Just finished this charming YA fantasy:
As a 10 year-old, Alma had an unsettling experience, with a nasty scream, a silver flash of light in the mists, and a valley that shouldn’t have been there. However, by the age of 15 she’s buried the memory, and is, like so many teenagers, only interested in her friends and what the school bully have in store for her next.
So when she gets pushed (by said bully) through a magical gate into a fragrant and beautiful land, where people seem to be expecting her and treat her as somebody special, naturally, she wants to discover more. ‘More’ rapidly becomes a bit much, when she’s told that she is the foretold saviour of the Balance between Light and Dark, affecting both the world of Ambeth, and our own.
Jones has developed a charming world, with just enough magic, and describes it beautifully. I had no problem at all visualising the places, people and events that fill the world of Ambeth, and the whole book is very readable. The plot is quite simple, as befits a YA novel, but with enough intrigue and the necessary love triangle for the naive Alma, to keep the pages turning. Characters are all clearly depicted, with depth to the major players and not too many to keep track of. The dialogue flows smoothly, as does the narrative.
It did feel to me, despite the love aspect, to be aimed at the younger end of the YA range, with a tendency that every time there is something for Alma to mentally digest, she pops home for a little break of shopping or cooking (or eating!). There are some pretty heavy hints as to the parentage of both Alma and Caleb, and some of the important information withholding was, to me, a bit contrived, especially Alma’s mother not talking about her father and the mystery of the bracelet that allows her to manipulate her comings and goings between the two worlds.
I would have liked also, to see real evidence of the threat from the Dark Lords, as opposed to simply being told that they are not to be trusted. The tension that Alma feels over their possible threat felt a touch unrealistic, considering all that ever happened (before the climax) was a few suspicious looks and veiled verbal threats. She also decided that she can trust the Lords of Light for no compelling reason. Of course, she is an impressionable teen, but I needed more substance to the threat for ME to believe it.
On the same note, I did question why no one had researched the missing items in the library before Alma turned up, if it was the obvious place to look for information. Just because these people have a prophesy, doesn’t seem good enough reason not to make the effort.
On a personal level, I would have preferred more clarity to the viewpoint, rather than mixing viewpoints within the same segment, but that probably won’t bother the target audience. It did end on a cliff hanger of sorts, with a climax at about 85%, and the rest of the book devoted to deepening the problems for the next book, and although I’m not fond of cliff hangers, this one was, for me, acceptable, because there was a resolution first.
Overall, an enchanting and delightfully told tale, recommended for a younger YA audience.
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