Dermot is a fifteen-year-old boy living in a remote village in the land of Denú. He has always longed for something more in his life. Now, everything changes after he sees a renowned creature--a gryphon--in the sky, and then crosses paths with a reclusive healer who harbors a secret.
Soon, he and his brother have no choice but to leave the only home they’ve ever known. They travel with new friends across the land through several great forests, along the way meeting an old man, a family of unicorns, and witnessing an important birth. They must evade fire-breathing dragons and dark-armored soldiers hunting them down, all serving an evil sorcerer determined to subjugate the kingdom, and who will stop at nothing to destroy them.
Denú’s only hope is if a renowned coven returns to face the enemy after years in hiding. Dermot, however, suspects their own role may be more significant than he thought, as he slowly discovers a power which exists amongst the trees and creatures of every greenwood. Can they save those they hold dear? Will Dermot find what he has sought? Or will all that’s free and good be consumed by darkness?
Andrew McDowell became interested in writing at age 11, inspired by childhood passions for stories and make-believe. By the time he was 13, he knew he wanted to be a writer.
Andrew studied History and English at St. Mary’s College, and Library & Information Science at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association.
As a novelist, he plans to try his hand in multiple genres, for he is inspired by a variety of interests. He has also written poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction, and is interested in drama writing and lyrics.
He was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, when he was 14.
Mystical Greenwood, Andrew McDowell's debut novel, is in one sense a classic fantasy novel, with mystical creatures, swords & sorcery, and an epic battle between good and evil. But beyond that, it is an allegory about humans' relationship with nature. There are those who care only about themselves, feeling superior to nature and other people. Exploiters and destroyers. And there are those who recognize how interconnected we are with nature, and draw strength and power from that. Caretakers and nurturers. Here on Earth, the Biosphere 2 experiment, as much as anything else, proved how dependent humans are on a functioning environment. Will we learn to care for our planet's ecosystems and wildlife, like the protagonists in Mystical Greenwood? Or will we continue a path of subjugation and destruction, like Taranis, the story's antagonist? Humanity's long-term survival and prosperity depend on the answer to that question.
Mystical Greenwood is not perfectly written--battle scenes tended to be rushed, and discussions overly long. But the world is complex, the main protagonist (the teenager Dermot) grows over time, and the book is filled with wisdom. A solid first effort from McDowell.
I’m giving this YA fantasy novel a solid 4.5 stars. Although this book has fantastical creatures, the world has the feel of medieval (or earlier) Ireland thanks to the personal/place names and cozy village life. The story starts out when young Dermot gets captured by a gryphon and meets a mysterious healer who lives deep in nature. He feels a connection to things beyond his immediate existence. As a Wiccan, I loved this book most for its reverent and magical treatment of nature.
In essence, this book is a coming of age story where Dermot negotiates familial tensions and conflicts with society at large. There’s also tons of adventure. I recommend this book for fantasy and YA fans.
Andrew McDowell has written an extraordinary fantasy tale which centres around the guardians of nature and the Greenwood, called driadors. The plot follows a typical good versus evil path, but the overlay of the protection versus the destruction of the natural environment was unusual, topical, and really fantastic.
Dermot and his brother, Brian, do not get on. Brian is the son who always does as he is asked by his parents and fits the mould of a pleaser, while Dermot is a dreamer and has always felt he was intended for more than his life as an apprentice blacksmith to his father. The rivalry between the two boys comes to a head when Dermot is carried away by a hunting gryphon. Dermot persuades the gryphon to drop him but he is injured during his fall. He wakes up in the care of a healer called Saershe, and her grandson, Ruairi. Dermot realises that they are not ordinary forest dwellers and, following his return home, he becomes obsessed with finding them again.
Brian becomes aware that Dermot has had some sort of unusual experience during his absence and uses this knowledge to stir up trouble for Dermot with their parents. Meanwhile, an evil force in the shape of a fallen driador called Taranis, is lurking just beyond the village, waiting for an opportunity to wreak havoc and destruction and restart an old battle against the driadors. Dermot and Brian will have to learn to trust and rely on each other, and harness the power of nature if they want to save the Greenwood, their friends, family, and themselves.
This is an unusual and well paced story with interesting characters, and these elements more than makes up for the odd moments in the book when Dermot and Brian's emotional reactions to situations seem slightly lacking in depth or incongruent to the circumstances.
The author has great potential as a writer and I would love to read the next book in this series and find out what happens next in the battle for control between Taranis and the driadors.
It's been quite a while since I read a fantasy book. And now I wonder why I've stayed away. Mystical Greenwood was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I also don't often read young adult fiction. Again, not sure why I don't go there more often.
As others have touched on the story line I won't attempt that; summarizing isn't my strong suit. I liked the interaction of characters, and that the non human characters are as well developed as the humans, and the adults play as big a role as the children. I really liked Lonan, felt that I could relate to him. He was not the main character. I think, hope we'll get to know him better in the second book. Maeve, the gryphon was also a favorite. What I'm saying, I guess, is that most readers will find not just one but several new friends in this book. If you like coming of age stories, this is one, but as an adult reader I related much more to the adult characters. Even the antagonist is intriguing!
I had a bit of trouble navigating the character names. Thankfully we are provided with a pronunciation guide at the back of the book. And yes, I had to look there often! Some of the dialog felt like it didn't roll off the tongue very smoothly, but I had no problem with the archaic speech as that is standard for fantasy. I liked the action scenes very much, some of which had me at the edge of me seat.
You can see the author's love of nature, his concern for balance and awareness for flora and fauna and the oft repeated battle of light and darkness. He has included some sweet scenes, gave us birds eye views of natures beauty and the sadness all feel when it is spoiled or destroyed, all while growing people and creatures you will come to love.
This is the first young adult fantasy book I've ever read. I was drawn to it for the natural world and was duly rewarded with lovely detailed descriptions and and a wide range of 'eyeshots', from vast woodlands, turbulent skies, and a wealth of plants and animals, right down to the pine needles and blades of grass on the forest floor. This woodland is the perfect setting for a story of mystic magic.
The tale, packed with mythical creatures, sorcerers of light and dark, and more down to earth villagers scratching a living from the land, was well conceived with rich depth and multiple narrative strands and points of view, all of which are drawn beautifully together at the end of the novel. The ending is well crafted and satisfying, yet leaves you wanting more - and as this is a series, that is exactly as it should be!
The chapters could have been longer for me with hooks at the end, but this didn't detract. As the pace picks up, the drama builds where the forces of good and evil clash and the main characters play parts they couldn't conceive of at the start of their quest. The overall feeling I am left with is that this novel emphasises the power of nature, how it can be used for good, for healing, and how it should be respected and honoured, especially in our current times where nature is so much threatened. This message is at the heart of 'Mystical Greenwood' for me.
Dermot has felt called to the land for as long as he could remember. As a youth his wanderlust caused him all manner of trouble, but now it could be the very thing that saves him. When a griffon appears it puts into motion an ancient promise, a vow made by The Dark Prince to return and finish the task he had started years before. Dermot, with the aid on unexpected allies must journey across the land to seek the only chance of stopping this rising force. Will he find what he seeks, or will The Dark Prince make true his promise and destroy everything Dermot holds dear?
Mystical Greenwood is a high fantasy. Andrew McDowell whisks the reader on a fantastical journey filled with legends, magic, and mythical creatures. With a smooth flowing narrative it is easy to connect to the characters and be pulled into the terrifying plot. I enjoyed the incorporation of old words into the narrative, which I always feel add a little extra something to any fantasy setting. The characters are intriguing and offered the potential to grow and develop as their journey progresses, and watching them change as life tempers them in itself is an adventure. If you're looking for a high-stakes fantasy plot filled with classic fantasy elements, then this could be just the read you're looking for.
I was thoroughly entertained as I read Mystical Greenwood. Clearly, McDowell sets the stage for a great new world of adventure. I only made one mistake reading the book. I was struggling to pronounce the character and place names. I did not realize until the very end of my reading that there was a pronunciation guide.
I enjoyed the book and intend to read the sequels when they're released. The language suits the universe, and the characters develop as the story progresses. However, the writing has rough edges, and the book really needs another round of copy edits and proofreading.
I hate cliffhanger endings, but this novel would have to be at least several chapters longer to resolve what happens to Dermot and Brian's parents.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy and magic.
Dermot is just a normal farm boy, living with his parents and brother in a small village, but Dermot is about to discover the world is full of magic and darkness. When a gryphon accidentally takes him for a ride, Dermot meets a mysterious healer who lives deep in the greenwood. With his brother Brian, the two must align themselves against the dark lord Taranis if they have any hope of saving their new friends and the mystical greenwood of his childhood.
Overall this is a well-written, fast-paced, action fantasy. I particularly liked how author Andrew McDowell wrote the relationship with the brothers, there is animosity but also love between the two. All the characters are intriguing, with interesting pasts and I was invested in their journey and seeing how their story would end (which, of course, I didn't really get to see because this is only book one of the One With Nature series).
But if the synopsis of this novel feels at all familiar, it's because it kind of is. There's nothing in this story I haven't seen in other fantasies. The set-up of a farmboy getting entangled in a battle of good versus evil, meeting the magical hermit who ends up training them, his father having a secret past. It all felt very familiar. So even if I enjoyed this book overall, I have to confess it's not the most exciting fantasy novel I've ever picked up.
I'd still recommend it, especially for younger readers.
A wonderful fantasy story set in a highly imaginative setting where nature is revered and respected. It took me a while to start to identify with the main characters but the magical and mythical creatures are so well drawn that I was pulled into the story. Some of the dialogue feels a little clunky to me, but it doesn't get in the way of what it a well-told adventure. I will certainly look out for Book 2.
A refreshing tale of a young man's journey, filled with sorcery and the secrets of the greenwood...
Mystical Greenwood is a fantastical ride on griffins and unicorns alike through a world of woodland animals, sorcerers and magic, a world burnished with evolving betrayals, an encroaching darkness and growing evil forces. You'll follow a tale of two brothers venturing into the greenwood they're forbidden to enter, after Dermot (the eldest brother and protagonist) is swept quite literally off his feet by a griffin, and is healed by a mysterious woman and her grandson whom Dermot feels inexplicably drawn to. The brothers find themselves journeying with the pair soon afterwards, as their village festival is interrupted by an attack from a formidable enemy who can command the very dragons themselves...
You'll experience much of the story through Dermot's perspective as he struggles how to relate and communicate to his younger brother, how to please his strict (yet mostly well meaning) parents and how to deal with his lingering, childhood born desires for adventure he's often ostracized (and sometimes even punished) for within his village. Dermot's world is being threatened, and he finds himself wanting to defend those he loves and cares for--animals and humans alike. He is often reminded by those who join him along his journey to learn from animals, nature and the greenwood, to trust and rely on his friends and to believe in his evolving abilities as a growing young man with great promise.
If you have a passion for nature, animals and fantasy, and want to see skies light up with ancient magic sorcery while learning the secrets of the greenwood, then pick up this tome. Andrew McDowell appears to have a deep seated passion for writing true to his heart and interests. Well done. I appreciated the wide array of characters, particularly the addition of a dog, which was a rare and refreshing find in a fantasy novel--no bias from a dog lover here! I also appreciated the lists of names and pronunciations included in the back of the book, as I referred to this more than once while reading the novel.
I do suggest for book two to have an additional editor or two to read over the manuscript. There were several times where typos or other errors took me out of the story momentarily. I think a second editor could effectively clean these up to help protect the flow of the story and the reader's immersion in the world Andrew worked so hard to create. Some of the dialogue at times became mechanical, slipping into forced give and take exchanges instead of the flow and ebb of natural human dialogue, particularly when characters are under duress. A closer look at the world's lexicon in the book and how this differs from modern day English (e.g., 'tis and 'morrow vs. gotcha, um's, etc.) would also give more strength to the novel. Additionally, a small section explaining the various terms, titles and key character profiles may or may not be another helpful addition.
Suggestions for book two would also include (if possible and doable, otherwise feel free to have Saershe cast a spell on me) to have some of Saershe's grandson's charcoal sketches he often paused to do in the greenwood included in the novel--perhaps even as a small illustration below the beginning of each chapter heading. A map of the broader world or areas the characters journey through would also help readers follow and immerse themselves in the story, especially when there's different groups of people in different places. At times, I thought larger illustrations would also be a nice addition to the book. I could see Taranis' "inky garments", crystal ball and hearth quite vividly towards the end of the novel and thought this would make quite a beautiful fantasy sketch.
Something harder perhaps is to understand and convey each character's psychology more deeply, particularly the primary antagonist's and how they interact and control (or not control) the environment and others around them. I would also suggest to examine this concept of psychology with some of the animals in the greenwood, especially as Dermot grows under Saershe's continued tutelage. I suspected while reading that it took her some time to earn each animal's trust, and this variance could show each animal's depth of character and their individualities, as well as overall prides and faults as species.
For some of these suggestions, a preliminary reader or a group of preliminary readers may be helpful, as some of this involves skills a writer develops over a lifetime. If you ever consider requesting input from preliminary draft readers, I would be happy to read a future draft and give my two cents feedback as a growing, young author myself. In any event, best wishes to the author and I look forward to the second, and third, installments!
You can tell that the author is passionate about animals and nature and has put a lot of time and effort into his research on the topic. That connection informs the entire book, driving the plot and defining the characters. I especially liked the details about the medicinal use of plants which seemed authentic, although I'm no expert. I loved the central involvement of normal and mythical beasts, especially the dog, but then I'm a sucker for dogs. The story is imaginative and the action is nearly constant. Fans of Christopher Paolini will love it. I look forward to reading more of the author's writing.
A pretty modest, well-paced and compelling story. It's based on your classic good vs evil trope, but with some surprising additions too. It has a balanced interesting set of characters, some quite lovely ties into nature which becomes a key part of the story, and despite being a first book, I thought it was a good little adventure in itself whilst being a way to introduce the wider world and pave the way for the next book. I do think that the characters could have had a little more depth to thier personalities, as their story arcs were well rounded. It's an exciting world full of magic, winged creatures and a good handful of things you'd expect to see in fantasy landscapes. Saying that, I haven't ever read a book with a gryphon before, that's not something that's typical to these stories, anr it was a fresh change.
This was a wonderful book. Very descriptive, so you could picture the details in your mind. The main character, I loved how he began his journey imbracing nature and the animals. How his relationship developed with each of the characters. I loved how him and his brother bonded and became closer as the story progressed. You could feel the sweet nature he had. The ending left me wanting more. I'll be on the lookout for book two!
What a fantastic fantasy! The world that the author has created is wonderful. There is enough description to thoroughly immerse the reader in the world. I love the addition of nature and the connection that the characters have with it. There are many elements to this book ranging from brotherly love, family ties, magic, magical creatures, and wars. It all comes together to create a real page turner!
Such an amazing story. The descriptions the author uses to describe the scenery and the characters is believable and helps the reader visualize the story better. Dermot, MC, had such a sweet soul to him. Author, Andrew McDowell, takes us on a mystical journey, finding family in nature. I am glad I was offered this suggestion to read, as I enjoyed the story.
Very imaginative and descriptive! Good world building. My edition had a lot of editing issues that I hope will be fixed in later editions. I also didn't feel really connected to any of the characters and wished I could get inside their heads more! Looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Andrew McDowell has created a detailed and complex world in Mystical Greenwood, book one of the One with Nature series. Set in the land of Denú, this story has a lot of potential. I enjoyed the basic concept of the story, although would have preferred more showing and less telling. At its heart, Mystical Greenwood is a story of growing up and taking responsibility. Young Dermot, doesn’t think through the consequences of his actions, a trait not uncommon in teens even today. Talking back to the local sheriff, in this harsh world with distinct class hierarchy, is foolhardy, yet Dermot does so. Eventually, Dermot matures enough to realize what is truly important and gains some self-control.
Unfortunately, the story gets too caught up with flowery and archaic speech (forthwith, whereupon). It felt like I was reading something from a century ago, instead of a contemporary YA fantasy. All those extra words slowed down the flow and made reading tedious. I also wish the focus had stayed on Dermot, who I found very interesting, instead of following some of the other characters, like his dad. This is definitely the beginning of a very complex saga.
The story mainly follows Dermot, a 15-year-old boy in a land called Denú, a place full of incredible creatures and hidden magics.
I really enjoyed the richness of the world created, the focus on Nature and benevolent power and the intriguing backstory of Taranis. This book is full of wondrous creatures like gryphons, unicorns, dragons which are always a firm favourite with me.
However, I did feel the book was very slow in its pacing and it was almost halfway through before I felt it really took off and there were very few hooks at the end of chapters that drew a reader to rush to the next chapter. Then it was in the last quarter of the book when almost all the real action happened.
There was a lot of telling that I found pulled me from the story and in parts there appeared to be a shift in POV so I wasn’t always sure whose head I was in. I also didn’t really connect with Dermot like I wanted to.
The use of old Celtic was a nice touch, though I wonder whether pronunciation guides would be better at the front rather than the back. I know I would rarely skip to the back to check a guide in case I caught sight of something in the end of the book. I'm lucky that I already knew how to pronounce many of these words due to living in Ireland.
This was written in 3rd person which is my favourite and was not limited to one person’s POV as we also shifted to see from Dermot’s parents, though I feel this could have been more evenly spaced as we didn’t see from Dermot’s parents POV much until halfway through the book. However, I did like seeing things from Dermot's parents' POV.
The villain was created well with a very distinctive voice and a clear plan. I think my favourite character overall was Ruairi whose friendly nature and easy-going personality were well defined and easy to connect to.
Overall, an interesting story that leads you nicely towards book two.
I really started to route for Dermot during his adventures in Greenwood. The story is cleverly told with a balance of intrigue, challenge and family ties. I loved the links to the natural world and environmental understanding. The world was fascinating and filled with interesting characters, wonderful settings and heart-stopping dilemmas.
This fantasy book holds the reader captive in an engaging tale of magic and mythical creatures. I was especially fascinated by how the magic revolved around being close to nature; a state of awareness we all could use in our lives. Good book!
Mystical Greenwood is a coming of age story full of poetic writing that keeps you mesmerized from start to finish. I loved this read! It's well-written and intriguing, and I enjoyed the family relationship.