The Quest of the Golden Apple is a traditional fantasy with dragons, talking animals, royal quests and more princess than you could ever know what to do with. Although it starts very brightly, Geoffrey Angapa’s story is let down by a change in direction and narration style.
Like all good fairy tales, it begins with a royal decree. The king has offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to the first man to return with a golden apple, which happens to be guarded by a dragon. Our hero, also named Geoffrey, is one of many to try his luck.
Geoffrey was on a great quest, or rather the Quest, the successful fulfilling of which would win him the hand of the Princess.
Off our, perhaps naive, adventurer toddles, dreaming of a marriage that’s never to be. Rather than battle the beast, who’s already tired of defeating so many other adventurers, the dragon sends Geoffrey on a different quest, before deciding to become friends. So far so good, but then the story takes an odd turn, with the author changing the style of the narrative, story-telling and adventure.
Up until the twist, it’s a gripping read. Angapa’s consistency in using old-fashioned English, with an extensive vocabulary, is spell-binding. It does, however, throw up an alarm bell: who is this book targeted at?
The story itself would be great for younger readers — or even those who are still being read to by parents — with its talking polar bears, lack of fighting and the unbelievably generous nature of everyone along the trail. However, the language used isn’t suitable for those readers, and the doting parents would spend more time explaining big words than reading through the story.
On the other hand, older readers who could fully understand the language, may not be hooked so easily by Geoffrey’s rather simplistic adventure.
A more significant issue comes later with a change in perspective (from third to first person), a switch that occurs without any marked change in tone from the narrators. As well as the change of perspective, there was a noticeable difference in quality. Up until the change, the story had been building nicely.
Rather than build on these solid foundations, perhaps to return triumphantly with the golden apple and claim the princess’ hand, the story peters away. The main quest is flippantly disregarded and our hero embarks on differing journeys. His main purpose turns to helping a couple of lost children, with no reward or adventure in sight.
The bulk of this section takes place as the band of characters stops in with a king and his three daughters. Like too much of the book, we’re entertained with the characters telling stories and enjoying lavish meals, but there’s little in the way of progression. The book then descends into conversations that have little to do with the quest or the characters.
“Dragon,” said I, “what do you know about encyclopedias?”
For a younger audience, these could be useful conversation starters, however, when Dragon begins talking about the fourth dimension it may well prove too much for many children, never mind their parents.
Indeed, the latter section of the book forgoes almost any action. When Geoffrey finally sets off, little over a page is given to his very brief encounter with the Fairy Queen, which is only a touch longer than some of the odd discussions the hero and his dragon have, such as talking about the Latinate style — or lack thereof — in contemporary language. If that sentence seems odd to you, consider yourself lucky you only had one sentence to trawl through.
And, when the group stumble upon a lost dragon city and its fabled silver apple tree, they barely seem bothered by the discovery.
We stood there for a few minutes, looking at the tree.
The difference in styles in the book are even noted by the author, as his characters discuss them on their journey to help any potential reviewers.
“Does this tale of ours, if tale we are in, have plot?” said Walter.
“Well,” said the Dragon, “I think the earlier part of ours had a strong plot; but this later part hath become episodic. Both have their merits.”
As it stands, The Quest of the Golden Apple is disjointed, but certainly has potential. It needs a reworking of the second half and a proper ending to the first section, to tie it all together. Furthermore the author should carefully consider who his target audience is, perhaps to use a simpler lexicon for younger readers or by further developing the narrative to ensure adults remain engaged.