Note that this was an advance review copy from Net Galley, for which I thank the publisher.
This is an amazingly good middle-grade fantasy novel about eleven-year-old Lorelei (or is she really Loremaster?), a young girl who lost her brother and parents, all of whom she loved very much - yes, even her brother - and not only did no one believe her story of what happened, no one was able to find her family. She was considered delusional for merely telling the truth about what happened, and was referred to a rather sinister psychiatrist.
This explains why, as we begin the story, she's climbing up onto the roof of her old home to try to get inside to find the 'comet stone' which she believes will deliver answers. Instead, she discovers that she's somehow called a griffon out of the peculiar world of Veloran, and he refers to her as Doolivanti. Before long, she's inside the fantasy land, and searching for a princess who can help her defeat the Ink King and return her family to her!
I loved how fast those story moved. It was perfect in that regard, but it wasn't all plain sailing. Pip, the toucan was annoying because he insisted upon duplicating every sentence he spoke! Other than that I had no problem with, and took every joy in the writing until the princess showed up. The attempt to make her speak in a pseudo medieval language didn't work. Maybe middle-graders won't notice or be bothered by this, but it felt fake to me, especially when she said "Prithee, to whence have I come?"!
Whence is a 'from' word, and it incorporates 'from', so you can't use it with 'to'. It's used in the form: "Whence this bounty?" if you should happen across an unexpected pile of gold for example, or a table laden with food. "Whence do you hail?" might be used to ask where someone came from. It's one of those antique words like 'wherefore', which doesn't mean 'where'. It means 'why?' When Juliet says, "Wherefore art thou Romeo?", she's asking why is he a Montague - the family so at odds with her own Capulet family? If he went by any other name, they would not be enemies. But what's in a name? As I said, the rest of the novel was so good that these things became minor considerations.
Kindle isn't known for being a solid app, and often Amazon's process for converting a novel to Kindle format merely mangles it instead. This one wasn't awful, but the Kindle formatting resulted in random lines being truncated half way across the screen, only to resume on the next line down. Also, and quite frequently, the Kindle version took the last line of a page and encased it in a number one at the beginning and a zero at the end, like this:--1 King in the dark. -0. I think perhaps the Kindle conversion process got confused with what was a page number and what was the last line on the page. Hopefully that will be resolved when the final release is published. On my iPad, in Bluefire Reader, the book looked perfect.
Kindle also loves to mangle images, and it did so with gay abandon in this case. The images are at the start of each chapter, and in the Adobe Digital Editions reader on my desktop, the entire book was formatted perfectly. On my phone though, Amazon sliced and diced, and even Julienned the images. I've seen this in many ebooks, and it was the reason I abandoned all hope of migrating images and special text formatting from my book Poem y Granite. I stripped all of the images out and formatted all of the text with the same font for the Kindle version.
One thing I found my imagination running away with in this novel was how Christmas carols seemed to be woven into the story. I'm reasonably sure the author never planned it that way and this is just my over-active imagination at work, but this is the kind of story, like Neale Osbourne's Lydia's Enchanted Toffee which I praised back in November 2015, that stimulates imagination and is the major reason why I'm rating this one a worthy read.
Humans (and many animals, are predisposed to see patterns in things. It's what keeps us alive if we're paying attention, and is part of what law enforcement and the military call "situational awareness." The downside is that it's the kind of thing which also fuels conspiracy theories and inane beliefs in UFOs, the Loch Ness "monster" and sasquatch. On the other side of that coincidence, if people didn't hold such beliefs, I'd never have been able to get away with Saurus, so I can't complain!
But I digress. I was impressed by the mysterious Silent Knight in this novel, and this got me on the Christmas carol track. Silent Knight? So, were the three characters Lorelei first meets, the three ships that came sailing in, or the three kings of orient (it's always three, isn't it?!). When I started thinking of Lorelei and Ripple, the aqueous-addicted princess of the antique language, as the Holly and the Ivy, I realized my imagination was indeed running away! You can warp anything to fit your "conspiracy" if you're willing to shed rationale and logic and let your imagination run riot!
So, before I let my imagination run away any more, let me say that I loved this novel, despite a minor issue here and there, and I recommend it highly. It's fun, it's fast-paced, it's inventive, it's amusing, and it's well worth reading even if you're not middle-grade! I look forward to Todd Fahnestock's next work with warm anticipation!