Roselle (The Cobalt Domain, 2014) continues a sprawling tale of magical lands mysteriously linked to our own, talking animals, teen drama, despots, a family’s struggle to reunite, and the strange mineral that links them all together.
Having left behind the magical lands, or Darus, of the Cobalt Domain, Milo Davenport finds herself, sans memory, in the “real world.” Others will follow, each losing the memory of his or her time in the Darus. Meanwhile, the cryptic notebooks Milo left behind in the Darus offer hope to Jake Lancaster, who seeks to reunite with his lost wife, Julia, and save his son, Beckett. Pioneer, a despot seeking to control the entire Domain, seeks Julia and Beckett as well, but for far more sinister reasons. Caught in the middle is Casey Campbell, a relatively new arrival, yet she just may have a whiff of destiny about her. The question of who—if anyone—will ultimately control the Domain is open, even as answers about the Domain’s true nature and purpose come closer to the light. Like its predecessor, this tangle of interwoven tales is written in quick, easy-to-read prose divided into digestible chapters. Though the page count is hefty, the short chapters make for a quick read. Characters are often more layered than they were in Roselle’s earlier book, with one villain in particular—one who was previously more caricature than character—developing unexpected complexity. The human-turned-animal morphs also shine. Though mostly minor characters, they provide refreshing color and spots of humor. Unfortunately, dialogue suffers regular bouts of clunkiness, which lessens the effectiveness of both characterization and plotting, and with such a large number of characters and plotlines across multiple worlds, the expanding plot can also be hard to track.
YA fantasy that’s stretching its legs, finding its stride; it still stumbles occasionally, but it’s on its way toward outgrowing awkwardness.