DEEP inside an ancient forest live creatures that you would think only existed in fairy tales.
When Leo discovers their hiding place, she begins to question whether all those bedtime stories she was told growing up were actually true.
She then plunges into this fantasy world on the verge of extinction and is faced with the reality of what being a Woodlander really means.
Helped by new friend Nash and her dog Aurora, Leo looks to overcome a series of events and challenges in a realm where things aren’t always what they seem.
Written by Brian MacShane, The Arrival of Fate is the first in a series of three novels called The Woodlander.
This coming-of-age fantasy novel was inspired by the woodlands in and around Henley where he walks for up to two hours a day.
Brian, 55, from Northfield End, said: “Leo, which is short for Leonora, lives with a guardian called Bear on the edge of a giant copse which is 15 miles across.
“She doesn’t know what’s in it and when Nash teaches her how to climb trees she decides to try to get a better look. What she sees is a huge walled estate that she doesn’t know how to get to.
“Then, when she sees Bear in the estate alongside the Wonderlore — the fairies, goblins, sprites and Jack-o’-lanterns brought to life in bedtime stories — it raises all sorts of questions.
“It is an ancient realm which was already in existence before man arrived and, when they did, they lived symbiotically with them. That’s why we were told fairy tales and stuff which mentioned them.
“But it was the advent of reason and religion that made man question everything about themselves and started to turn their back on these elves with whom they used to live side by side and forced them into the shadows.”
Leo is 14 and an apprentice Woodlander to Bear and she grows to realise just what the extent of her job will be.
“It is not just about managing the woodland,” said Brian. “As the story evolves, it is a message of inclusion while learning why man evolved the way they did.
“She learns how humans and these magical creatures go from playing and learning together to not and how fairy tales went from being true stories to becoming dark.”
The book took him two years to write. He began in January 2018 and will split the story into three novels.
He has already started working on the follow-up, which he hopes to finish next year.
“As the books continue you get to learn more about the characters,” said Brian. “For example, Leo does have parents but you learn how she came to be under Bear’s guardianship.”
Brian, who is married and works as a retail consultant, is originally from Australia and grew up on the outskirts of Perth.
He said: “I have an active imagination and started creating fantasy worlds as a child as a way to soften the harsh Australian bush land. You had to have a pretty good imagination to create stories and games.
“I have always loved reading and love fantasy and sci-fi. I have lived in the UK for 20 years, first living in London and moving to Henley 12 years ago.
“The story was inspired by daily dog walks in Lambridge Woods, Flowercroft Woods (Rotherfield Greys), Greys Court and Maidensgrove with Griff, who is the inspiration behind Aurora.
“I walk for between one and two hours and it is only walking every day that you come to appreciate the minutiae of what’s there and see the changing of the seasons and I found that inspiring.
“There are four forests around Henley and they are all different with different sorts of trees and archaeology.
“I would come back with an idea and I’d write it down and the concept grew from there.
“I have always been creative. I paint and I sculpt and I have done this all my life and this is another creative output for me.
“While I have written it for young adults, 95 per cent of people who have read it so far are adults and they have enjoyed reading it — the feedback has been great.
“I hope that if the books are successful I will have more time to write — I have three other book ideas that I’d like to explore.”
• The Woodlander: The Arrival of Fate by B MacShane costs £7.99 (paperback) or £2.29 (ebook) from www.bmacshane.com