Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: Roots Entwine

Title: Roots Entwine
Author: Victoria Bastedo
Page Count: 246
My Rating: 3 TURTLES: An enjoyable read, but I suggest check out if you like the topic before adding it to your to-read list.
*This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

15-year-old Joaquin can hear a man's heart beating a half a mile away. He can see in the dark when others are stumbling. One whiff and he can tell what was served for yesterday's dinner. But then he needs near-coma sleep to heal his brain from the searing pain. He's a Phoshat, and his ability comes with a price.

Rumors spread about the mysterious Phoshat living in the forest around his family's estate. Then Kallum comes, the tall stranger who leads a mission team for the king. He's determined to add a Phoshat to the list of talents that his team boasts. He takes on the responsibility of a teenaged, untested Phoshat, and they set out, but soon it's evident that Joaquin's gift is so powerful that it almost swings out of control. As their journey goes on and unconsciousness overwhelms Joaquin over and again, Kallum begins to question whether Joaquin is ready for the dangerous mission that's growing more intense every day.

Joaquin wonders too. Why was he born different than everyone else?

Roots Entwine follows Joaquin on a journey from his very isolated home with his large family to a mysterious civilization on a quest to stop an evil warlord, all while learning to harness his Phoshat ability. While the main character is fifteen and the book is marketed as Young Adult, content-wise, this read much more as a Middle Grade book to me. While in a perfect world, all ages would be able to read and enjoy this book equally, I think some things that might have taken away from my enjoyment of the book would not have mattered, or even might have been pluses for readers of a different age group.

One example of this for me would be that I am very character driven when it comes to my stories, and I found this book to be much more plot focused. There was some character growth among the characters, but much of it was around Joaquin discovering more about his ability and the group he travels with learning to care about him and losing their suspicion of his Phoshat. Many interactions that could have lead to growth and insight between the characters I thought were rather rushed through.

Without that extra character development, the book became very focused on The Quest, and yet the urgency of this quest does not seem very immediate until the second part of the book. I think some of this had to do with the amount of telling versus showing. We are told that Scarvus is the bad guy who has killed a bunch of people and we know that the King sent them on this mission, but seeing as Joaquin, who serves as the reader surrogate in many ways, has never been affected by these wrongdoings, and we never meet the King, the danger seems very far removed. Because of this I found myself speed reading at times, but again, on the other hand I could picture a Middle Grade audience reading this book and loving the whole quest aspect of it.

One more thing I’ll mention is that I wish there were more female characters in this book. Now I’m not saying it is a requirement that all books have an equal amount of male and female MCs, but if you reversed the roles, you don’t see many books with an all female team where the only men in the story are serving as hosts to the team members, the father of the main character, and the romantic interest. I know I’m more sensitive about this sort of stuff since pretty much every book I read for school I read through a feminist perspective, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

I really liked Joaquin’s Phoshat ability. The idea of heightened senses and the potential consequences was really intriguing and I loved how Bastedo explored that. The magic of that world was really interesting and it made me wonder if it is something she is planning on revisiting in other books. Roots Entwine also has a great plot twist at the end which I totally did not see coming!

I did enjoy Roots Entwine, and would suggest it to people who enjoy books along the middle grade fantasy thread like Eragon. Some stylistic choices might lead me to recommending it to a younger audience, especially those just straddling the Middle Grade/ Young Adult line, but I know my taste can be very specific.

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

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