Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!)
Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy fantasy adventure kid books, this one’s pretty good.
Publisher: Self-published (2012)
Length: 244 pages
Series: Book 1 Hartlandia
Young Stanley Delacourt lives in Meadowwood’s library, where he quietly and efficiently attends to the books, patrons, and the old, sleeping librarian. Stanley’s parents passed away many years before and the library has been his home. Sophie (the apothecary’s apprentice and ward) and Will (who lives on a farm with his family) are his two best friends, and Meadowwood is having an annual festival. There’s food, a boat race, fortune tellers, and good cheer left and right. At least until the second morning when the town awakes to learn that Will was killed by a guard in the night for defying the Ruler-in-Place Christopher Siren’s curfew, which was recently announced.
Stanley can barely fathom it and so he sets out on a quest to demand an explanation from Siren. Perhaps he doesn’t know how his rules are being harshly enforced? But as Stanley marches forth, he learns of other control-freak rules and starts to doubt that Siren is a reasonable man. While I was a bit saddened that Sophie did not get to go on the adventure with Stanley, I was glad to see that she did not bow out of the story all together, managing to grasp her new-found witchy powers and send some helpful spells his way.
This story was well written and well paced, mixing in the action with character development and dialogue. Each person we meet in the story was well-defined and I didn’t feel like I was simply visiting with 20 versions of the main character. The mix of magic, small town country concerns, and touches of modernism gave this tale by Ilana Waters a unique feel. the main message throughout the book was repeated in various ways without being overbearing of turning the Story into a Lesson – Think For Yourself.
Stanley meets several good-natured beings on his trip, who gift him with various items, wisdom, or other aid. While I liked all these characters and Stanley’s interactions with them, after the second one I felt that some things were coming a little too easily to Stanley. Still, it wasn’t enough to deter me from happily finishing the book. One other minor criticism, which might not be a criticism at all for younger readers, was that the evil never seemed real to me because there were no bodies – we were simply told this person or that person was dead without actually seeing them laid out. No body, no crime. I need a cold body to believe. Once again, this minor irk wasn’t enough to keep me to enjoying the book.
What I Liked: The unique world, shown to me bit by bit; the hedgehog-like critter; Sophie is a spitfire and I want to see more of her!; there are hidden pasts for the main characters, providing a backdrop of wonder and suspense throughout the novel; jokes at the expense of Hartlandia’s bureaucracy.
What I Disliked: Minor point – no bodies; Stanley does receive several convenient gifts along the way.