Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 352
Embrace the Weird
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
The author presents a magical setting with creative ideas driving the plot. The Ravenfall Inn in Wick, Oregon, is run by a family of psychics, and humans visit for various reasons. Some are oblivious to the strange goings-on, others come for the mystical aura, and some guests arrive looking for answers. The inn acts as another character and sees to all of the common tasks required to run a hotel. It listens when the family talks, replies using shakes and groans, cleans laundry and returns it to the guests’ rooms, and even provides delicious feasts. A jabberwocky named Sam, in the form of a black cat roams the grounds and guards the border between the Otherworld and the human world. While it doesn’t speak, it displays a sneaky, kind, protective, and mischievous personality that makes it a memorable character.
The point of view alternates between Anna and a teenage boy named Colin. Colin’s parents are murdered while in witness protection, and before fleeing the scene, his brother Liam tells Colin to meet him in Ravenfall. Colin has no idea about the existence of magic, so sharing his observations, thoughts, and confusion help readers realize there’s more going on than the characters know. Why hadn’t his parents said anything to him about where they met, who they were, or how Colin is connected to Wick? His point of view shares the emotional aspect of his parents’ murder and his mixture of fear, uncertainty, and desire for revenge. Anna’s point of view adds knowledge of how the magical world works, and readers will empathize with her need to prove she’s a useful member of the family. She balances Colin’s strong feelings with logical thinking on how to navigate the magical community and its potential dangers. The author provides uncertainties and vague memories that create questions about characters and potential outcomes for the problems. An ancient evil might be back.
Everyone in Anna’s family has a magical ability, but Anna thinks hers is the only one that’s useless. How can touching someone and seeing death lead to anything good? She’s more withdrawn than her siblings out of fear of what she might see and does her best to avoid contact with others. Her lack of a positive self-image is a major concern throughout the story, especially when she discovers Colin has abilities too. She also wonders if she’s having dreams or premonitions during the night, as the images are very unsettling. All of these factors create an internal conflict for Anna and sometimes hamper her efforts.
What didn’t work as well:
The alternating points of view are effective, but there are moments when I need to remind myself if a chapter is about Anna or Colin. This is not a major issue or distraction, but it happens.
The Final Verdict:
Embrace the weird. Colin learning to master his new powers is a main focus and is common in many middle-grade books, but it’s interesting how it’s only one part of the whole story. The family’s support of him is equally important in the adventure, and the resolution is only possible with their teamwork. The book offers sensitive character interactions, playful humor, and action-packed battles that will appeal to many young readers. I highly recommend you give it a shot, and I’m looking to its sequel called “Hollowthorn” coming in 2023.
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