Elf Realm: The High Road

by Daniel Kirk
Amulet hardcover 2009, paperback 2010
Shop Indie Bookstores
Elf Realm High Road

Book Description
In The High Road, Matt and his sister Becky must work with the elves and Tomtar the troll to save the Cord and the human and elf worlds. After forming an uneasy alliance, Matt, the elf Tuava-Li, and Tomtar set off to find the sick and dying tree at the northern pole, whose roots bind the worlds together through the Cords. The trio must restore the tree to bring well-being to all the realms.

Meanwhile, Becky accompanies Asra to free Becky’s parents, held captive in the elfin kingdom of Helfratheim. To their horror, both groups discover that Brahja-Chi has begun kidnapping human children for a mass sacrifice to appease the goddess. Not only do they have to accomplish the tasks they originally set out to perform, but now they must also stop the fiendish Brahja-Chi and her accomplice, Jardaine. Daniel Kirk’s trademark illustrations—including maps, character portraits, and other scenes—bring to life the riveting and engaging story.

Reviews of The High Road

Review from Booklist
In the first book in the trilogy (Elf Realm: The Low Road, 2008), Matt becomes entangled in the affairs of elves when he inadvertently acquires an object of great importance to them. In this installment, much has gone awry following this meeting of the two races: the elves are at war with humans and each other; Matt’s family has been imprisoned by an elfin splinter group; and he and his sister, Becky, are stuck in the elf realm. Although not as tightly constructed as its predecessor, this is an original, imaginative “middle” book that will satisfy readers who have already been introduced to its complex worlds and character relationships. Grades 5-8. –Holly Koelling

Review from VOYA
The hefty second volume in The Elf Realm trilogy follows siblings Matthew and Becky as they attempt to rescue their parents, who were taken in a raid by hostile Elves. Matt’s situation is complicated by his relatively unwilling involvement in a quest to renew the world by journeying to the North Pole and planting a new seed for the Adri Tree, which the Elves view as the source of life. His belief that his sister, Becky, is safely bestowed with two elfin mages is ill founded, however, as Becky begins a quest of her own, accompanying Princess Asra (and eventually the evil prince, Macta) to Helfratheim, where her parents are imprisoned. The pacing of this tale is well-nigh impeccable, with fast action interspersed at just the right intervals with time for both characters and readers to catch breath and make sense of the alternate world view facing them. The rendition of the dual universes—crossing, separating, blending—is eerily compelling. Characterization remains a bit slack—the characters are more types than fully dimensional personalities—but it does not prevent the reader from caring about their situations and eagerly pressing on through the story. Compulsively readable, extended by black-and-white cartoon illustrations, this title should move where the previous volume has a following. Reviewer: Ann Welton

Daniel Kirk speaks about Elf Realm, The High Road
Some writers say that the second installment of a trilogy is the hardest to write.
Read More

Many readers say the second installment of a trilogy is inherently the most boring of the three! When I started writing, I wanted to make sure my middle-book was interesting, exciting, informative and led seamlessly into the final book.

I wanted to make sure I developed my characters, giving them weight and depth, in the midst of their adventures. I wanted to explore subjects like philosophy, religion and environmentalism, and have my characters discuss important issues and think about what is really important to them. I wanted them to do this in the midst of a rousing, exciting tale with lots of adventure and danger.

The “high road” in the title is meant to symbolize the road we walk on through the course of our lives. It’s meant to represent the actions we take, how they determine what happens to us, and who we turn out to be. My characters begin their quest to save Elf Realm by venturing on foot to the Troll headquarters in Argant (otherwise known as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). This is a part of the Faerie world that overlaps the Human world, as well as the original home of Tomtar the Troll. Writing about the Trolls gave me a chance to expand Tomtar’s role in the story and explore his personality, hopes and fears, as well as introduce some of his most interesting relatives.

Many people say that it is difficult to develop original and realistic characters in fantasy books. I understand the limitations of character development when an author constantly has to throw his characters into extreme situations. But I was always conscious when I was writing that I wanted my characters to really have some depth and internal conflicts that guided them. Matt and Tuava-Li’s relationship is a complicated one, and I spent a lot of time working out the changing ways they see and think of each other. Tomtar is in the process of finding himself, and his experiences in Argant really help to develop his character, and build his self-confidence. Becky and Princess Asra go on a journey of their own, and they develop a rare and fragile friendship that will be explored more fully in book three of the trilogy, The Road’s End.

I’ve always loved monsters. In The High Road I took a look at some mythical beings, like Lamia, and the Green Men, and gave them my own twist. I also got to make up some new monsters, forms taken by Jal-Maktar, expert shape-shifter. It was also fun for me to draw them. It took about six weeks just to make the illustrations for The High Road!

As for the writing process, I must confess that I wrote book one of this trilogy without having a very clear idea of where books two and three would take me. I trusted my own creative compass to assure me I’d be able to rise to the occasion when the time came, to make my plot epic, and to be able to resolve everything satisfactorily. My editor, however, insisted that I carefully outline book three before I finished writing the first draft of book two. I am not overly fond of outlines, finding that it takes some of the joy of discovery out of the writing process, but I did as I was told. Surprise! I discovered that if I had not come up with a tight outline, that I might have well boxed myself into some plot holes I wouldn’t have been able to escape.

Things to think about and do after you have read Elf Realm, The High Road

  1. In the book, Matt takes a chance on traveling with the Elves. In life, we’re always told not to talk to strangers, and not to go anywhere with them.
    Read More

    Do you think there’s ever a circumstance in real life where it might be a good idea to go somewhere with a stranger, like Matt did? Is there anything that might make you change your normal rules? What might be at risk?
  2. Matt feels resentful that Tuava-Li and Tomtar don’t help him rescue his parents right away. He’s forced to undertake a challenging journey because his help is necessary to the Fairy folk. Have you ever had to do something you didn’t want to do because it was good for someone else? How did it make you feel?
  3. In The High Road Tomtar feels he has to prove himself. He wants his friends to think he’s brave, smart and strong, though he feels he’s really not. How have you had to prove yourself to someone else in real life? What did you do or say to change someone’s feelings about you?
  4. Tomtar finds in the course of the story that he is different from his relatives, and it comes as something of a shock to him. How are you different from your own parents, siblings and extended family? How are you the same?
  5. In The High Road, Becky and Asra become unlikely friends. Though they are initially wary of each other, they grow to find that they really care about each other’s wellbeing. Have you ever had an unlikely friend? Did the friendship last?
  6. A character known as the Green Man figures prominently in this book. What does the Green Man symbolize for you?