When Tia sent me the information on this blog tour, I quickly grabbed it up - I enjoy children and middle school books, love fantasy, and I had already read a book by this author. The cover caught my attention and the synopsis had me intrigued.
Unfortunately, once I got into the book, I was a little disappointed.
When I sit down to read these books, I try to put myself into the shoes of the reader, thinking about it as I would have felt at that age. I have always been a big reader and spent a lot of my time when I was young getting lost in the pages of a good fantasy. This had so much potential and could have really been a good book, but...
The story itself is interesting, in theory, but it is slow moving, and sometimes a little boring. The adventure just seems to ramble on and on, and in a lot of cases it was just TOO easy. The author spends a lot of time telling, and not much time showing. (I know you hear that a lot. I want to feel like I am IN the story, joining these characters on their adventure, not like I am reading a story by someone who is watching them from afar, catching bits and pieces of their conversation.) The conversations between the characters does not always flow smoothly, rather feels forced and jarring.
The characters seem interesting at first, but once you start really looking at them as you go through the story, they leave you with a lot of questions:
Cornelius: You don't really learn much about him before he's whisked away by this unknown kidnapper. You do know that he's a rather nice guy, especially after taking in Craig and some things that are hinted at from his past.
Craig: He really is loved by someone above. Everything happens so easily for him - he just happens to meet people who can help him along his way, gets out of fights without being harmed (or makes a new friend out of the situation - i.e. the people he meets when he first enters the forest), and the clues he finds are as obvious as those on Blues Clues. For him being one of the main characters, I found him very uninteresting.
Audrey: She's really everything Craig isn't. She was fun, but most of the time she was just too far out there to be believable. And I agree with a review I read on Goodreads: Where did the swords come from?!?! (And this is not the only question left unanswered.)
Lily: I like Lily (she's the horse). It's not exactly realistic to say that she swims like a barracuda (yup, that happened), but all-in-all, she was my favorite character.
The villain: He laughs maniacally. That's really the only thing I remember about him. Maybe because I felt like he was doing it a lot. He reminded me of a villain from a cartoon, like Mojo Jojo on PowerPuff Girls.
And the one thing that I kept coming back to is ... these people are not alchemists. Alchemist, when you look in a thesaurus, seems like a pretty word for wizard, sorcerer, magician ... but if you don't look at it's definition, you miss out on the fact that it has to do with potions and concoctions, not plain old spells and staffs. An alchemist is "a person who is versed in or practices alchemy," and alchemy is "any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance, of great value," think metals into gold, universal solvents into an elixir of life. That's not what these guys are.
I think this book would be great for younger children, the ones that are just starting into chapter books (even though the chapters are long) ... as long as they are not big fans of adventure and fantasy. There are some good moments and I think, if the child is new to reading, this could encourage her/him to want to read more, and would be a great way to introduce them into the world of fantasy books. But if you have already been indulging them with fantasy and adventure, you may want to steer clear of this one.
Note: I received a copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Please remember that this review is my opinion based on my own personal impressions of the book.