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Ratings and Book Reviews (1 2 star ratings
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    Just Okay

    I will confess I'm a bit of a loss to review this book. It was awkward in places and stranger than strange in others; but not necessarily bad. I'm going to try and break it down to see if that helps with my 'meh' 3 star rating. Characters We have a wide cast of characters but certainly one of the most important is our 'Pinocchio' wooden boy, Errol. He is a really odd character as most of the time it's easy to forget that he is wooden. That said his evolution from boy to (more or less) dead to wooden to his final end state is actually one of the better parts of the story. No none of those things are spoilers. I would have liked a bit more focus or time spent on his choices as a living boy but at the same time there is a lot of plot and characters so maybe it doesn't really matter. The lead gal, Aster, is a whole other confusing mess. What's most important about her is she is the catalyst for the whole book. While Errol is the main character; without Aster there is no story to tell. My personal favourite character however is the 'nov', a virgin ghost. Yes that's right 'virgin' is very important for some reason. And it amused me greatly that there was even a word for a virgin ghost that Greg Keyes didn't make-up! Other characters come and go in the story as our fierce some three travel together. One is amazing, but I can't tell you anything about them as it would ruin the surprise. Plot The Reign of the Departed is a quest story. With three clear goals that Aster needs to accomplish in order to succeed with her quest. It starts to feel a little like The NeverEnding Story in places as each piece of area of the quest has it's own little interaction and story line. This would be a great book to turn into a role-playing game (RPG) like Zelda as it's broken-up in such a distinct and obvious way. Clearly this allows children to follow the story easier and feel like there are 'parts' to it. Strange, strange settings I'll confess I'm a goth girl. Was a full-goth in the 90's as a teen and still definitely lean towards darker elements. I like my fantasy dark and broody. Add in some violence, a tough of romance and a lot of character building and you've likely got me hooked. So when authors go off on odd tangents where the world has just become ridiculous I have a hard time. Points in Keyes series starter felt like Otherland by Tad Williams. I did not like Otherland (although I did read it 20 years ago... I suppose it may be time to give it another try) as it had moments that just seemed outrageous. Those types of moments Keyes presents here are equally ridiculous but given this is a middle age/teen book I accepted the ridiculousness and carried on. It also wasn't the entire setting that was in these weird places and so I was able to quickly 'read my way out' into other better settings. Age Appropriateness My library has this book filed as Young Adult/Teen and I think that is the right place for it. However, there are a lot of juvenile things that happen in this book, and the set-up feels like it's more for the middle aged group range. That is until you get to some parts. There are deaths of characters, a implied (but not described) rape or two and some intense (but non-sexual) romance scenes. And so because of these elements I suppose it's a teen novel. I feel like the deaths could remain and the rape toned down to a kiss that wasn't invited and you could easily adapt this novel for the middle grade audience where it would likely be better suited. Or it's a good transition novel for a kid just moving into the teen world. The aspects and writing will be familiar but the teen themes will maybe help transition them into more intense teen books. No matter how you look at this the weird age mixture of elements threw me off a lot. I just felt confused at times about who the target market was. Overall This is just an okay book. I liked most of the characters well enough and there are some thoughts and progressions of characters that are very well done. However some of the settings and situations were just silly to me and I found myself wondering when it would end. I would definitely consider reading the next book if it was put in front of me but am not sure I would search it out. Shortly after I finished reading this book I felt like I had already forgotten most of it as it didn't really make an impression or mark on me. So not a bad book but not a great book either. I'm really stuck in the 'meh' space on this one. Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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