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(See Thomas’ notes on how he grades)
I have several books on my shelf to read and review but when I saw this title I couldn’t resist moving it to the head of the line. I almost read it in one sitting but life got in the way. I debated long and hard over the grade for this piece because of some things that just bugged me in the book. In the end I went with the fact that I couldn’t put the bloody thing down and gave it the grade you see above.
This youth book is set in modern day Pacific Northwest where the orphan Claire defends herself against bullies at school, and crazed animals. But she craves a home like she had before her parents and brother were burned up in a fire.
In the midst of this she meets Justin, a “spirit knight” who steals a hat and gets his horse to bite off the head off of a cat. This knight has a loving family and a job defeating evil. Before long she finds herself at odds with a corrupt policeman, the empty shell of her dead father, and another venomous spirit that would like to become a gourmet on her essence.
Upon doing some research I see that Ms. French has a number of other books on the market. I might just have to delve in there when I have some free time.
As I said, the story was so enthralling I couldn’t put the book down when I had other things I needed to be doing. From the very first scene, I cared about the main character Claire and wanted to see her beat up more young snots.
Claire is a strong girl without overdoing it. There were times when she was unsure of herself. There were times where she was afraid. Through it all she soldiered on even when being tortured by a cop who assured her she had no escape. Claire makes it obvious she is a teen by sometimes making the silliest decisions based on factors us adults just go crazy trying to understand (face-palm). In other words, her character is very well written.
Lee French’s world felt unique and warm. I’d like to compare it to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series with muggles and magicians but I think I’d be doing both authors a disservice. French’s humans were just as blissfully unaware of either the dangers or the guardians around them and it was just as enchanting in a different way.
Two or three really good action scenes that left me wanting more!
Kudos to Lee French for not wimping out on the “torture” just because Claire was a girl. Oh, it was glossed over for the youth audience but she didn’t get any “special” attention or dispensation for being a girl.
I loved that the author didn’t feel the obsessive need to explain why there are knights and phantasms and all the other ghoulies that she invented. The world is what it is. Who can even explain gravity, for instance? Not even physicists can.
Not So Good:
I disliked that the author didn’t feel the obsessive need to explain why there are knights and phantasms and all the other ghoulies that she invented. No, I didn’t repeat or contradict myself. I loved it and hated it at the same time. I wanted to know why. I wanted to know where the cracks were. I wanted to embrace Lee French’s vision. I’m an engineer by training. Sue me. There were several times where the book expected you to have some level of knowledge of the magical hierarchy but it hadn’t been explained so there was an emotional gap for me.
I thought this book needed another editing pass. There were some passages that I had to reread four or five times and never really understood. Don’t despair because they are few but as an author/publisher myself I sometimes catch these things and instead of shrugging them off like a normal reader, it breaks me out of the flow.
I really could have done without Drew. Do you know how you can tell when a man writes a female character, because it hasn’t quite hit the mark (either physical, emotional, or motivational). That’s what I felt like in reverse with Drew. He read like what women have said men have treated them like throughout time… an adjunct, a second thought, and/or a shadow of their mate. Drew was written as both a surrogate brother and a potential love interest. Instead he was flat and one dimensional – he came off like a wimp and a place holder.
And why steal that freaking hat? Ok, because his mentor asked him to, but what did he use it for? It was so out of place!
This review is by Thomas Gondolfi, Author of Toy Wars and the CorpGov Chronicle and numerous pieces of short fiction in the genres of science fiction and cyberpunk. He is also the owner of TANSTAAFL Press (How do you like your SciFi? ). For more bio information go to http://tanstaaflpress.com/authors/biographies/tom-gondolfi/
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