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LocalLit book review: 'Into the Hidden Lands'

The author wrote this series fantasy series for girls based on his own two daughters.
The author wrote this series fantasy series for girls based on his own two daughters.

I first learned about the "Princess Sisters" when I wrote the first story about the series of fantasy books for The Herald-News in 2004.

The author, Kevin Franz, was a local dad who wrote the books with his two daughters as the main characters.

Franz's idea for the stories arose from the stories Franz told his girls at bedtime, stories from "Lord of the Rings" and stories based on King Arthur.

You can see those influences in Franz's first book "Into the Hidden Lands," especially in its use of maps. The book is now out of print, but determined readers can still find copies online.

"It tells the story of two young girls who live in a castle; their father and mother are king and queen of the land," Franz said in the 2004 Herald-News story. "I try to keep some realism in the story, about what castle life was like and that the girls have to do chores. But then one day, the girls stumble upon a shining gate in the woods, and it's a portal into a different land. In that land, magic can happen. And it does."

My daughter Rebekah wound up owning several of these books, which she really liked. At the time, I had paged through a number of vanity pressed books and quickly put them down because they were poorly written and edited.

But now that I've read "Into The Hidden Lands," I can see why Rebekah liked them.

Although I'm not saying boys won't enjoy the Castle Rose series, I can say "Into the Hidden Lands" has plenty of girl appeal.

When I was a little girl, my friends and I liked stories that featured girls our ages as princesses. My little nieces love "Frozen" and love pretending they are princesses. The love Disney princesses.

And the main characters in this book are always addressed by "Princess Rachel" and "Princess Lisa."

Add "hidden lands" "adventure" and a fast-paced story with tight prose, whimsical black and white illustrations, a golden pear tree with two magic golden pears and the rescue of a baby dragon, and you have an enchanting combination.

Plus, the sentences nudge the reader forward without feeling contrived.

"Thank you for risking your safety to free our son," added Farys. "For you bravery, we offer you gifts only dragons can give."

Curious? Me, too.

The gifts were necklaces with a globe of dragon's fire. So the princesses would have dependable light whenever they needed it.

Know more about LocalLit

Each week LocalLit will deliver an original short and family-friendly story (or a book review) by a local author to the newsletter's subscribers.

Authors with a connection to our readership area may submit.  Submission does not guarantee acceptance.

Contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122

To sign up for the free LocalLit newsletter, visit

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