The Alabaster Roses

By P. H. K. Schoeffner

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

Two brothers search for a magical flower that will rouse their sister from her mystical slumber.

Jochen, Natalie, and Barbel are siblings.  One day, while exploring a nearby forest, they discover weird and wonderful black flowers.  Beautiful and elegant, the black flowers also exude an aura of horrible evil.  Cousin Thorsten, who is accompanying the siblings, relates the legend of Schoenboeck, a powerful magician, who laid a curse upon the flowers – anyone who approached the flowers would fall into a never ending sleep.  The only way to lift the curse is through the alabasters roses, which the wizard keeps inside his castle Drachrosenstein. 

When none of the others are looking, six-year old Natalie gathers a few of the black flowers.  She instantly falls asleep.  Her brothers determine they will rescue Natalie by finding the castle and bringing back the alabaster roses. 

As the adventure begins, like Alice in Wonderland, the brothers are whisked into an enchanted otherworld, where they meet an old man, who gives them a magic locket, which will show them the way to the castle.  But others want the locket, especially the dark magician Gorkievich, who needs the locket to consummate his power.  And he will do anything to obtain it. 

The two brothers venture forth, confronting fire-breathing dragons, mysterious caves, magic mirrors, and impenetrable labyrinths.  As the brothers advance from harrowing incident to harrowing incident, Schoeffner interweaves fantastic action with overformal dialogue, like something out of a Lovecraftian tale.  The magicians, although supernaturally powerful, don’t really have much of a chance against the two young brothers, whose innocence and luck, along with a quixotic attitude, combine to make them invincible.  It’s kind of like Chronicles of Narnia meets Lord of the Rings meets Disney’s Snow White.  Two well-meaning brothers, a sleeping sister, lots of magic spells and bad wizards meet in another dimension.  And the bad guys can’t get a break. 

Schoeffner’s command of the English language is, on the one hand, remarkable, employing multi-syllabic words of erudition and sophistication.  On the other hand, it’s evident that English is not Schoeffner’s native tongue, because sentence structures exhibit less refinement.  However, once the reader gets a handle on it, it’s not a problem and even adds charm to the story. 

The Alabaster Roses is a typical fantasy tale of magic and monsters, with enough freshness to keep it interesting.

(This review first appeared on Kirkus Reviews)