Thank you to Smith Publicity for providing me with a copy of the book to review, it was an unexpected journey with slight bumps in the road, yet one that I enjoyed going on.
This is one busy book. There are so many things going on and different genre elements at play, all coming together in a way that, though pleasant and interesting to read about, ends up throwing one off at several moments in the book.
Let’s start off with the beginning and Stasia’s relation with her parents and friends. I was still left confused about why Stasia and her father left the island of St. Michael, and what the relationship between her parents were. Little thing, yes, but it ended up being that these little things accumulated until I was working my way through it slowly and piecing the parts and details together.
The idea of global cooling is clever, playing one that already was present earlier, but from the summary I’d say it sounded much more important than it really was, or then the case would be that the direction of the story changed, because whereas in the beginning a lot of time was allocated to describing the cold weather and how it changed from being the warm, tropical island, the focus at the end was on the animals and gems of the world of Surritz. There were several of these jumps, mainly in the shifts when it comes to time and recollection of the past. Even then the plot moved fast, introducing many things at once, and the focus went from Billy to Surritz to Amelie to Abe to the animals to the gems, etc. I wish each of these components were given a bit more time and attention rather than having them all circulate at once and make the story become a bit like a juggling act.
Other questions were left unanswered, like why people in the world of the book could reincarnate and live several lives. Was it a trait unique only to those on Surritz, or could people on St. Michael do it as well? Back story and more information would’ve been very helpful in this case, instead of making the reader simply go along with what’s written. The same goes with the gems and their abilities to heal or act as medians for travel between the two worlds. (I noticed how the dragons seemed to be especially anxious to get the stones, and it made me wonder whether this was a reference to Middle Age mythology of dragons being jewel hoarders. Even if it wasn’t, it felt like a great coincidence that simply worked well.) It would’ve really strengthened the book if there clearer flashbacks in regards to the memories and at least little explanations of why some things, like the gems, were the way they were. Descriptions of Surritz would’ve been helpful as well, as it seemed to be a landscape very similar to, of not almost exactly the same as, the fantasy landscapes and worlds that exist in the fantasy-type YA.
The characters are something I can’t complain about, for once. Usually I really struggle with lead characters, especially the female, but here I was pleasantly surprised and content with Stasia. She had natural reactions to situations, there was a balance of the romantic thought and constructive thought when it came to saving Surritz, and she was an overall pleasant character to read about. The other vast cast of characters that was introduced was done so in a way that made it easy to remember the names and background information on each one, something that, again, books with many characters often struggle with achieving.
One comment I would like to make on logistics of the book: why exactly is it called ‘A Red Tale’? Perhaps that will be the one question that’ll stick to this book for some time, one I’ll hopefully be able to answer after I revisit and reread it in the future. Also, the cover of the book is a bit of a throw-off when it comes to the girl. (Stasia’s age is another issue I encountered, struggling to pinpoint the number until I finally just decided to settle on an age range between 16 and 20). The byline at the top was another thing I’d say didn’t fit the book as well as it could. These details are good in attracting attention of potential readers yet I do wonder if they’ll end up being throw-offs or distracting factors that will create assumptions or wrong judgements.
My final conclusion is that, as a debut book, this was quite the interesting little gem (I just had to use that metaphor). It really stands apart from the other YA whimsical-type novels I have come across in the past, and has characteristics that put it en route to wonderful books of the same world, like The Night Circus. This book just wasn’t there yet. There was too much going on and each detail and character had to fight for their chance in the sun within the electronic pages. There was undeniable charm, but some faltering as well. For me, I can overlook those stumbles and wholeheartedly say I enjoyed this book, no matter how confused I may have found myself while reading it. I hope the author keeps writing and her next work will be in a similar style as this one. I would definitely enjoy reading something else from her as well as see the writing grow.