Sunday, October 29, 2017

Review of Imagine by Linda Workman-Crider

Book Review: Imagine by Jenna Greene
Review by: Linda Workman-Crider

Imagine a world where magic is accessible to only some chosen few, where dwarves and elves are real. Imagine in this world, entire villages being destroyed by an evil spellcaster and raptor-like and dragonish creatures. Imagine, you are Kat, a sixteen-year-old transported to this realm from Earth, told you have elemental magic and are charged with finding the other elementals and saving the land and its people. Now imagine that you are Becky, only ten and charged with discovering the only key that will unlock this quest’s success and all you have to go on is nothing more than a name and riddle. If you think you can be more imaginative than the author, Jenna Greene, you might want to think again.

Kat and Becky find each other after waking up in an empty field. They soon discover that they are no longer on Earth. They have been brought to a realm called Oren, where two different forms of magic are real; spellcasting that can be learned by some through major efforts, and a living form of inherited magic that is capable of evolving. Those-who-came-before were the first generation of living magic holders. The Naturals were the second. Kat is told by the last living Natural, Enalie, that she is the first known member of the third generation—The Elementals. Obviously close to death, Enalie tells Kat and Becky that they must find the other Elementals, recover a magical orb, and “put past mistakes to right.” They must race to save the lives of the citizens of Oren and their own lives, as well. And that’s just a summary of the first two chapters out of forty-four. From here, our quest begins.

I feel like I should warn you that although the author is delightfully diverse in creating characters, challenges, and terrain, she is as cold-hearted as the grim reaper when doling out deaths. Even though one of the main characters is a ten-year-old girl and the language of the text is easy to read, you shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that this is written in a manner to preserve the innocence of a young reader. This fantasy dives deeply into the unfairness of life and includes direct conversations dealing with death. The rest of this quest I shall leave you to discover as the author intended.

I have already given the basic information regarding the two main characters. As you might imagine, Kat at 16 years-old, has already developed some self-confidence and leadership ability prior to her arrival on Oren. She is old enough to use her reasoning skills in her efforts to come to terms with her new situation, as difficult as it may be. But what about Becky? What skills does she bring to enable her to fulfill her seemingly impossible task? Jenna Greene realistically writes Becky as a character viewed as needing protection and whose importance can easily be ignored. Both of our main characters are well rounded in moods and reactions to triumphs, discoveries, frustrations and failures.

All of the diverse characters in this book are given a unique voice and personality of their own, making it easy to feel close and drawn into their emotion, their dialogue, and their actions. While there is a solid storyline to the quest, I honestly feel like the characters are so well written that Jenna Greene could place them anywhere, with any task, and still capture the reader from start to finish.

As with all quest type plots, we follow the collected group and our main characters across terrain, through several challenges, and many physical/emotional trials in an effort to complete the given life or death tasks. Aside from effectively describing changing settings and diverse cultures and governing styles, I think what may set Jenna Greene above a standard level of world building in this book is that she creates plot-twists that are as unpredictable as real life. Jenna applies this as much to building settings, scenes, cultures, and governing styles as she does to creating plot. This life’s not fair approach to fantasy, due to our own experiences, is realistic and believable on a deeper level than most, while still offering an effective and enjoyable escape from our own reality.

I couldn’t wait to get to the About the Author section to gain insight into where Jenna Greene may have acquired this gift of writing such realistic fantasy. I anticipated a PhD in Psychology and an MFA in Creative Writing combined with many other studies and experiences. Her writing talent and her comprehension of the human condition seemed, to me, to require at least these things. Instead, I found her bio to be endearingly humble. She is a married middle school teacher from Canada. Now I can’t help but to imagine a huge spike in the success rates of students in Alberta if her approach to teaching is anything like her approach to writing.

I honestly can’t recall the last time that I have enjoyed a book this completely on so many levels. Out of 345 pages of reading, the strongest criticism I could find is that there were about five portions of writing, around the size of a paragraph or two each, that weren’t as polished as the rest or where the writers voice and style that I had grown accustomed to seemed to be randomly absent. As a reader, I stumbled in those few places and was forced to go back and reread these sections before I could move on. I struggled nowhere else in my comprehension or enjoyment of the book, unless you include the number times that I was shocked by an unexpected turn of events. Thankfully, no one was around to hear me as I gasped out loud, so I suffered from no personal embarrassment.

I especially appreciated that Jenna Greene included a section where death is discussed on a realistic level among the characters. We are brought to an understanding of the emotional turmoil that the death has caused. We view different forms of coping with grief through the characters. And we are privy to a, normally avoided, dialogue about death and grief between two of our characters. I find this to be a brave undertaking on her part.

This is a definite must-read for fantasy fans or anyone who enjoys a well-written book. I am placing the second book in this series, Reality, on my own must-read list, as well. I can’t wait to follow these characters some more. With as much reality as Imagine contains, I expect the next book to be even more brutally exciting.

Imagine is available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and the Champagne Bookstore.

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