Saturday, December 28, 2013

My 50th Book Review!

The Reaches – The Storytellers Quest #1

By Alan McCluskey

The Reaches – The Storytellers Quest by Alan McCluskey is the first novel in a mesmerizing new fantasy young adult series that draws readers into a world of cataclysmic events in dream realm state. The reader is immediately captivated with Professor Rafter, head of the theosophy department at Avan University, and his top student Sally. I immediately found myself looking up the definition of theosophy. This not only intrigued me but had me wondering how the author could create a plot around the hidden knowledge or wisdom that offers the individual enlightenment and salvation.

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Alan McCluskey did not disappoint at all. With the use of dreams, the author has Professor Rafter explain and invite several students into this mystical dimension. Professor Rafter explains this as, “if you venture beyond the Dream Realm, then you might discover the Reaches, a world in many ways like our own, but in some ways astoundingly different.” As a matter of fact, I really thought it was brilliant of the author to not only explain this to the reader by context clues but tie in the title of the novel. The Reaches was charmingly original and yet it provided hints of a dark fantasy world for which I was hoping.

Alan McCluskey Has A Passion For Art!

 The author teases the reader with fragments of the two worlds but does this subtly. For example,  “The fragments retained much of the magic and excitement of the original dream.” The reader becomes captivated by both worlds and it is often hard to know which one is the better.

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I found the writing style courageous in thinking outside of the box. It's fast paced and at times kept me at the edge of my seat. The characters are well developed and plausible. Alan McCluskey touches a bit on gender issues but it is not the main theme nor does it distract from the story. The character Keira is in love with 20 year old Sally. An internal conflict is established early on as Sally is transported to the dream world with a young man. This is where the author often sneaks in bits of wisdom for the reader such as,

"It's also about integration: owning up to the parts of yourself, however much you might not like them. In the Real there are so many taboos that people are completely fragmented. That's the joke of it. They cling rigidly to the idea that they are one unique person, while they are busy hiding parts of themselves they can't accept."

I have read previous works from the same author and found that this novel had much more profound thought. The characters are much more dynamic with identifiable central conflict. For example, Jenny does not like psychiatric institutions and an empathy for Jenny is created as she remembers when, “As a little girl she had heard voices and could see people that her parents said were not really there.” The author really surprised me with some of the experiences Jenny goes through and her emotions really hit home with me personally. The author does a great job of taking the story to a deeper level, beyond the typical teen angst and romance. This book may be written for teens, but I am well beyond those years and thoroughly enjoyed The Reaches.

The Keeper's Daughter (The Storyteller's Quest) Photo taken at the botanical gardens in Basel.

I appreciate the sensory language the author uses to describe places and events. For example, “The chalet was perched on a ridge surrounded by snow-covered mountains. It must have been summer time because there was no snow on the ground around the chalet itself. Edelweiss grew in clumps of white stars scattered across the prairie. Deep blue gentians were pushing their way upwards here and there” I could actually picture this scene in my head.

Secret paths logo comes from part of Alan's work with his daughter Zoé McCluskey who's an architect, on the design of a complex building. The Lodge, in the third book of The Storyteller's Quest, The Starless Square.

 I also liked how the protagonist, Brent is constantly wandering as if lost between the two worlds. It is then that we go back to Professor Rafter and he states, “The doubting man is always the first on the path to discovery.” I am so glad that I have discovered the works of Alan McCluskey. He is a member of one of my favorite writing group called The Geneva Writers Group! Alan lives in Switzerland with his wife and his son in a picturesque village that lies between a lake and the mountains. I highly recommend his novel, The Reaches. Make sure you check out this talented author and listen to my radio interview with him.


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