Thursday, 23 August 2012

Talisman of El by Alecia Stone

Talisman of El is Alecia Stone’s first novel and the first book published by Centrinian Press. I received a review copy through Netgalley. It’s marketed as YA, but the protagonists are on the younger side for YA (14 years old), so I expect a younger reader would enjoy it more than a 16-18 year old.

Blurb nabbed from Goodreads:

One Planet.

Two Worlds.

Population: Human … 7 billion.
Others … unknown.

When 14-year-old Charlie Blake wakes up sweating and gasping for air in the middle of the night, he knows it is happening again. This time he witnesses a brutal murder. He’s afraid to tell anyone. No one would believe him … because it was a dream. Just like the one he had four years ago - the day before his dad died.

Charlie doesn’t know why this is happening. He would give anything to have an ordinary life. The problem: he doesn’t belong in the world he knows as home.

He belongs with the others.

Plot-wise, I was hoping for a fun read with some adventure thrown in. It started promisingly with Charlie, an orphan, living with his new foster-father. At the start he’s mostly concerned with fitting in at school and the adoption going well. That is until the social worker’s back is turned and his new guardian abruptly turns nasty. Then confusing dreams and mysterious strangers lead Charlie and his friends on a quest to find a mysterious world hidden inside the Earth (a la Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne but with more magic).

The writing is clunky and unpolished. At times there were completely wrong word choices (more than just typos, I mean), but the main thing was the lack of flow in the prose, sometimes within individual sentences. Also, the dialogue was unnatural and at times awkward. In the middle, large chunks of dialogue were info-dumps. A stronger editorial hand might have improved the writing, but on the other hand, a crit group might also have helped. As it was, I wanted to get a red pen and start scribbling on my Kobo. Your mileage and sensitivity to language may vary.

The plot started out all right, and I liked Charlie’s grungy friend Alex. She added contrast to both the school bullies and the other girls who liked Charlie (but of whom he was oblivious).

Once the weird things started happening, I didn’t feel that the story hung together as well, most notably the section set in the other world. I liked the way in which Charlie’s abandonment issues are explored in relation to Derkein, an adult that gets involved in the magic quest.

Overall, the book started all right, flagged in the middle and the ending was nice. It had potential but didn’t quite reach it.

2.5 / 5 stars

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