Starting a new book by a début author is always exciting and when that new book is the first in a series the anticipation increases tenfold. I wish I could say that this book lived up to the promise but, unfortunately, I found the book much too long and a little dry in its storytelling.
This is the first book in a series so, naturally, a lot of setting up needs to be done. However, a lot of this book seems to get stuck on explanations and exposition. There were whole pages of the history of Ysryiia that, to my mind could have been told in a shorter and simpler way that would have helped the story to flow much better. There is even a page and a half telling us how Katie's parents met, got together, married and had Katie and another page and a half on how Katie met her best friends. Both of these are unnecessary, especially as Katie's best friends, Cooper and Zoie, only appear in one chapter of the book and are never heard of again.
The idea behind this story is a traditional one of a girl travelling to a magical land and discovering that she is the Chosen One who can save the world. What is original is the method by which Katie and her new friend Bailey Rae travel to the new world. There are no safe trips through the wardrobe here or a quick journey on the Hogwarts Express, in this book you have to die in our world and your soul is then snatched away to Ysryiia instead of wherever it should end up. I thought this was an imaginative and quite dark way to start Katie's journey. How many of us have a destiny that can only be fulfilled after our deaths? How must it feel to know that you are never going to see your loved ones or even your home world again?
However, once again the book disappoints as Katie and Bailey Rae barely seem affected by the news of their own deaths and carry on as if nothing has happened. I expected the girls would have some sort of immediate, emotional response to the loss of family, friends and home but that just doesn't seem to happen.
The main character, Katie, never really grabbed my attention or my heart. I think the problem, for me, was that I couldn't see why Katie, in particular, had been Chosen to save the people of Ysryiia. Usually there is something that is immediately obvious to the reader as to why they have been picked. It could be a certain talent for magic, a family history or even just a steely determination and courage that will pull them through when they need it. I didn't find anything like that with Katie. She asked a lot of questions and spent a lot of time denying that she was the Chosen One and being scared. All of which is perfectly reasonable but with a main character that has to carry the book and the series there has to be more to her. Even if the character can't recognise the quality in themselves, the reader should be able to identify what makes this particular girl so special.
Then there's Bailey Rae. I'm afraid Bailey Rae was my least favourite character in the whole book. The way she talks just never seemed real to me with her Southern drawl and her constant catchphrases (“Ba-damn!”). Her voice was so unrealistic and unnatural to me that when I saw there was a chapter called “Double Agent” I was convinced Bailey Rae was about to be unmasked. I have never been to Memphis, Tennessee but if they all talk like Bailey Rae there then it's probably better for everyone if I never do.
As to the other characters that Katie and Bailey Rae meet in this new world I wish I could tell you more about them. I can tell you that they all have names with double letters in them. A lot of the names were similar to each other (Carywynn and Caswynn) which can make it confusing and difficult to keep track of who is who. Once again it was the way the characters spoke that gave me problems. This world has wonderful magic available to them and an epic history but to hear/read them using phrases such as “Okay and “No Worries” just destroyed all that in an instant.
I want to give a quick mention to the cover for this book. I received a paperback copy to review and, whoever, designed the back of the book needs to re-think. The pattern makes it difficult to read any of the book description. As this is often the reason a reader will decide to buy the book, it should be clearer and easier to read. If I had seen this in a shop or library I would have put it back on the shelf and moved onto the next book where I could read what the story was about.
This has been a rather negative review. The last thing I want to do is discourage a new writer, especially one with an imagination so big and fantastic that can create this whole new world, it's history and a new language too. Hopefully, in the rest of the series we can have less of the history and more of the magic and learn more about the characters and what makes them people we want to read about…
Review by Andrea Chettle
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