Wayward Kitsune

Jake West: The Keeper of the Stones - M. J. Webb This review is also posted on Thoughts and Pens.

It was perhaps my thirst for fantasy adventure that made me sign up to review this book. Jake West’s story might not be that original but the fact that it talked about magical stones, another realm and a young boy rising to become someone out of the ordinary was enough to capture my attention. If I am to base this review on those premises alone, then I can confidently say that I wasn’t disappointed. Jake West’s tale started when he discovered a box of magical stones being kept by his granddad. Upon discovery, sinister things were set into motion and Jake and his bestfriend Ben found themselves swept into the strange land of Rhuaddan. It was a realm ridden with endless wars between the forces of the two Kingly brothers, Vantrax, the Usurper and Artrex, the True King. And only the stones hold the power to finally put a stop to Vantrax’s wicked dominion. Being the appointed Keeper of the Stones, Jake was now entrusted the burden of saving Rhuaddan from absolute destruction.

On a general perspective, the whole idea of Jake’s story was fun and definitely filled with adventures. While very much different, it does contain elements from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Some reviewers said that there were Narnia elements but I cannot affirm since I haven’t read the story yet. I am however certain about the LOTR thing. There were massive Kingdom battles fought by forces of outlandish creatures; there were good and evil wizards; and most of all, the world building and the Rhuaddan language greatly reminded me of good ol’ LOTR. But as I’ve said, they are very different in terms of the storyline, the manner of writing and the primary characters involved. I am secretly glad that I didn’t have to deal with archaic language while reading this book.

Despite my enjoyment, I still found myself getting frustrated a lot of times while following Jake's story. My first observation was that punctuation marks were used improperly especially the question marks. I do understand that there may have typos along the way but it confused me especially when the character/s is/are talking to themselves or talking to the other character. It greatly spoils the tone of the moment. The alternating POVs did not also help. It was somewhat jumbled and almost all characters were given their individual POVs. I’ve read books that used this kind of approach and it worked well. However, it didn’t work for TKS. Perhaps, because it was excessively done.

Another frustration was that TKS’s character development wasn’t impressive. I had a hard time connecting to anyone even with the main character (MC), Jake. They seemed generic and dull. No consistency and no individuality. And Jake’s transition to a mature individual was instant. Voila. And there’s his bestfriend Ben whose jokes were forced that I can’t help but roll my eyes. I am also struggling to understand King Artrex’s persona. I mean he is a king but there were a lot of times that I almost said to myself that Vantrax deserved to be King afterall given that the former is indecisive and somewhat lost. This brings me to Vantrax and the rest of the villains. Due to the excessive glimpses that I have of him in the book, Vantrax had just lost his air of menacing mystery. We were given insight to a lot of his thoughts and to his second in command, Sawdon, that things got predictable. I just wished that only snippets of these villains’ lives were offered or they were told from another character.

On top of all that, I also came across an information overload issue with this book. Imagine reading 2-3 pages that were solely dedicated to describing the appearances of the different creatures in Rhuaddan. And it was inserted in a significant moment in the story that I can’t help but get lost in the conversation of the characters. It was just too lengthy that the main point of that particular scene got buried. And my appreciation for the creatures was lost. There was also a lot of repetitiveness in the nature of storytelling that it was nagging me. Only my unwavering self-control stopped me from saying, “I get it, dude.”

The only thing that made me root for this book is that it has the potential to shine in the Y/A fantasy genre if things were made a little different. The concept is good…the world building is bold and excellent.

Would I recommend this book? Sure, as long as your aim is to spend some idle time with a book and not about getting blown away by awesomeness. Personally, I would still read the next two books not because the author has provided me with those but I am curious enough to know what happened to Jake and the gang.