Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: The Dream Walker by Michelle Murray

mysticaThe Dream Walker (Land of Mystica Series #1) by Michelle Murray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The Dream Walker (Land of Mystica Series #1) by Michelle Murray transports the reader to the land of Mystica, where a once-trapped wizard has escaped his magical bonds and is wreaking havoc on the kingdom. Miranda, a seemingly-normal college student from the human realm, begins to have dreams about a distraught king in a magical land. When Miranda goes to a local bookstore to research her dreams, she learns that she is actually a dream walker — a person with the ability to see into other worlds during dreams and even travel to those other worlds. Recognizing her destiny, Miranda transports herself to Mystica and takes on the quest of saving the land from the evil wizard.

The Dream Walker has everything fantasy readers crave in a novel. Mystica feels like a land where anything is possible and offers a captivating variety of fantastical locations, magical acts, and amazing creatures and beings. It features everything from wizards to dragons to chivalrous huntsmen. Readers will easily become enchanted with the world Murray has created and enjoy the twists and turns of Miranda’s journey.

From a plot standpoint, The Dream Walker moves quickly from one part of the quest to another. There is rarely a dull moment, which makes for a fast read. The language is straightforward and a bit simple, and when combined with the steady action, it makes for an engaging, family-friendly story for children and young adults.

At the same time, my main critique with The Dream Walker is that the plot moves a bit too quickly. The book itself is rather short and feels to be written more in summary than in scene. As someone who was intrigued by the concept and adored the land of Mystica, I would have liked to have more detail of Miranda’s adventure and for the novel to have had more room to develop characters and really immerse me in the plot, as opposed to jumping quickly from one bit of action to the next. Likewise, I will say that the language was a bit too simplistic for my taste (but again, that is more acceptable for a children’s novel), and the novel definitely needs the touch of a good proofreader.

Overall, The Dream Walker (Land of Mystica Series #1) is a fun fantasy adventure that takes place in a magical, intriguing land. With a bit more fleshing out of the plot and less summarizing, this could be a fantastic novel. As it stands, it is a quick-paced, light read, perfect for children or young adults looking to embark on a quest.

View all my reviews


mysticaIf you are interested in reading The Dream Walker (Land of Mystica Series #1) and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it through my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: Oak and Mist by Helen Jones

oak and mistOak and Mist (The Ambeth Chronicles #1) by Helen Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Oak and Mist (The Ambeth Chronicles #1) by Helen Jones is a young adult fantasy novel. It follows the journey of Alma, a seemingly-normal teenage girl, who learns she is prophesized to find the lost Regalia of the land of Ambeth and restore the balance of Light and Dark in the world. If she fails, Ambeth and the human world will be lost to the Dark and eventually fall to destruction.

For fans of fantasy, Oak and Mist’s fictional realm, Ambeth, will be a dream. The land is beautifully described and has just the right amount of magic to be enchanting without feeling overdone. However, Ambeth is not perfect and peaceful. There is a subtle danger lurking behind the beauty, not only in members of the Dark but also in certain themes of the land, which leave the reader feeling just the right amount of unsettled.

The main characters in Oak and Mist are well-developed. Alma is a typical teenage girl—a little bold, a little shy, and very much prone to being love-struck. Caleb also has decent depth, as he struggles to balance his intellectual interest in the quest, his friendship for Alma, and his deeper feelings for her. The side characters are also well-developed; though they are not as complex as Alma and Caleb and sometimes feel a bit flat.

As far as plot as concerned, Alma’s quest is captivating and keeps the reader guessing. At times, the plot does become more preoccupied with Alma’s love life and friendships. While this provides good character development, I would have liked to actually sit in with Alma on some of her meetings with the elders and learn more about the lore of Ambeth. Moreover, the non-quest aspects of the novel take up so much of the text that the actual first part of the quest feels a bit too easy and makes the ending seem rushed. Likewise, at times, Alma’s crush on Deryck feels way too juvenile. I understand that this is a young adult novel, and I remember what it was like to be a teenage girl in “love,” but at times it feels forced and makes Alma seem shallow.

Overall, though, Oak and Mist is a fun and enchanting novel. Ambeth is a gorgeous and mysterious realm, and Alma’s quest will surely continue to be an intriguing adventure. I expect the target audience will enjoy the romantic subplot and some of the drama more than I did and will strongly identify with Alma and the other young characters. Fans of young adult fantasy will adore this novel.

View all my reviews


oak and mistIf you are interested in reading Oak and Mist and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it through my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: The Slapstyx by Annabelle Franklin

slapstyxThe Slapstyx by Annabelle Franklin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The Slapstyx by Annabelle Franklin is a charming children’s novel. It follows twins Gemma and Georgie on their mission to stop the Slapstyx goblin tribe from producing dirt and put environmentally-UNfriendly cleaning product ZOOM!!! out of business.

The Slapstyx contains numerous characters and themes that children love. It has magic – goblins, mermaids, and dreamwalking – that is playful and never too scary. Georgie and Gemma are both ambitious, clever, and kind. While I would have liked to have seen a bit more personality distinction between them, both girls are well-developed and very likable. The villain, Zachary Zigstack, is comically portrayed and the perfect level of evil for the twins to face. The side characters, while a bit simple, are developed enough for a children’s novel and touch on issues that many children have to tackle, including friendship, a parent’s remarriage, and (step-)siblinghood.

The over-arching theme of The Slapstyx is environmental consciousness. Franklin spends ample time explaining how ZOOM!!! adversely affects the environment. While much of the plot is enveloped in magic, there are still “real-world” elements that teach children about environmental issues, such as hints to capitalistic greed, toxins in the ocean, and animal endangerment. The environmental theme is well done and a great way to introduce children to this issue.

The writing itself is clear and simple, which allows the story and the characters to be the focus of the novel. The tone of The Slapstyx is playful and witty. Even in moments of danger, Franklin keeps the tone light and inserts comic relief. However, the novel does end on a rather violent note. While I do not think it was too violent for children, it did come as a bit of a surprise after how playful the rest of the novel was.

Overall, The Slapstyx is a fun novel with an important message. If your child (or even you) likes magic, adventure, take-charge characters, and socially-conscious themes, you will enjoy The Slapstyx.

View all my reviews


slapstyxIf you are interested in reading The Slapstyx and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it through my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: Seventh Son by A.M. Offenwanger

seventh sonSeventh Son by A.M. Offenwanger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Seventh Son by A.M. Offenwanger follows Catriona (Cat), a librarian in the midst of a (almost) quarter-life crisis, on a journey to a mysterious new world. While visiting a museum, Cat becomes captivated by a beautiful, turquoise pottery bowl. As she leans down to look at the bowl, Cat is suddenly whirled out of the museum and lands in the middle of a strange forest with no idea how it happened or where she is. As Cat encounters the locals and slowly learns about this new world, the mystery of her transportation there unfolds, and she must choose whether to stay with her new-found family or return to her own world.

Seventh Son wastes no time throwing Cat (and the reader) right into the action. For the first several chapters, the mysteries stack up on top of each other as Cat explores her surroundings and meets new people. Admittedly, it does take a while for Offenwanger to begin answering the reader’s many burning questions. However, once the answers start flowing, they do so at a steady pace that is satisfying but not a complete information dump. By the end of the novel, most of the questions are answered (except for those that lead into the second book), and the reader is fully satisfied.

The world Offenwanger has created is unique and a touch nostalgic. It hearkens back to years-gone-by with a slower pace of life and an economy that runs on craftsmanship and bartering. (To give you an idea, at one point the world is compared to a Renaissance Fair.) However, while some things are more primitive than Earth, they do have other impressive technologies, and of course, “magic.” What I especially like about the magic of this world is that it is subtle and the natives do not view it as “magical,” but rather as a spiritual part of individuals.

My favorite part of Seventh Son is the characters. Cat’s personality comes across strongly in both her narrative and dialogue and is well-rounded and dynamic. One particular tactic Offenwanger uses to accomplish this is to offset some of Cat’s thoughts or spoken comments in parentheses. Sometimes when writers do this, it reads oddly, but in this novel, the technique is so well-timed that it adds depth to and creates the perfect tone for the words.

In addition to Cat, the other characters in Seventh Son are unique and complex. Offenwanger does a nice job of giving the reader a strong sense of every character, even if s/he is only in a few scenes. Even Bibby, who is too young to communicate fully and the “villains,” who the reader should dislike, are given motives and personalities that allow the reader to empathize with, and in Bibby’s case, love them.

Together, the characters work even better. The relationships between the characters are realistic — fun, familiar, and appropriately emotional. When reading Seventh Son, I truly felt like I was experiencing the interactions of real individuals. The characters frequently made me smile.

My only critique of the novel is that I would have liked to have seen more romantic build up between Guy and Cat. While it is clear that they are interested in each other (and that the world demands a certain amount of conservatism), I would have liked to see a bit more flirtatiousness or tenderness between them. I like that the romantic plot did not overtake the main plot or fall into unnecessary physicality, but I almost felt like Guy and Cat were just meant to pair by default, and therefore, the romantic buildup was a little underwhelming. However, I still adore them as a couple (hence why I wanted more of their dynamic).

As far as the overall story line goes, Offenwanger sticks to the rules of the world and beautifully ties together the different individuals and objects in seamless ways. Some of the twists are surprises, and some an insightful reader will see coming — but they are satisfying nonetheless. The end of the novel is complete enough that it could stand alone, but it does leave enough loose ends to lead into another book (which it does).

If you enjoy light fantasy, a dash of romance, and solving plot puzzles, you will love Seventh Son by A.M. Offenwanger.

View all my reviews


seventh sonIf you are interested in reading Seventh Son. and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.