed for her voice.
But at least she had her duck for company. Pip was her constant comfort. Where was Pip? Why couldn’t she hear him quacking? He was a noisy duck, thundering about at all hours of the day and night. Chia knew it was because he didn’t like the mines. Ducks needed water and light, not darkness and dirt.
“Pip. Where are you?” She reached out both her hands, feeling her way around. She stood up, crossed her arms over her chest, and shivered with worry. “Pip, where have you wandered off to? It’s not safe. Pip!” Her chest heaved faster and faster, in and out, as she bent down to feel for some clues.
She often imagined in her mind's eye what her feathered friend must look like. She knew his smell well, just like the old furniture inside the house she used to live in, friendly and familiar. And his soft and cuddly body reminded her of her father. But she didn’t know what he looked like. She had never seen a duck. Oh, how she longed to see just for a few minutes. To know what color, and feathers, and even mines looked like.
“You causin’ trouble again?”
Chia held her breath at the sound of the voice. Hitchens. The mine master. And the most horrible, unkind, smelly man she had ever met. She hadn’t met many men, but she was sure he must be the worst. She couldn’t imagine even his own mother liking him.
She took a shallow breath, slumped her shoulders, and leaned her head down toward the ground. “I’m looking for my duck, please, sir. Have you seen him?”
“Don’t go acting all prissy with me. I don’t care if you’re Viola’s sister. You work for me down ’ere, and I won’t be treating ya like you’re some hoity-toity somethin’ better than me.”
Chia felt a sharp pain as Hitchens’s hand connected with her cheek. She was used to the pain, but never the surprise. She stood her ground and swallowed hard, crossing her arms against her cold chest. She opened her eyes as wide as she could and lifted her head, imagining herself looking into his eyes, which she was convinced must be as black as his heart.
“Viola would never let you treat me this way!”
“She’s the one that told me to slap ya!”
This time Chia fell to the ground, the pain searing through her fine cheekbone and into her soul. But her resolve was strong. “Don’t slap me. I’m Viola’s sister. She will have your head for this.”
Chia couldn’t understand what was wrong with her today. She never, ever dared to speak up to Hitchens. Not ever.
Hitchens snarled like a wild dog. “I can do anythin’ I darn well please. Ya still harpin’ on about ya sister? Viola’s the one who sent ya ’ere. She despises ya. She told me to work ya to the bone. I’m just followin’ her orders!”
Chia was sure her heart skipped a beat from his cruel words. But she refused to listen. Refused to believe. Viola loved her. She would never do such a thing. Hitchens was taunting her with his lies. It was Priscilla, their stepmother, who had done this. It had to be. Viola was sure to come and save her any day now.
Chia gritted her teeth as Hitchens continued to yell and hiss at her. She didn’t plan to lash out and be punished again. But her mouth had a mind of its own. “Be quiet, you horrid man. You’re the most disgusting person I’ve ever met. Viola will make you suffer for this.”
Chia waited for the pain to arrive. Instead, a strange bubbling sensation spread from the spot where Hitchens’ hand touched her on the cheek. An electric sensation sprung up her face, through her eyes, to the back of her head, and down her spine. She felt strong and brave and protected somehow.
“Viola hates ya! Ya got that? Did I make it simple for ya?”
His laughter echoed off the mine walls, making Chia feel like crying. But she didn’t. She couldn’t. Pip needed her. She had to find him. She shook the magical feeling away and focused on her pet duck. “I need to find—”
“Don’t ya dare mention that duck. Miss Priscilla decided ya duck would be a fine dinner.” He spat something juicy and gulped hard. “I took care of ’im.”
Hitchens’s words scratched through Chia’s ears and nestled into the pit of her stomach. The stale piece of bread Chia ate for breakfast crept its way back up her throat. She gagged. She didn’t know what she would do if something had happened to her duck. Not Pip!
She didn’t care what happened to her. But Pip was her only friend. Kneeling down, she bowed to her captor. “Please, please, he makes me work harder. Please! He’s all the light I have.”
“Don’t ya go makin’ me pity ya ’cause ya blind. I don’t care if that duck is ya sun. He’s a dead duck now. Too late!”
Chia cradled her head and listened to Hitchens’ footsteps crumble the ground as he stomped away. She wanted to run after him and demand he do as she ask. She was the lady of the house. Or had been, alongside her sister, before she had arrived. Before her father had married Priscilla.
Before she was sent here to work hard finding her diamonds. Making her rich.
Chia refused to believe Pip was dead. She could feel it in the pit of her stomach. He was alive. She had to believe he was. He was all she had, next to Viola. But she couldn’t walk around the mines on her own. It was too dangerous without Pip guiding her with his quacks. She sank deeper into the dirt and the darkness, wondering how she would ever find her duck. The duck her father had gifted her right before he died. Right before Priscilla took her father from her forever. Pip and Viola were all she had. She had to rescue them. To get them far away from the mines and from Priscilla.
“Is that horrible man gone? Goodness me, he’s awfully smelly, and so rude. How do you put up with him?”
Chia sat up, startled by the strange voice. She held her breath as the words floated through the air as if spoken by her guardian angel. Someone else was in the mines. Someone other than herself, Pip, or Hitchens.
Chia lifted her head toward the sound of the vanilla voice. Her heart beat so fast, she couldn’t find any words to reply. But she felt safe and protected. Something about the voice made her trust it. It was light and pure and sparkled.
“Come along. You don’t want to sit around in this dark and dank place all day, do you? The house is waiting for you.”
Chia closed her eyes and surrendered to the woman’s words. Was she about to be rescued? Warmth crawled up her back and around her neck for the first time in a long time.
“The house? Who . . . are . . . you?”
“How rude of me not to introduce myself. I’m Ms. Roberta. I’ve come to take you back to where you really belong.”
“I belong with my sister.”
“You want to leave the mines, don’t you?”
Chia could think of nothing nicer than leaving the mines. But she couldn’t leave her sister behind and tromp away with some stranger, no matter how sweet her voice was. “How did you find me here? How did you get in? Hitchens blocks the entrance. Did you see a duck by any chance?”
“Yes, your duck. Don’t worry one bit about Pip. I’ve already whisked him away to 66 Lilly Pilly Lane. He’s waiting there for you.”
A fluttery feeling Chia had never experienced before moved through her stomach and into her chest. “Where is that?” Her head wanted nothing more than to go anywhere with this mysterious woman. But her feet trembled with fear. What if Hitchens caught her? “You’ve definitely rescued Pip? He’s safe?”
“Yes, child. Don’t listen to that bully. He didn’t lay a finger on Pip, I promise. He’s fine. And more than likely feasting on worms while waiting for you. Now put this on. You look a mess in that outfit. And it’s most unflattering.”
Chia reached out both her hands in the voice's direction. She felt material, soft and silky, and wondered if she really ought to put something this fine on.
“I know you can’t see it, but oh, what a beautiful dress it is. One of Viola’s finest. It was laid out for her to wear to the ball tomorrow. But I dare say she doesn’t deserve it.”
Chia stiffened. “This is Viola’s dress? I can’t wear it. Please send it back to her.”
“I will not. She deserves nothing after what she’s done to you.”
“Please, miss. Viola is good. I promise. If this is her dress, she’ll be most upset it was taken. I couldn’t possibly wear it. Please return it to her.”
Silence filled the air as if Ms. Roberta was weighing up Chia’s request.
“No. I think it most definitely belongs to you. Now put it on, child, before the mine master returns. You don’t want to miss your chance of escape, do you?”
Chia turned her back to the voice, her hands trembling. Her mind was saying no, but she had already pulled off her potato-sack top and pulled on the dress. It was light and fluttery, like she was wearing air. She pulled off her pants, glad to be rid of them, and threw them onto the ground. “What color is the dress?”
“It’s white. As white as snow. It suits you. I know these shoes don’t really match, but it’s important you wear them.”
Chia reached her hands out again, wondering what shoes she would be given. Her face lit up as she felt the rubber. “Rain boots! My favorite.” They reminded her of the days she spent stomping through puddles with her father.
“Red ones, in case you’re wondering. Now take my hand, and let’s get out of this nasty place. I need fresh air in a hurry.”
Chia didn’t know what red or white looked like, but she imagined they were marvelous. She reached out her hand, expecting a hand as soft as Ms. Roberta’s voice to take her own, but she felt something cold and hard. Like steel. Or metal.
“Is that your hand?” she said, pulling away as if she had touched a bomb about to explode. “What are you?”
“I’m terribly sorry I shocked you. I forget what I am sometimes. I’ll explain everything once we’re out of here. Now take my hand, and don’t worry about it being so cold. Cold hands means faster travel!”
Chia tried to push away her curiosity, but she desperately wanted to know what Ms. Roberta was. She imagined a half robot, half human. Or perhaps a pirate queen with a hook for a hand. But as the five fingers touched her own again, her curiosity spun away, a blurred buzzing filling her head instead. Spinning erupted in her brain. It was as if she were falling down a rabbit hole, deeper and deeper, faster and faster. Could she possibly be asleep and dreaming this all up? She squeezed tightly the hand in hers and wished with all her might that this might truly be real. That she may finally have some happiness. A tiny morsel of joy. A glimmer of hope. That perhaps for the first time in her entire twelve years of life, something good might finally happen.
But her mind flashed images of Viola and Priscilla and Hitchens. They would fly into a wild rage when they discovered her gone. Viola would feel betrayed and left behind. And who would find Priscilla’s diamonds for her? She stilled her spinning mind and yelled out, “Wait. I have to go back!”
But deep down she knew, it was too late.
An excellent middle-grade novel with an important, healthy message for all ages that you don't see every day and probably should.
But it's not preachy. The story is much more than just a message. It has talking animals, magic, an evil queen, and a trapped sibling in a palace. I mean, it doesn't get more magical! The first third in particular gripped me as I tried to guess the outcome. I was wrong, of course. The story had some twists I never could have seen coming.
A great read suitable for ALL ages.
AMAZON 5 STAR REVIEW