Title: Requiem, Changing Times
Author: R. J. Parker
Publisher: Olympia Publishers
Publication date: September 26, 2019
Summary: In one world, O’Neil and Banks are running from pursuers as they make their way back to their home to begin a mission to save their world. In the same world, the Fury are on a similar mission to retrieve what O’Neil and Banks are seeking to retrieve to save their world, but definitely have no intention of saving the world. In our world, Clint and Corbin are two middle school kids looking forward to the upcoming Halloween dance, if Clint can ever get up the nerve to talk to his crush intelligibly. When a whole bevy of fantastical creatures tumble out of nowhere, they find their lives, and the lives of Clint’s siblings, irrevocably changed as O’Neil and Banks and their team seek to protect them wile finding the mysterious Requiem and the other, more sinister team only seems to want to kill them all and take Clint with them.
I’m honestly not even sure how to categorize this book as I’ve seen it listed as MG, YA, and simply as Fantasy. There are elements of all three, which was kind of mind boggling. I’m not a big reader of Middle Grade books, but do enjoy the charm of innocence, and am always on the lookout for books my kids might enjoy when they are older. I thought this book sounded like a lot of fun, and right up my alley as I love clashing worlds. I really liked the idea of a fantasy world coming into ours instead of people from our world heading into a fantasy world. A portal fantasy in reverse. I hoped for a fun, lighthearted read with lots of adventure, but I’m afraid I got something that felt a little too adult.
The Characters: What Lovely Siblings!
The book description only mentions Clint, Corbin, O’Neil, and Banks, but the book itself has so many more characters. I found it difficult to remember who this book was supposed to be about, and often wondered if I was even right. From the description, it should be Clint and Corbin, at least, but it seemed to be more of a family affair. I did love that Clint has so many siblings, both blood siblings and stepsiblings. They were each a lot of fun and had quite a bit of character and spunk, as well as fun moments of being completely befuddled. At the same time, the story focused on them as a group though much of the story was told from Clint’s perspective. It was a little confusing to figure out who the story was supposed to be about. I suppose it’s the whole family, but then there were parts when Clint was clearly the focus and the whole story revolved around him. I suppose I just wish the POV had been nailed down a little better, but I really loved reading about the whole family.
I did so love the characters. They were probably my favorite part of this book. I thought Kayla was quite mature for her age, though, and Tamara’s change was so sudden it felt like it came from left field, but, really, the characters made the story fun and interesting. The only one that bothered me was Corbin because he honestly felt like a rubber ball pinging off every wall in the house. The only consistent thing about his character was that he was fun. Cody was probably my favorite. As the second oldest (I won’t even go into the oldest kid because she isn’t seen much and was really painted as being too self-absorbed for my tastes), he had quite a bit of responsibility on his shoulders, so his freak outs and wanting to be noble at the same time was so much fun.
I also really liked the characters from the other world. The bad ones were really bad and the good ones were typical good ones. They kept the Earth kids in the dark until they couldn’t anymore, but were really set on protecting them. It was kind of sweet, but also infuriating. Still, they were a lot of fun, especially O’Neil, though I was torn between thinking him lazy and dangerous.
The Setting: A Portal Fantasy in Reverse, So…Here
Most of the book takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area. I haven’t spent much time in that area, so I don’t know it well, but I didn’t get a strong Northern California feel from the book. I couldn’t help but wonder where all the natural fog was. Though there was mention of a lot of hills. Still, I got more of a sense of a small city or even a large town more than I did San Francisco. Unless the city was named, I actually stopped thinking it was anything other than some unnamed city. There is a nearby farm that’s mentioned, along with the couple who run it, and I just completely failed to believe it could exist in the Bay Area. Though, I could be very wrong.
The fantasy world felt quite intriguing. The reader only gets a small slice of it as most of the book takes place in our reality, but it felt like it was more detailed and had a better sense of place. That doesn’t mean I know much about it from reading this one book, but it did sound intriguing and I liked that part of the world was comprised of completely ordinary inhabitants who changed because of the evil intent in their hearts. It was such a unique concept, I almost wish the story had taken place there rather than on Earth.
The Plot: A Lot More Dangerous Than Expected
This is one area that really left me wanting. The book opens with quite a bit of action and excitement, but then it doesn’t really tie in with anything else in the book. I spent the entire thing wondering when we would get back to it. It felt like the first 10% or so was just a really long build-up to the real story and, at the end of the book, you realize it’s all actually just set up for a greater series. I felt like the whole purpose of this book was just to get a bunch of kids from one place to another under the guise of looking for something called the Requiem.
From the description, I expected a fun story of two middle school kids attempting to juggle school and trying to help two weird beings from another world find some kind of relic. Instead, it was a whole family of kids being roped into really dangerous missions that actually injured and nearly killed them all multiple times. This is actually where the idea of this book being MG completely lost me. Too much of the content is for an older audience and I think, if I were to let my kids read this when they’re in middle school, it would probably freak them out. It was so far from the fun book I envisioned. Instead, it’s full of death and destruction, as well as a whole bunch of opening scenes that didn’t really add much to the story and could have been left out.
I really wanted to like this book. I was really hoping it would be a fun read, especially as we now find ourselves being told to stay home. I find myself requiring fun, adventure, and excitement. Instead, this book kind of horrified me. It may read like a book for a younger audience in terms of the writing itself and how the story was laid out, having a really nice focus on family, and heavily involve a middle school kid, but I think I’d rather firmly shelve this on the adult shelves and wonder just why some people might call this MG, unless that genre has really shifted in recent years, in which case my kids will be stuck reading picture books until they’re 18.
Lastly, I’d like to point out that this book required a heavy dose of willing suspension of disbelief for me. There were bits and pieces strung all over the place that were never returned to or were seemingly forgotten. The details were lacking. There was more of a focus on all the action and driving the story forward than on putting the time and energy on really fleshing out the story so it made terrific sense, so I found myself having to ignore all these bits of pieces and suspend disbelief so I could believe it.
Overall: Great Characters, But the Story Left Me Wanting
This book has some good points and some points that I wasn’t too keen on. I adored the characters and I loved their relationships. They were so much fun. But the story itself was anything but fun. It was full of death and destruction and, frankly, a lot of the content just horrified me. Some might label this MG, but, unless it’s really changed lately, I can’t see myself calling it that. Some have called it YA, which might be more appropriate, but I didn’t get many YA vibes from it. The teenage characters were painted through more childlike eyes, though there is a touch of romantic interest. But I really, really, really loved that this book brought fantasy characters into our world, though I was disappointed by how the end went. Overall, great if you enjoy daring missions involving children and can forgive a lot of the trauma these kids are likely to face.
How many cups of tea will you need?
3 will do just fine
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Thank you to the author, R. J. Parker, for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.