Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: Oliver and Harriet and the Dark Forest by P.R. Schoenfeld

Synopsis from back of book. "Oliver and Harriet are a seemingly normal set of twins, living a normal life, in our normal world, with one exception -- they are not normal -- they have the strange ability to read each others' mind -- something they thought was perfectly normal. Oliver and Harriet know nothing about other realms, strange creatures, magic potions, or evil tyrants. That is until they turn thirteen and return to the realm where they were born -- Framington, to stay at their Gam's house for the summer. Oliver and Harriet quickly realize their summer journey would not be like anything they have ever experienced before, and could be and experience they may not survive. Framington is a mythical place full of colorful hobbits, cranky ogres, and fire breathing dragons -- a place where their father once ruled and they are decedents to the throne. Framington is now ruled by an evil tyrant -- Lord Thornas. Thornas has been confined to the Dark Forest for years and the only way out is for him to find "The Book" -- a book which only Harriet has the ability to use. Thornas must find a way to lure Oliver and Harriet to Albazar castle to gain possession of "The Book." If Lord Thornas succeeds Oliver and Harriet will surely not make it out of the Dark Forest alive."
Richi's Review.
In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

This was a very good story, it reminded me a lot of Fablehaven and 100 Cupboards, and if you enjoyed those stories you will like this one as well.

It was one of those books that you could tell it was the authors debut novel, not to say it was badly written but it didn’t quite have the polish that normally only comes with experience.

I enjoyed the way the author wrote as if talking to the reader, it made it seem as if someone is telling a story and perfect for an adult to read to a child.

Early on I thought some of the descriptions were overly simplified, but as the story went on I thought they became good for a middle-grade novel, enough to follow what is happening and to visualise the world but short enough to keep the pacing fast.

I thought the author did a good job with building the world while still progressing the story, the pacing was always kept up and I never felt that the world building went on for too long.

There were Scooby-Doo clues in the book, meaning that whenever there was a clue the author and characters would make it very clear that it was a clue, I guess this is okay for a middle-grade novel but as an adult it made it very obvious.

It seemed a bit unrealistic that the children’s grandmother would bring them to the world and then immediately leave them alone for several days. I also thought the children did too much on their own, rather than ask for adult help. They also go into the woods after being told how dangerous it is. These sorts of things really bother me and seem to happen a lot in middle-grade books.

The characters were good, there was nothing particularly original about them but they were still very interesting. The interaction between the characters was excellent. I loved the concept of telepathy between twins but felt more could have been done with this and the ability used more often.

I felt that characters would be able to work things out too easily or predict what others were doing far too easily. I also thought that the children overpowered and outwitted the bad guys too easily; this seemed both unrealistic and took away the peril making it less exciting.

Overall I thought this was a very good book and lovers of Fablehaven and 100 Cupboard will enjoy this story as well. You could tell this was the author’s debut novel as it wasn’t quite as neat as more experienced novels and the few problems I had with the book extend from that, I will be looking forward for more books in this series.

rating: 4 stars 

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