May 26, 08
Recommended to Kathryn by:
lots of people on GoodReads posts
Read in May, 2008
It was hard to determine what rating to give this book--I think 2.5 is my verdict. For "interesting concept" I'd give it four stars--but for execution/delivery only two stars. On "fulfilling expectations" I'd give it one star. This is one of the most disappointing reads I've come across. Thankfully the final few chapters were decent, so that saved the book from being a dismal failure in my mind.
Without giving away too much of the plot, I must say that this book is NOT really about caring for magical creatures on some sort of enchanted preserve. It is rather about all the stupid things the kids staying there do that messes things up, gets other people in trouble, unleashes terrible creatures, and makes things pretty crummy. And, yes, I felt that most of the characters were pretty dumb--certainly not very likable. Even the Grandpa--I think he was supposed to be wise, as he is in charge of the whole preserve--doesn't really have a clue what to do half the time. And his half-truths and lack of confidence in the children leads to many problems that could have been avoided had he been more open--and also if the kids had been less obnoxious, selfish and stupid. Alas, I really didn't care if an evil beast ate up the little brother after he went wandering through parts of the preserve that he had been warned not to go. Unlike the kids in Harry Potter, who usually have very good reasons for disobeying rules, Seth is just being a troublesome little boy. Many of the "deep" issues of the tale are never resolved, like how only immortal creatures have no morals...
The writing style was also not that great. A few of the scenes were quite good, but most of the story lagged. Also, a few parts just seemed a bit creepy/weird and I wondered at the appropriateness for children. That is:
******SPOILER ALERT: The children see their grandmother naked--at another point, she teaches them how to give a massage to a troll in order to send him into a state of ecstasy. In another part, the kids have to slide down the utters/tips of a giant cow. Was this supposed to be funny? It just seemed a bit icky to me.******
All in all, it was a decent enough story for me to finish but I really wished the writing and character development had been good enough to really deliver what promised to be such a neat story. There are much better fantasy books out there!