Published Reviews - Hooray for Magical Beasts and Mushroom Feasts!, March 16, 2012

This is one tasty morsel of a book. Anyone who wishes to be transported by an adventuresome narrative (or who gets a chortle out of whimsical word play and subtle fantasy geekery) will enjoy this pocket-sized tale. While making adept use of classic fantasy tropes, Sambuka Black also brims with many subtle surprises and puzzles to ponder. In other words, it provides the familiar comfort of your favorite overstuffed armchair, along with the curious intrigue of a dragon in dressing gown. The young protagonist and her fantastical companions find themselves in the most otherworldly of circumstances, yet they remain endearingly human (yes, even for a cyclops and a satyr). You'll want to have them over for tea and candy cap cookies after reading of their adventures.

The charming illustrations are the perfect complement to the text. It's a treasure to see such craftsmanship and attention to detail in a contemporary novel. (It would make an excellent gift for any reader or collector of illustrated novels.) There's certainly enough playful mischief to delight seasoned bibliovores and young readers alike (not to mention nature lovers, wild-mushroom hunters, and food enthusiasts). So I invite you to pour yourself a glass of Sambuka Black and devour this tale, that is "if you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer..."                                                                   By Finnegan Plumb


Midwest Book Review – Featured Children’s Bookwatch, March 2012

Sambuka Black Novel - Set amid a land beset by the cruelty of slavery, "Sambuka Black" is an illustrated, fantastic adventure in which hope for victory over oppression lies within the innocence and determination of a young girl. "Sambuka Black" follows the young girl as she learns the values of friendship and kindness in making a difference for the world, and ultimately saving it all. "Sambuka Black" is a choice addition to any young adult fiction collection.

Sambuka Black Activity Book - Sambuka Black Activity Book is a consumable, flat-spined activity book filled cover-to-cover with 80 pages of games, mazes, word hunts, puzzles, pictures to color or draw, and more, all inspired by the young adult fantasy novel "Sambuka Black" by Dielle Alexandre & Jeff Mulcaster. Reading the novel is not necessary to fully enjoy the activity book (with the possible exception of its crossword puzzle), although the adventurous story is a treat in its own right. Sambuka Black Activity Book is a delightful companion to the novel and a good way to engage the brains of little ones during car trips, air travel, or shut-in snowy or rainy days. - Highly Imaginative, January 17, 2012

Sambuka Black is an extremely creative children's story that is also an enjoyable read for adults. Dielle Alexandre and Jeff Mulcaster have crafted a tale of a child who is on a quest to find a baby dragon and encounters many perils and new friends along the journey. The book has many colorful characters and vivid settings.

I loved the many illustrations sprinkled throughout the entire book. Especially the ones that are drawn by the main character Kara, the authors do a great job at seeing the world through a child's eyes.

The birthday song made me laugh!                                 By Karen Lea Hansen


It’s the best book I’ve ever read. I want to buy 10 of them for my friends.

Dylan, age 10, test audience, October 2011

I love this book!, December 21, 2011

Great story, very detailed, and all the drawings took me back to the books of my childhood. I also bought the puzzle activity book and it's great fun and quite challenging. Good books for smart kids, and smart adults for that matter.

Pudgy Muffin -from

Good Dragons, December 28, 2011

I love books, songs and movies about 'good' dragons like Puff, Elliot, Toothless, Draco, etc. Sambuka Black is very entertaining, witty, fun and full of interesting characters and facts. The story is about the interaction between humanity (both good & bad) and other creatures of the world. The illustrations are fantastic and enhance the adventure tremendously. Couldn't put the book down - had to read in one sitting. I look forward to a sequel (anxious to learn the purple's name) and think it would make a great animated movie.

Toto -from

a fun fantasy romp, January 16, 2012

Here's a book that's equal fun for both adult readers and the YA crowd.

It's the classic quest of a young girl to overturn a malicious magician. The villain has seized control of a magic realm through enslaving the wise and mighty dragons that once roamed free. As one might expect, as the plucky heroine sets off to rescue her own young dragon companion, she encounters a variety of fantastical beings--some helpful, others deadly. Gathering strength along the journey, everything leads toward a climactic confrontation.

I was delighted with the antics of the sidekicks she teams up with: a faun and a four-armed cyclops. There's a spirit you feel in them that is just so warm and good-natured, you leave the book wishing you could go back to their house for a cup of tea and pan-fried grubs. It's a pleasure to find warmth like this in fiction, which--though imaginary--helps conjure a place of safety in one's mind that lingers long after the book is done.

At the same time, I'm very pleased that the authors didn't pull their punches when our heroes came face-to-face with danger. There's a death, a painful loss, and a very visceral sense of risk when the adventurers face violent conflict. This is as it should be; without the possibility of failure, who cares? The stakes are high, and light shines in contrast to the dark.

The authors are clearly great fans of classic Sci Fi/Fantasy films. Genre fans will have a fun time picking out all the references to Ray Harryhausen flicks in particular. Not that you'll miss out on anything if you don't catch them--but the shout-outs and homages are there to be found. As are a number of other puzzles and mind-ticklers. Hints at the end of the book encourage younger readers to go back and look for the clues, to see if they can figure out the mysteries. Answers to a few still evade me... I look forward to the promised sequel to expand my understanding of this entertaining universe.

If you enjoy stories like the Dark Crystal, or Miyazaki's "Spirited Away," or if you're a fan of all the various dragon worlds--check this one out.

Sven Bonnichsen -from

great escape, January 21, 2012

Fantasy is not my usual read, but when i saw the drawings and read a few pages, i was hooked for a nice fantasy escape and let Jeff and Dielle (authors) guide me into a mythical magical mystical quest of a young girl heroine. I'm looking forward to the sequel. A friend said they got the puzzle and her daughter loves it.

MissSnailPail -from

I just finished devouring Sambuka Black. It was truly charming. I enjoyed the story as well as the illustrations. Thank you for helping to feed my voracious appetite for whimsical fiction. :-)       

Kristen, age Adult

Just finished your book this morning, so enjoyed it. Couldn't put it down. What wonderful vivid characters and plot! KUDOS TO YOU! I felt the illustrations worked greatl with the story. Can't wait to read the sequel. Now will start on the puzzles.

Marilyn, age Adult

Mulcaster Goes Toe-to-Toe with the Portland Book Review

At Wordstock 2011, we presented a copy of our novel to the Portland Book Review and were informed they usually charged $75 per review. Unwilling to “buy” a positive review, we left our book anyway, just in case someone was interested.

Reviewer Barbara Cothern did not like our novel (see review and rebuttal below.) Perusing her facebook page reveals her interests and activities to be mostly booooring and probably tinged with religious fanaticism. This is pretty much the exact opposite of the audience we wrote for. We’ve consistently stated our story is for smart kids and geeky adults.

Please, dear readers, we welcome all INTELLIGENT criticism as it will only help us write better sequels.

Portland Book Review, Jan 12, 2012

Kara is a nine-year-old girl who has never understood the anti-dragon sentiment in her world. Although she grew up with dragons being raised for meat and used as labor, she has always felt sorry for them. When her grandmother gives her a dragon egg that she accidentally hatches, Kara is delighted with her new friend. But when her dragon is caught by the evil minister of the land, Kara must leave her family to save her dragon. Meeting new friends on the way, Kara learns to stand up for what she believes in.

Sambuka Black starts off with an interesting idea – that of a young girl fighting for the rights of a friend – but doesn’t quite come together. The story, especially in the beginning of the novel, has abrupt scene changes that are confusing and distracting to the reader. Further, the adults in Kara’s life seem oddly detached from reality. It’s perplexing that her grandmother would give her a dragon egg, and her parents in general seem confused by Kara. There are some entertaining moments involving Kara’s adventure with her new friends, Duncan and Alex, but in general, the book is too inconsistently written to enjoy.

Barbara Cothern


Regarding your review of Sambuka Black:

Most glaringly: Of course Kara's parents are confused by her and out of touch with reality.  Their generation's backward thinking, much like that of the slave owners of America's dark past, is the very impetus for Kara's scary solo quest.  This is called "motivation" and is an important plot device in stories. (I believe the scientific expression for your lack of understanding is "Duuuuuuuuuh!")  How do you ignore the single most important theme of the story--a strong heroic individual thinking for herself rather than blindly accepting the sheep-like mentality of her society--and instead focus on peripheral characters?

"...abrupt scene changes that are confusing and distracting to the reader."? No, just confusing and distracting to you.  10-year-old children have read our book and were not confused or distracted.  In fact they reported reading voraciously then re-reading because they enjoyed it so much. Perhaps Winnie the Pooh would be more your speed?  But no, wait... the walking, talking stuffed animals might leave you positively apoplectic. Best not to read at all, I suppose.

"...too inconsistently written to enjoy."? Our novel will not win a Pulitzer and maybe it's not quite as clever as we would like to believe but it is nothing if not an enjoyable read.  The Multnomah County Library Office took less than a week to order copies for six of their branches. Look it up.  How many of your novels are in local libraries?

"...doesn't quite come together."? Our story, with the exception of a few unanswered questions specifically left for the sequel, comes together beautifully.  Plants and payoffs, flashbacks, a few red herrings... oh wait... more literary terms you are undoubtedly unfamiliar with. Sorry.

And really?  No mention at all of the 150 plus illustrations or the geeky appendixes?

Your review is, in a word, incompetent.  We will certainly not be trusting the Portland Book Review in the future.

Jeff Mulcaster, co-author

p.s. Funny that, despite your obvious disdain, you have no qualms about selling our submitted book (as "new") on Amazon.

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