Title: Across the Fourwinds (The Maidstone Chronicles #1)
Authors: Shane Trusz and Darryl Frayne
Publisher: Fairbay Publishing
Publication date: December 19, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Summary: Morgan finds a sword that calls to her in her attic. Will can see creatures no one else can. When the world becomes too strange and unsafe, they find themselves tumbling into another world where life suddenly starts to make a whole lot more sense. Feeling more at home there than in their own, they join up with Rowe, a Callum Sage protecting the portal between the two worlds, in his journey into the heart of the Dark Queen’s realm to rescue a valuable general.
I really, really wanted to love this book. Nothing excites me more than the idea of being a seemingly perfectly normal person of this world who steps into a fantasy realm. While I found the influence of the fantasy world infecting the small Canadian town Will and Morgan came from to be very well done, I was disappointed by the fantasy world. This was one grand adventure, but I’m afraid the authors might have been a bit too ambitious.
Portal fantasy is just one of the many subgenres fantasy as to offer. I loved that this book fully embraced it and that a good chunk of the beginning of the novel involved the fantasy world leaking into our world. It’s dark and scary and really hints at the dangers present in the Fourwinds. But, while it had a strong start, it quickly went downhill. Portal fantasies can be difficult to get right. You have characters who literally know nothing of the world they find themselves in, so an info dump seems warranted. Except they’re hard to read, hard to understand, and present way too much information. It breeds confusion for the reader and can quickly kill genuine interest. I did like that there were hints to how the Fourwinds parallel our world, but it wasn’t well explored.
I wanted to love the world. It’s the typical Euro-centric sort, but was well-laid out and there’s a plethora of mythical creatures from dragons to mermaids to gnomes. I liked that they were familiar, but twists here and there that made them unique to the world. Also, I really liked Acttun. It kind of reminded me of a more insane L.A. I doubt I’d ever want to visit Acttun, but it was interesting to read about. The one thing I found lacking was the lack of a history to the world. Sure, we’re given some and a few more bits and pieces, but I do think the history could have been richer and deeper and would have helped pull the world and story together much better.
Which brings me to my next point. There was so much information. Probably too much. Details were sprinkled here, there, and everywhere, but none of it seemed to really connect together. It was almost as though the authors were trying to flesh out the world, but, without a clear history of how the world as it was presented came about, it all but collapses. There were so many threads, so many sprinkles, that it was almost impossible to keep track of everything, and nothing seemed to be clearly linked or explored to more than a mention. I appreciate that the authors were crafting a unique world, but there was simply too much introduced. Of course, this is basically a rescue story and the characters must traverse the world, but every step brought something new, and it just lacked unity. Details introduced at the beginning of the book seemed practically forgotten by the end. I was a little disappointed that some of the information and bits of intrigue the reader was given at the beginning was simply swept off as now wasn’t the time for it. Layer upon layer was added, but the world lacked true depth and complexity. In the end, I fear the world collapses under the weight of so much information. I only hope that the rest of the series evens it out and better develops the world. As the first book, and, thus, first introduction to the world, I had higher hopes and was disappointed.
Another problem portal fantasies can have are with the characters. After all, they’re seemingly normal people dropped into a completely different world. I don’t know about you, but I would be seriously freaked out. I admired the calm and control Will and Morgan had, but it all seemed too neat and perfect. How could they possibly just accept everything? I get that there were hints in their real world that spoke to them being different, but their whole concept of the world and life shifted and they were fine with it. Sure, they’re special, but the easy acceptance and their eventual changes along the road all happened as if by magic. Neither character had any real, true personal growth. It all seemed to be magically explained away. I liked that Rowe was so patient about explaining everything, but, for someone who really enjoyed his books and research, I would have expected more curiosity from him whenever Will and Morgan mentioned their world.
This is a book full of adventure where the four main characters were literally walking into the heart of a dark queen’s realm. There was plenty of action, plenty of adventure. But there was also an incredible amount of fighting. As a mom of two, I think the longest stretch of reading I did was about 45 minutes, so I felt like I was reading a fight every single time I picked up the book. It wasn’t overly graphic or gory, but they all followed the same style, so they became boring after awhile, as tends to happen when the action is written the same way as the narrative. They also became achingly unrealistic.
Overall, I think this book had a great concept. The world at first glance was interesting and the characters showed a lot of promise. Unfortunately, there was so much weight placed on the story and setting that the book kind of collapses. Still, it has a lot of good parts that keep it from being annoying, enough to keep it floating. It also definitely provided enough information to float an entire series.
How many cups of tea will you need?
3 cups, even though there were quite a few things I didn’t like, I still liked the ambition behind it.
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Thank you so much to the author, Shane Trusz, for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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