A teenage girl leaves the mundane real world and finds her destiny in the magical Lands of Forever in this lively adventure originally conceived by the author when she was the same age as her heroine.
Serena, a 16-year-old orphan, escapes an unpleasant guardian after discovering a diary that had belonged to a shipwrecked ancestor. She accompanies an expedition of men and women to the mist-shrouded spot in the Atlantic Ocean where her ancestor’s ship disappeared, only to meet the same fate—a storm leaves Serena and her companions swimming for the magical Lands of Forever. Joined by a handsome half-elf, half-human boy as they journey to Diamondia Castle to seek help from the ailing Mother of Forever, the travelers have ample time to encounter a compendium of dragons, fauns, pixies, elves, goblins, centaurs, “CatEagles” and “CatFoxes,” a leprechaun, a hippogryph, ghosts, baby fairies, satyrs, huge purple monkeys, unicorns, bicorns, tricorns, and assorted spirits of the sky, sea, caves and mountains. Judging by an unintentionally amusing vocabulary, the colorful narrative is apparently unedited by the now-adult author: “Serena’s ears popped from the pressure, and the sound that was made as they passed was incredulous”; “Jerry sighed a heavy sigh that seemed to heave upon all the hearts of the crew.” Characters speak “fraudishly” and smirks abound: “Serena sighed and smirked at the same time”; “Nelson laughed, sitting back and smirking in wonder.” Mentions of “bobbing,” “bouncing,” “lustrous,” “overhanging” and “tear-stained, fire-lit” hair curls are comically excessive. Yet despite requiring an edit for missteps and descriptive overload, this YA novel has plenty of potential fueled by exuberant imagery. Crushed by a log, killer monkeys “were flattened and pressed into the Forest floor like raisins pressed into a honeyed cake,” and a baby dragon with “bright orange and yellow scales and leathery orange wings” isn’t “much longer than a common door is tall from tip to tail.”
This sprawling, youthfully idiosyncratic fantasy is vividly told but in need of a sure-handed edit to tone down the narrative overkill.