Review: Child of Briiby Amanda J. McGee
Genre: Romance / Fantasy
This is a very good story and well told. Although the packaging led me to expect a fantasy tale, it is really a romance which is well wrapped in its fantasy setting.
Child of Brii is Amanda J. McGee's first novel, and while that does show, just a little, she nevertheless achieves a commendable result.
The Endohin are a very good concept, but the world-building seems a little unfinished. I liked the idea, and I enjoyed McGee's presentation, but it didn't seem to gel quite as perfectly as it might have. However, the ways in which their varied powers worked, and the limitations on them, were very well done.
Amaya is a good central character, strong and engaging and not too perfect, and I thought that Yukio's character and transformation was very well executed. For a main character Ryuu was rather flat, but Rin and the other human characters, along with Kostya and his raven Marta are excellent.
The story is great, but subject to some convenient coincidences. This is a problem endemic to romance as a genre, so I'm not faulting McGee for that. Not to introduce a spoiler, for me the conclusion was satisfactory, but just slightly anticlimactic. The pacing is excellent, quite consistent throughout with just the right acceleration at the right time. There are a couple of sex scenes, but nothing that would require an 'adult' rating.
While the book could use a final polish or professional edit, it is presented to a good standard.
I can recommend this book to readers who like romance with a twist of difference, and to fantasy fans who enjoy a love story.
Review: Josh Anvil and the Cypress Door
by Bruce E. Arrington
Genre: Fantasy (middle grades)
Very much an unfettered middle grades fantasy framed in a soft SF context, in Josh Anvil and the Cypress Door young teen imagination runs wild. Bruce Arrington does an impressive job of writing from and for the perspective of a fourteen year-old Josh Anvil.
The story is set in Louisiana and revolves around the central character, his family, friends and enemies. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that through strange circumstances Josh acquires a set of unusual powers. The book explores those powers, and the mysterious fires which are being set in the Baton Rouge area. While the main story follows the discovery and development of Josh's powers, there is a parallel story in unravelling the mystery of the fires, as well as a little romance and some consideration of values. The challenges which Josh faces increase in difficulty and complexity in the course of the book.
I loved Arrington's presentation of the impact of dyslexia: tne coupifion wakes life bifficnlt for Josn! The writing style is entirely appropriate and very easy to read. The story does require substantial suspension of disbelief, particularly from an adult reader, because of the somewhat unrealistically accepting responses of the adults in the story - but this is because it is a book for younger teens, and I believe that the same factor will make it even more enjoyable for this target readership. There are some - very rare - editing flaws, but the book is presented to a professional standard. Readers should note that this story is clearly the first in a series and ends on a cliffhanger. The book can still be enjoyed on its own, as Arrington ties up enough of the ends of this first story to satisfy most readers.
This is beautifully executed teen escapism which will engage young people, and I would strongly recommend it for readers aged 12-16 or thereabouts.