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1. Book Title 10 of 10
Vanished (The Lost Children of Managrail Book Two) is one of those young adult fantasy titles one can really sink ones reading teeth into! It tells the potential reader one of two things: 1st, this series is about young people which is sure to make it instantly relatable to the audience towards whom it is geared; and, 2nd, being that the overall title deals with characters who are, in some way, lost the notion that in this particular story someone or something has vanished creates a sense of urgency to find out ‘what has happened?’ and more importantly, ‘why has it happened?’
2. Book Cover 10 of 10
This is a truly stunning cover. It’s has a haunting effect and when one marries the title ‘Vanished’ to the image of the person in the center who appears to be fading (look closely and you can ‘see thru’ the image) as they wander through a dark, creepy forest if you’re a fantasy fan (regardless of your age) it shouts, ‘come on…you know you want to know what’s going on!’
3. The First 500… 10 of 10
I’ll admit I was utterly captivated by the first chapter of the story (I decided to NOT consider the prologue in the First 500…because it’s sort of a summation of the ending of book 1 and isn’t close to 500 words!) I really felt for this young princess, Lila, who found herself gosh only knows how far from her homeland, stuck in a place as cold as its name…The White Realm. To know that she’d never seen snow and was now trapped in a place where ice was common put Lila in the ‘fish out of water’ category. And the introduction of some rather scary looking creatures, who themselves appeared to be a bit scared (but of what?) was intriguing.
4. Is the Age Recommendation ‘right’? 9 of 10
This is truly a book designed to be read by young people…but not ‘children’ per se. What I mean is in a day and age where some authors thing of ‘Young Adult’ as being sexually and socially savvy, this book caters to the 10 to about 14 year age range with characters who are just a little bit older than they are. Joice’s Vanished shows a growing sense of maturity in the characters as the story (quickly) advances. They rise to the occasion to help out one another because it’s the right thing to do. Yes, there are whispers of love and romance in the story but it’s budding and based on respect for one another.
After you read the next section, I think you’ll understand why I gave it an 9 instead of a 10.
5. Presentation and Format. 6 of 10
Okay, this is one of the few areas wherein I find serious fault with the book because while it is fast paced (a plus), the format that is used makes it very easy to get confused while reading. Why? Because the story jumps, within chapters, from characters in one location to characters in another location with nothing but a few asterisks (***) to inform the reader of the location and character shift. Further, when a shift does occur…the story in that particular setting is told from the first person POV of the main character in that setting.
At first, when the story pretty much revolved around Lila…I didn’t have a problem whatsoever. Then, when the Simian and Hafina characters were introduced (and the story was told from Simian’s POV) I was thrown for a couple of paragraphs but once I figured it out, I did fairly well. Essentially, I found myself falling into a ‘parallel action groove’ so to say and was doing just fine…until…more and more characters were introduced…all of whom had a unique perspective on the story.
Then, towards the climatic action in Plyth (a land ‘protected’ by a creature who lets people in but never lets them out and had been there for about 100 years) where most all of the significant characters wind up — I got SO confused because there were so many different characters speaking from the ‘I’ perspective. Lila, Simian, Rethco, Daton, Tirinia, and, let’s not leave out the evil sorceress, Shantra. Oh, and there’s also a crow who can talk and can transform into a human and this character also presents the story in the first person. And remember, this is all happening with fast-paced forward-progressing action wherein the reader is only advised of a ‘new speaker’ through the use of asterisks (***) and the occasional chapter break.
What I’m getting at is…I’m an adept reader and have read many parallel action stories but never one with SO many characters and SO much happening…and I found myself getting confused. When I think of the audience to whom this book is geared, I fear that the lower end of the spectrum, age-wise, would have to be very high level readers to keep up because if they’re not – when they get to the point where I started going ‘Huh? Wait…who is this?’ they might give up reading the story altogether because it becomes a massive jumble.’
Likewise, those kids who are around the 14-15 year old mark but who are NOT strong readers will seriously struggle with this story. And this I can say with 100% confidence because I used to teach that specific age range in the regular education setting, the wholly special education setting, and in a blended setting. I’ve seen SO many weak readers give up on stories that I know they’d love, simply because the writer doesn’t follow the basic story structures these struggling readers have been trained to follow so they can become stronger readers.
I think the issue lies in the fact that sometimes writers, especially Indie Authors, tend to forget they’re not writing for themselves…they’re writing for a target audience. And when you’re writing for a target audience you MUST walk a fine line between high interest/twists and turns AND structured prose.
And thus, for this lack of cohesiveness and understanding of the target audience in so much as the presentation and format goes, I feel I must be true to what I think (and remember this is ONLY what I think…others may disagree) and give this element 6 of 10.
6. Theme and Originality 10 of 10
In the world of fantasy it’s pretty much either going to be a 1 (didn’t get close to being original) 5 (it’s good but I think I’ve heard this before) or 10 (spot on…very original and fresh) Of course there will be some who get a little higher or lower than a 5 for various reasons. But so far as this fantasy book goes, sure it’s got magic and creepy things and that sort of stuff but it’s also got this unexpected element of what happens to Lila as well as the circumstances around which it happens. Totally deserves 10!
7. Description and Enhancement 10 of 10
Terrific! The way Joice details things like the scenery (on a grand scale) and little things like eye color, shapes of teeth, and even the way an evil Sorceress suffers after being poisoned is done very well. Impressive. In fact, the descriptions give it an almost cinematic feel. Personally, I think this book would make an excellent action adventure cartoon series. I would say movie but something about having ‘real’ people takes away from that almost anime feeling I got from it.
8. Intrigue. 9 of 10
The ONLY reason I’ve taken one point off is because while it was a very intriguing story, there was that feeling of frustration when I wasn’t always 100% sure who was actually talking. It detracted just a tad.
9. Mechanics 10 of 10
While I personally have concerns with the POV issue, I must say it is extremely well written. Any ‘mistakes’ were so insignificant, they’d not be noticed on a galloping horse! (Unfortunately, when I read I tend to find that my ‘editor eyes’ turn on and my horse slows down to a slow walk!) But for the general reader – I doubt they’d notice anything. And I must say for Joice and her editors to keep up with the here and there and somehow maintain a sense of cohesion is pretty impressive.
10. Overall Impression 10 of 10
I have no doubt that if this book Vanished (The Lost Children of Managrail Book 2) and it’s predecessor, The Rising, can ‘get noticed’ outside of Indie circles…it’ll do very well! It deserves a 10 for sure.
And now for the Blossoms!
Let’s see – after totaling up the points, Aron Joice’s Vanished (The Lost Children of Managrail 2) has earned 94 points! And that my dear readers is enough for 5 awesome Magnolia Blossoms! Way to go! Put it on your reading list…today!