by Mark Morrison
Independent | February 21, 2018
     Sarah and her twin brother Jon are heirs to an ancient magical realm and its most valuable treasure, an enchanted library. The library endows readers with the supernatural means of crossing into the uncharted inner-sanctum of the second dimension, inhabited by peculiar and sometimes perilous creatures.
     The children are emboldened with a wondrous mystical gift that no other being has ever possessed. But fate intervenes and triggers a disastrous inter-dimensional war that disrupts the fabric of time and space spanning multiple universes, tearing destiny a new and savage pathway.
     The two must rescue their world from a phantom hybrid alien race controlled by a demented dark-wizard, Jeremy Sermack. They will either assimilate or be exterminated.
     Will they be the saviors the prophets spoke of, or will they retreat to the perceived safety of their distant homeland?

I haven't read a Middle-Grade book/a book in a long time, so I am out of the loop. I remember enjoying A Series of the Unfortunate Events, The Magic Treehouse, and Geronimo Stilton. I enjoyed those books because they were short, exciting, and imaginative; that's the criteria I have for this book. Unfortunately, this book was difficult to adjust to, slow, and boring; the story-telling failed to lure me, I was caught up in awkward writing, slow pacing, and inconsistencies.

The story did not begin the way I expected. What I inferred from the synopsis was that the siblings were already acquainted with the magical system. I expected the book to start with the characters wandering the library with magic everywhere. I was lost, like the characters in the lengthy car ride. Being lost is bad enough, but a glaring plothole is even worse! The mother is ignorant to the supernatural at the beginning of the book, but aware a few chapters later? She's been, allegedly, aware her whole life. She also does not have a Welsh accent/speak in the same manner as her parents, even though, I assume, she is Welsh and lived with her parents. She has trouble getting to her parent's home, but once she's back, it's like she never left. Grandpa's personality does a 180 that is incongruous to his introduction; you can blame not being a morning person to such an extent. 

I wasn't a fan of the brother-sister dynamic. I know siblings don't always get along, but I wish the twins had more of a twin connection. They had a trope-y feeling - they were twins to make the plot more interesting because people are fascinated by twins. They felt like caricatures of children, and other characters were unrealistic-I couldn't connect with them. The boy was gross, loud, and had various stains on his shirt. The girl was bratty, naggy and obsessed with her phone. Not all boys are gross and rowdy. Not all girls are stuck-up. This representation feels out of touch with contemporary culture, and the phones were added to "youth it up"/appeal to the young audience. I do not see readers in the Middle-Grade audience enjoying this novel. 

I didn't read far enough to discover the magical library. But, I did get up to the part where the grandparents introduced the background. The explanation, like the writing style, felt very campfire storytelling. "Gather 'round the campfire, kids. You're gonna sit here a while, be bored, and you're gonna like it!" It's grandiose, bells and whistles, over-detailed, and dramatic. It's superfluous and I don't think the story translates well into writing; it's an oral story. There were too many details for mundane things. This book was not exciting and adventurous as I hoped. The introduction of the magic system is thrown all over the place. I understand the author wants to sensitize us to it, but it could have been done differently.

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