Valley of the Shadows: My review

Valley of the Shadows: Kingdom of Hillael

Author: Amre Cortadino



The prologue begins with a brief history of the Hillael nation. Wars never fought, battles never having to be won. The king’s reign was a grand or prosperous as the peace in the land. What would cause this to change? Imagine a country that is neutral: Peaceful and whose borders are open to those who want to live in peace without the fear of war. Two groups: the Kaebreans and the Shadows. The Kaebreans sought refuge with the Hillaels’ but some did not. The Kaebreans fought the Shadows before seeking refuge and lost. They wisely and quickly entered the Hillael. But their children had to be hidden from the Shadows. Raised by the Hillaelians and their real identities hidden protecting them from the Shadows, they learned to live in a world that most of us would not be able to handle. The young boys are sent away and separated from the young girls. The boys receive Assurant training and are exposed to every skill to determine their natural ability and whichever young boy has the highest skill and mental keenness will be named the leader of the Assurant. The young boys within an Assurant will have to rely on each other for survival. Then the true tests when they are blindfolded placed in unknown locations and have to use all that they learned to endure and survive until arriving home hopefully in good health and attaining acclaim during the Kisu ten Rheamet celebration. The young girls are separated from the boys and they are taught grape growing, winemaking, cooking, candle making and poetry and many other skills. Right before the Kisu ten Rheamet the young girls are allowed to try out some of the things that young women long for. Here is where our story takes fold as we meet two cousins Claire and Barloe one who relates the story to us about their Aunt Mim and her famous stories that they remember her for. Sharing their memories about her with the reader and then flashing back to this story and this imaginary land will bring the reader face to face with some of the situations that countries face today within their own political parties.


Enter the Kingdom of Hillael and meet King Dantekar and his close friend Nijabe his official chief grecondet. Nijabe loved Hillaelian culture and traditions and learned long before that the King would not allow any friendships to go beyond being an acquaintance. Nijabe has a son who most dislike, realize that he is ill tempered and does not find himself needing to be respectful. Added in Rokhana, the son although head of his Assurant did not seem to take on or handle his responsibilities thereby not really gaining the trust of those under him and when several boys go missing he would have to risk his life and his standing to find them. But, what happens when he finally takes the leadership role and goes to find them will change not only the course of his life but that of the Hillaeilians but not for a long while. Would you make a deal with the devil or sell your principles to save your life? What if that pact is made and your memory of it is held in the recesses of your mind but you really never remember what happened at the time?  So, Rokhana sets out to find the boys and hopes his plan will work. But, since being taught the rudimentary elements of various languages by his father and never coming face to face with a Shadow what happens is not exactly what he expects. Captured, bond and held face down he tries to communicate with a voice that he hears although they hear him they seem to be in control of the events that follow. Freedom is often paid for with a heavy price, as he will learn. Told never to tell about his encounter or meeting he returns to camp with a vague memory of what happened and the promise he made to the voice.


Rokhana never found the missing boys and the king took it upon himself to sent out search parties to find them and delay the Kisu ten Rheamet celebration. But, after assessing the situation the King realized that Rokhana showed no feelings no remorse and refused to admit that boys might be dead and claimed they were missing as his father Nijabe took responsibility for the families or parchmel of the missing boys. The celebration was marked with sadness and mourning of the two lost boys. But, Rokhana never showed for the celebration and this created a problem and his father covered for him by claiming he was too upset and brokenhearted to attend. As Rokhana began taking on his responsibilities and becoming more academically inclined he and his father got closer but when you take a closer look at him and how the government is run you will see shades of the real world today as the deceit in Rokhana’s eyes, the desire for power and to overthrow all that his father stands for come front and center with each encounter that you have with him. But, when his father requests that he become his successor red flags should have been raised but rather than create a rift between himself and the members of the grecondet council the King goes along with Nijabe as the author explains the politics behind it.


But, things change as the King goes to see his Nijabe to ask him to perform the ceremony at his upcoming marriage and instead he finds his friend has been attacked. Waiting to profit from his death his is son but the King makes sure he is sent away. But, what we learn later is that Rokhana is deadly and wants more than just the power of the thrown for himself and he threatens the new queen to do his bidding even before she marries the King. When we learn of the death of his dear friend we are cordially invited to the wedding of the King and his new Queen Cillowa. The nuptials are quite unique, the pronouncement to seal the marriage quite touching and what happens next will let the reader know that this Queen is quite a force to be reckoned with and although she is bound to Rokhana and might have to aid him in his quest for power she is no one to trivial with. Meet Kaleesa her assistant or maid and then we get to know more about what the King plans to do about Rokhana. As Laaron’s father the retired chief grecondet meets with the members of the ministry and the King they decide how to handle Rokhana, how to proceed to find out if he had anything to do with his father’s attack and death and his final fate.


Rokhana was smart, cunning and managed to get himself elected as the Chief Grecondet despite the investigation into his character and whereabouts and the markings on his staff. Added in we learn more about how he is trying to control the Queen and hope that someone will do more than just yield to his wishes. Added in his an attack on the council leaving them in poor condition and the reaction of Rokhana claiming innocence. His deceptive ways come through but because of the many laws and restrictions of the country the King has certain power and not all. Plus we learn that the Queen questions the loyalty of Kaleesa due to what Rokhana says to her in private and you wonder what will happen next.


As things start to change in the palace so does the Queen’s attitude towards Kaleesa and we begin to wonder just what she has planned.


A queen with her own private agenda, two good friends murdered by an unknown hand and an alliance between the Queen and Rokhana that could prove deadly and hurt the kingdom.


Things begin to change and accusations are made when the death of a friend seems suspicious and Rokhana orchestrates a crime so heinous that no one sees it coming or recognizes that he is the one responsible. But, the King and Queen now have and heir and Rokhana is no longer in his position and we meet Gildeon the king’s son as he enters his training.


Truths come out and hidden secrets revealed as we learn more about the Queen’s relationship with her midwife and the reasons behind some unexplained deaths. With her son meeting a young lady, and the girl not of her choosing the Queen is not someone you want to cross and why you will have to learn for yourself. As Trashoel the midwife is gone and a replacement needs to be picked the King asked for her opinion as to the replacement since she does volunteer work at the hospital.


Then, it was Gildeon’s turn to lead his Assurant and what would be their fate and what happens next will surprise you as one 17-year-old boy wanted to be treated like all the rest even with his disabilities. How will Gildeon handle meeting Laaron’s son? A vision comes to Gildeon from Trashoel showing something precious. A parchment connected to his childhood treasures. The young boy might be handicapped in some respects but quite enterprising in others and trustworthy. But, Gildeon learns that because he enlisted the help of an extra Assurant the acclaim at the celebration would be denied. Without the help of Jaest one of his young men would have died. What will happen when he faces the Chief?



Although this might take place in a fictitious kingdom the issues brought to light are prevalent today.  As the final fate of both Kings are revealed and the pact the Queen made with Rokhana . An ending that will leave you wanting to know what happens next as the young King’s marriage ceremony is overshadowed by coldness, fear and the voice that reminded one of the pact that was made and was going to be honored. What is that pact and where will the King go to get back what belongs to him? Find out when you Enter the Valley of the Shadows but make sure you bring along a first guard, some assurants and a staff to protect you. This is one book that will definitely keep you glued to the printed page and wanting to find out what is next for the Kingdom of the Hillaels. What is the final deception? Loyalties, friendship and love is tested each step of the way? Who can be trusted? Find out in Book 2.


Fran Lewis: reviewer

Hoo Hoos Song: MY REVIEW

Hoo Hoo’s Song


Amanda Kleback


Journeys can take you anywhere in the world but some are more special than others. Imagine going to a special place where up was up and down just might be up too. Imagine a place where everyone smiled and no one put on a sad frown. Imagine bringing joy to someone because they needed you. Meet Hoo Hoo the bear. Guess what! He was just delivered with his friend Santa Hoo Hoo to my door and imagine how happy I was when he came to my house to be my special friend. I was reading a really sad book when the doorbell rang and the postman delivered this great big brown box. Inside the box there was two amazing bears. One is all white with the cutest round brown nose and brown and white ears that poke out on each side. One eye has a special star and the other a half moon and both are black and shine so brightly. Hoo Hoo was a happy bear that was never sad, had no troubles but he knew that something was missing in his life he just had to find out what. Then, all of a sudden while he was fast asleep in his bed he knew just what that something missing was. If you listen real hard and pay close attention you just might hear soft humming coming from your heart the way Hoo Hoo hears one coming from his. It is a special song that lets him know that out there somewhere is a person that needs a special friend and it was his time to share.


With determination and a strong heart filled with kindness Hoo Hoo set off to parts unknown to find his special friend. Imagine traveling over a marshmallow glacier or hiking over a Caramel River. Hoo Hoo loved the sweet caramel and he was so brave going over the big waterfall filled with caramel. But, not every part of his journey was easy as it took him three days to eat through the Taffy Forest. But, at the end he met some really great friends sitting and waiting for the bus to come near stop sign. The brown dog, the cute brown bear and each one with a song. Hoo Hoo’s song was kind, sweet and he never heard this song before. But, then something amazing happens and we meet so many bears which are different colors. You might way they depict the differences in us all and the many races in the world that make each of us unique and individual.


Each of the bears buckled up for safety and then their journey began. Each bear arrived at the store that would hopefully bring them that special someone to take them home. So, the brown, green, purple, our Hoo Hoo, red and even blue bears sat and waited and waited. Each one tired from their long journey and each with a special song in their heart. But, miracles happen and you won’t believe it as Hoo Hoo jumped up and he heard someone singing the same song that was in his heart. Can you see the beautiful red heart the illustrators put on Hoo Hoo? Can you see the amazing illustrations that help make the story come to life?


So, what do you think Hoo Hoo did? Wasting no time and making sure that he wound up with the right person he jumped right into the cart of the person who needed him. Now, I bet you would like to know more about the person who just might take him home. Well, I promised Hoo Hoo I would not give that away and he would like you to read his story and take the journey with him and find out just where he winds up.


When you are feeling blue, and the world does not seem like a happy place just listen to your heart, hear that special song and just maybe your postman will ring your bell and bring you a special friend to make you smile.


Added in the illustrators added a picture of Hoo Hoo for you to color and make your own Hoo Hoo bear any color that you would like. Plus a special surprise on the last page, which I cannot give away.


This is a special story that all children will love to hear many many times and will enjoy reading. Everyone needs a special someone to make them feel safe and secure.  Hoo Hoo’s Song: Listen and pay close attention: do you hear it? Just listen to your heart and you will hear your song! Some journeys are exciting and some just make you smile!


Fran Lewis: reviewer