The Blurb: Ves Asirin, an orphaned and introverted boy with a complicated memory loss disorder, wins a trip to the TOWER OF PARLEN MIN, the home of the wealthiest inventor of the time, Jacobius Trent. There, with 19 other children, he must compete in the Sword Challenge; a series of intricate puzzles and daring tasks, for a prize of $12 million. As dazzling, glorious and liberating as the Tower seems to be for him, Ves finds that it keeps a dark and secret history that he has been unknowingly connected to for over 150 years, a secret that will define his future and destiny … if he can escape The shadow; a powerful and seemingly unstoppable, supernatural serial killer.
The Short Stick: An adventure that will leave you wanting for more!
The Goods: Okay there were a lot of good things about this book, the characters for one were all believable, the plot was action packed and jumping, I was always finding myself surprised by the intricate and creative things Matt Xell has the characters get involved with. In some cases I could think of the Tower of Parlen Min as kind of like Hogwartz, without all the classes. It really reminded me a lot of the Philosopher’s Stone, when Harry had to explore parts of Hogwartz to find the Stone. In this case, the children are exploring the Tower for a sword. They have to solve clues and complete challenges, which at first I thought would be benign until they got really violent! I actually enjoyed the violence, it made the risks more real for me. And then add the wolves in the woods and the cabin and the serial killer on the loose and the surprise ending, I mean how Ves got out of there alive at all is a miracle. There was a lot stacked against him.
The Not So Goods: I wish the writing was better. I won’t lie, at first the voice comes off very non fiction and technical, like reading national geographic, and then it gets wonky. There are too many points of view, and they all converge in the same scenes, I was never sure who was telling the story as there’s no known narrator and so for me, I’d say even though WHAT happens, and HOW it happens is fantastic, HOW Xell tells the story is BLECH. I’d look at a complete rewrite. If it were me, I’d take it from Ves’s perspective, and then Vikey and maybe one other person like Mr. Cromwell or something. There are A LOT of characters to get to know in the book and so I often found myself confused by the names and who was doing what, etc. etc. I got the gist of it, but again, this could have been pulled off much better if the writing was better. Lastly, I don’t really know who Ves is as a character. His personality changes and because of his memory loss I don’t think HE knows who he is so he has random bursts of personality and I found it REALLY jarring because one minute he’s this confused kid, and the next he’s all “Sure I’ll kill that giant frog monster for you!” and then he’s got skills he doesn’t know he has and blah blah blah, it just made me feel no connection to Ves whatsoever. Oh and the last thing, he told me this book was YA and it’s MG, Ves is 11, so he’s nowhere near being considered for the YA market. If he rewrote it as an MG I’m almost certain he’d get picked up, he’d just have to tone down the violence a bit, and obviously clean up the point of view, and nail down Ves’s character and it would seriously be flying off shelves!
Rating: 5/5 on the storyline 1/5 on the writing.
Recommendation: I hope Matt Xell will take this one back into the drawing room. He’s got a book that could be BIG, but he really needs to look at his writing again.