Dawn (& Ron)'s Reviews > The Familiars

The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein
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Jun 07, 12

bookshelves: fantasy, annas-abc-and-d-bookclub, animal-tales, childrens-fiction, two-fer-read, tbr-challenge, ya
Recommended for: animal lovers, fantasy fans
Read from March 08 to 30, 2012 — I own a copy

The Familiars Read for Anna's ABC&D bookclub

Both Ron and I read this fantasy tale, about three familiars; a tabby cat, a tree frog, and a blue jay, and their three young wizards in training. The story centers around the familiar's journey to save their wizards. Along the way they learn about each other, themselves and big secrets that affect the entire land of Vastia. We both appreciated the map to help us follow them on their amazing journey. Our combined average rating is 3.75, rounded up to 4 stars.
"How had the fate of Vastia fallen upon a tree frog, a blue jay, and himself, a fake familiar without even the tiniest whisker of magic?"

The story is seen and told through the eyes of Aldwyn, an ordinary tabby cat who suddenly finds himself pretending to be a familiar to escape a bounty hunter. The authors do a wonderful job of capturing the inner thoughts of a feline, and little touches that cat lovers will find themselves shaking their heads along in acknowledgement. The scene where Jack picks Aldwyn and there is that instant connection between them, is how we feel when all of our rescued pets have adopted us. Aldwyn must keep his secret from the other familiars, as well as the young wizards, while at the same time learning the world of magic, which becomes more difficult when they must save the young wizards. But is Aldwyn only an ordinary tabby cat?
"How quickly a journey can be made in one's mind when the travels by foot took so long!"

Dawn's thoughts. I liked the clever use of all kinds of magical animals used as familiars in this tale, chameleon crabs, pocket dragons to riding lizards and everything else in between. I appreciated how the three animal familiars learned of each other through discovering things about their childhoods and backgrounds, helping them to accept and learn to trust each other, showing that there is normally a reason behind someone's behavior. Though I really enjoyed these aspects and more, other things left me not so sure. Some things are not explained, not sure if this is intentional to keep readers curious, while other things are too conveniently discovered. Is my adult self getting in the way or the fact that I'm not used to reading broad fantasy like this (no, not even Harry Potter, yet), its hard to say. After reading other books in the series, I many have to come back and adjust my assessment. My rating is 3-1/2.

Ron's thoughts. I liked how the three familiars worked together and learned to accept each other's differences. The unexpected twist that a secret reveals sheds a different light on everything as they and the reader know it, which opens up interesting possibilities for the future books. I feel the way it is written makes it easy for young readers to follow, especially considering all the characters and magical beings sprinkled throughout. Overall, I found it a fun enjoyable read and rate it 4 stars.

We would like to mention a few scenes for adults to consider. There are two character's deaths, one where a witch gets boiled alive (157), a fight on a bridge where two people are thrown over the side (224-8) and the magical use of a wolf's snout as a tracking device which can only be obtained one way (201-2). These scenes are generally brief and not overly detailed or in anyway gratuitous, but could be a bit too graphic for some children.

As Gilbert the frog says. "You know, life isn't just about looking into the past and future, it's about living in the moment and appreciating what's right in front of you." That pretty much sums up the fun of this book, just sit back and enjoy the journey before you.
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Reading Progress

03/08/2012 page 26
7.0% "Niece's bookclub read.
A lot of work to get a fish for Aldwyn."
03/09/2012 page 139
39.0% ""How had the fate of Vastia fallen upon a tree frog, a blue jay, and himself, a fake familiar without even the tiniest whisker of magic?" (page 119)"
03/10/2012 page 182
51.0% "This book gives new meaning to having eyes everywhere. Not sure if it will work for my almost 11 year old niece. Two characters have been killed, one being boiled alive, yet it is written for her age range. The witch's demise was only a paragraph but a bit graphic talking about her hair being burned off. Maybe I'm just being overly sensitive? If anyone else reads this let me know what you think."
03/20/2012 page 216
60.0% ""How quickly a journey can be made in one's mind when the travels by foot took so long!"
How true!"
03/20/2012 page 237
66.0% "The animal trio learn learn something that changes their history as they know it. This could be intriguing depending how the authors handle it.
Some things I've really enjoyed and other things leave me not so sure. Some things are not explained, not sure if this is intentional to keep readers curious, like lots of back story not explained while other parts are greatly detailed. It just leaves me wondering."
03/20/2012 page 360
100.0% "Finished and still trying to figure out what I think about it. Is my adult self causing some of my problems and getting in the way, even though I tried to approach it with an open mind. It will be interesting to see how my niece reacts."

Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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Kathryn I'm curious to know what you think of this one when you finish. You can read my review for more of my thoughts. As for your niece, I guess it depends on her sensitivity level. I did think those few parts were a bit gruesome for a children's novel :-( but then a lot of fairytales have rough elements, too, especially the ones that haven't been "sanitized"...


Andrew Jacobson Hi, I'm one of the authors of The Familiars. I see that you have marked my book as to-read. Now would be a great time to catch up on the first book and its sequel, Secrets of the Crown, in paperback or e-reader. You can find them in bookstores everywhere or on-line! Thanks.


Dawn (& Ron) Thanks Andrew, my husband and I just read this and actually just finished our joint review and are getting ready to post it. We have given it to my 11 year old niece, who will add her comments to ours, giving the varied views of three different readers. I hope you will check back in and let her hear from you.


Andrew Jacobson Absolutely - look forward to it! Thanks so much for reading :)


Dawn (& Ron) I will post our review tomorrow and will mention to my niece that we got a message from one of the authors of this book. Since she is picking out her next read that may decide her in The Familiars direction.

Oh, she loved the page edges of the hardback edition we gave her for her 11th birthday, thought they looked "so cool, like old books", so I explained all about deckle page ends.


Andrew Jacobson that was a nice touch... glad she appreciated it!


message 7: by Judi (last edited Jun 10, 2012 01:51AM) (new)

Judi MacInnis Dawn (& Ron) wrote: "Judi wrote: "Maybe I should read this book too."
Yep, you may have to borrow it so you know what the heck we are talking about it.

Andrew and Kathryn, our review is up and now we will wait to hear..."


Bring it over next time you come. It sounds interesting.


Dawn (& Ron) Judi wrote: "Maybe I should read this book too."
Yep, you may have to borrow it so you know what the heck we are talking about it.

Andrew and Kathryn, our review is up and now we will wait to hear what Anna thinks.


Kathryn Wonderful review, Dawn and Ron! I like the quote you used at the end and you so deftly summed up many of my thoughts about the book, though I think you both liked it more than I did.

Dawn (& Ron) wrote: "I appreciated how the three animal familiars learned of each other through discovering things about their childhoods and backgrounds, helping them to accept and learn to trust each other, showing that there is normally a reason behind someone's behavior."

Yes, I appreciated that aspect, too!

I hope Anna enjoys the book.


Dawn (& Ron) Kathryn, I rated it 3-1/2 so that's just a tad more than you. I just read your review and see we agree on a lot of points. You do bring up one point that we missed, about not having much of a backstory on Jack and the other young wizards, therefore having no personal investment in their rescue outside of the familiars mission. Like you, there were aspects I very much appreciated and others that left me feeling a bit lost.

We are very interested to get Anna's reaction. I don't think she's read anything like this so we shall see how she responds.

I did love Gilbert and glad you liked that quote, it just fit so well.


message 11: by Judi (new)

Judi MacInnis Dawn (& Ron) wrote: "Judi wrote: "Maybe I should read this book too."
Yep, you may have to borrow it so you know what the heck we are talking about it.

Andrew and Kathryn, our review is up and now we will wait to hear..."


Bring the book over next time you come. It sounds interesting.


message 12: by Lance (new)

Lance Greenfield I really like this double review. Good work!


Dawn (& Ron) Judi wrote: "Dawn (& Ron) wrote: "Judi wrote: "Maybe I should read this book too."
Yep, you may have to borrow it so you know what the heck we are talking about it."


You'll have to ask Anna for it when she finishes it. I'm still waiting to hear what she selected as her next read after No Flying in the House which she called "weird".


Dawn (& Ron) Thanks Lance, it's still something we are working on, glad to know it worked. It will be interesting to see how we insert my niece's thoughts after she reads it and it turns into a triple review.


message 15: by Judi (new)

Judi MacInnis Dawn (& Ron) wrote: "Judi wrote: "Dawn (& Ron) wrote: "Judi wrote: "Maybe I should read this book too."
Yep, you may have to borrow it so you know what the heck we are talking about it."

You'll have to ask Anna for it..."


Last week Anna was reading Phillipa Fisher's Fairy Godsister. Don't know what she's reading now.


message 16: by Judi (new)

Judi MacInnis Dawn (& Ron) wrote: "Judi wrote: "Dawn (& Ron) wrote: "Judi wrote: "Maybe I should read this book too."
Yep, you may have to borrow it so you know what the heck we are talking about it."

You'll have to ask Anna for it..."


We agree about "No Flying in the House". We both liked Gloria the 3" dog.


message 17: by Dawn (& Ron) (last edited Jun 11, 2012 04:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dawn (& Ron) Judi wrote: "Last week Anna was reading Phillipa Fisher's Fairy Godsister. Don't know what she's reading now."

I'm hoping to hear from Anna tomorrow (finger crossed). I'm still waiting on a copy of 'No Flying in the House' to come from the main library branch. I'm not surprised she picked Philippa Fisher because of how much she liked Kessler's mermaid series. I'm hoping she will get to The Familiars soon.

Make sure to check out Anna's review of the 2nd Emily Windsnap mermaid book here and you can join in on the discussion of her first review by clicking here.


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