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And with the wind came rain. It started slowly: first just a few drops streaking against the glass, then more, and then, all of a sudden, a downpour washing over the view. The branches of the willow bent and scraped against the window, and Julia Grant, sitting at her desk with chin in hand, thought it must be the loneliest sound in the world.
It was an opinion that was certainly shared by her classmates. Every girl in the room was staring out the window and dreaming of the Christmas holidays, of three whole weeks of parties and cakes and presents. So perhaps Miss Wimpole, who was trying valiantly to fill her students' heads with a lesson on Sir Francis Drake and the defeat of the Spanish Armada, could be forgiven for snapping so harshly as she called them back to attention.
Julia's head snapped up at the sound of Miss Wimpole's voice. She scribbled a few notes from the blackboard into her workbook, writing in her neat, tiny handwriting, but after only a moment she was back to gazing out the window, watching the twigs making little tracks in the water as the wind pushed them to and fro. She—perhaps alone among all her classmates—was not looking forward to the Christmas holidays. Christmas meant home, and home meant horrid Bertram and horrider Louisa, and worst of all her new stepmother.
Julia's mother had died two years before, and Julia and her brother, Peter, had come to expect that their holidays would be spent with their grandparents in Oxford when their father, Captain Grant, was away at sea. But after one such holiday the previous spring he had arrived home unexpectedly and announced his engagement to a widow with two children. They had been married before the month was out.
His new wife was a tall, angular woman with a tight smile and cold grey eyes. Her children, Bertram and Louisa, were spoiled and mean and liked to torment their pet cat for sport. Peter thought that probably they were all criminals on the run from the law. His ears had been boxed for saying so in front of their father.
"All right, class. That will be all for today," Miss Wimpole was saying. Julia came to attention once again, realizing that her notes trailed off during a particularly dry section on the English ships' cast-iron cannons and never picked back up. She hoped England had won. "Have a marvelous holiday." Miss Wimpole stood at the blackboard with a strangled smile on her face as a flurry of activity erupted around her: chairs and desks scraping across the floor, papers rustling, books slamming shut, and twenty eager girls fleeing the room. Julia, sitting at the back of the classroom, was last in line, and Miss Wimpole touched the sleeve of her dress before she could leave.
"Stay and chat a bit, will you?" she asked, and Julia nodded. She clutched her books and papers against her chest while Miss Wimpole sat down on the edge of her big desk.
"I'm a bit worried about you, Julia," she said gently. "You seem so distracted since last term. Your thoughts are far away, and your grades—well, we don't have to talk about your grades, do we?"
Julia shook her head.
Miss Wimpole cleared her throat. "I just wanted to see if everything at home is ... is as it should be. It can't have been easy—losing your mother and having the Captain remarry so quickly ..." Her voice trailed off, and Julia realized that she was meant to respond.
"I'm fine," she said. "Everything's fine."
"Ah," said Miss Wimpole. "I suppose, then ..." She stopped. "Have a merry Christmas, dear. I'll see you back next term, and we'll start over then, shall we?"
"Yes, ma'am. Merry Christmas," said Julia, and out the door she went.
The December wind followed Julia as she trudged along the empty corridor and up the long flight of stairs to her dormitory. The building was old and its heating just as ancient, and in the winter months the dormitory never lost its frosty chill. Julia pushed open the door, unceremoniously dumped the books she'd been holding onto her trunk, and picked up the blanket folded at the foot of the bed, gathering it around her shoulders.
"What kept you?" asked a voice behind her. Julia turned around and grinned at the sight of her best friend, Lucy, who was stuffing a random assortment of clothing and books into her trunk.
"Bit late for packing?"
"Not at all," said Lucy with a grunt. "Here, sit on this, will you?" Julia parked herself obligingly on top of the trunk and Lucy snapped the straining catches closed. A white stocking had escaped from the trunk and was hanging limply from the side. Lucy chose to ignore it. "Now: what did Wimpole want?"
Julia flipped her braids back over her shoulders. "Just wished me a pleasant Christmas, you know," she said. "Wanted to know about home, and how I was spending the holiday."
"How are you spending Christmas?" asked Lucy. "I suppose the three terrors will be in attendance?"
"Yes, yes, woe is me!" Julia heaved a dramatic sigh. "And Father will be home—he's not always able to be home at Christmas, you know—and it's worse when he's there because he favors them. Peter and Bertram will have a row—they always do—and probably Louisa will try to kill the cat again." She forced a laugh, but Lucy's brow furrowed.
"I wish you could come home with me. And I wish it weren't so awful for you."
Julia shrugged. "It's only three weeks. And I've survived worse."
"Worse than a dead mother and a new family of thugs?" Julia flinched at the mention of her mother, and Lucy scooted closer to her on the bed. "I'm sorry," she said. "That was cruel of me."
Julia shrugged again. "It's hard not to miss her at Christmas. But there have been worse things."
Lucy's eyes narrowed. "What things? What else did you survive? I knew something happened to you last spring—I just knew it. You'd changed when we got back from holidays. You'd ... well, you'd grown up all of a sudden."
"Oh, I was visiting my grandparents that week. You remember—we meant to spend the week together in Kent but I was ordered to Oxford instead. I expect it was being around them that did it." She gave a small, hollow laugh.
"No," said Lucy. "I don't mean a change in your speech. You seemed stronger. You know — more confident. Womanly. Something happened; I'm quite certain of it."
On any other day, with any other person, Julia would have flatly denied it. But on this lonely day, a day in which the wind seemed to carry with it a hundred years of secrets, Julia wanted to confide in someone. And here was her very best friend, begging to know. She gathered the blanket closer around her and leaned in closer to Lucy, her eyes sparkling.
"You've got to promise not to tell a soul—not a soul, you understand?"
Lucy nodded, her eyes wide.
"And you've got to promise you'll believe me, no matter how crazy it all sounds. Because it's got to be real, and sometimes I still think it might have all been a dream."
"I promise." Lucy made a cross over her heart.
"All right." Julia took in a deep breath. "That holiday, when I was in Oxford, Peter and I went to another world."
Whatever Lucy had been expecting, it had evidently not been this. She was silent for a long moment, waiting for Julia to say something that was not quite so silly. When Julia didn't speak, Lucy cleared her throat. "You went to ... ahem! ... where?"
"Another world," repeated Julia. "Like this one, only different. Wilder. It was called Aedyn, and the people who lived there had been enslaved by these three horrible men—beasts, really. Peter and I were called to that world to rescue the people from their slavery. And the three lords and their awful servants almost killed us, but Peter and I led an army against them and we freed the people."
"You freed the people," repeated Lucy.
"Yes," said Julia. "And this monk—his name was Gaius—he told us to keep the whole thing a secret."
"I can't imagine why," said Lucy dryly. Julia ignored her.
"They called me the Deliverer—the Chosen One! And everyone was looking to me for help, but really it wasn't me; it was the Lord of Hosts working all the time."
There was a very pregnant pause.
"Julia," Lucy said slowly, "you didn't perhaps have an accident over the holiday?"
"Of course not. You said yourself I seemed grown up."
"Then don't you think perhaps it's time to stop playing silly games?"
Julia felt as if she had been slapped in the face. She blinked hard to keep back the tears that were stinging her eyes. "I wouldn't make up something like this—a world like this. I was there. I saw it. And I know what happened to me."
"You were upset because of your father," said Lucy slowly. "There's no such thing as magic."
"I never said it was magic," Julia insisted. "It was the Lord of Hosts, and he has a different kind of power."
Lucy was beginning to become uncomfortable. She nodded and stood up, letting the blanket she'd wrapped around her shoulders fall back onto the bed. "I won't tell anyone," she promised again. "And now don't you think it's time we went down to dinner? We'll be late if we don't hurry."
Julia was crestfallen. She had been so certain that Lucy would believe her. But at least she could look forward to being with Peter over the holiday. He would talk about Aedyn with her. And so she stood and followed Lucy out of the room and down the long flights of stairs to the dining hall to join the other students. And all the while the wind and rain pounded in her ears.
Excerpted from Flight of the Outcasts by Alister McGrath Copyright © 2010 by Alister McGrath. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted April 18, 2013
This is a great but easy read. I like a lot of fantasy, and this does not let you down. It reminds me of the style of CS Lewis in the Narnia books, and is just as entertaining. Great for all ages!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 31, 2012
The analogy of this book in comparison to some religious beliefs is paramount.
It is a great way to bring fantasy the youth love into a comparison of todays times. Besides the fantasy, Alister included human family relations, intrigue, suspense and action. A good introduction to a scary story without instilling great fear in young minds.
It is a good Book Club book for discussion. It is 'cleanly' written for youth to enjoy. The ending left one eager to continue with the next sequel.
The illustrations were smeary and too dark to enhance the story. In my opinion, the illustrations largely distracted from the story. They needed to be clearer.
I won this in a Goodreads giveaway but I would have eagerly bought it for my grandchildren. I intend to make the following episodes available to them.
Posted June 6, 2012
Liked the book overall but I kept getting closer and closer to the end of the book and kept wondering how they were going to wrap everything up and they did it in less than one paragraph. It's like the author said "Oh I have no more ideas so I'll just end the book with two or three sentences and be done with it"
Plus for 9.99 for the ebook and 6.99 for the paperback I felt cheated that I paid 9.99 for a 100page ebook. I should have gone a purchased the paperback.
My son said that this was the worst ending of a book that we've read together in a while. He tells me he hopes that book three is better than this one.
I wonder if the authors read these reviews. Probably not.
Overall was disapointed in the book's ending but is provided many nights of reading time with my son so it got three stars. Had I have read it myself only, I would have spent about 2 hours reading it and it would have gotten 1 star only for the crappy ending. I mean what kind of ending has no wrap up of any of the plot lines. Unless the next book continues on the story of this book then this book is just a HUGE cliffhanger and empty cup. and for that I am dropping my rating to 2 stars.
Posted May 1, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted March 11, 2012
No text was provided for this review.