Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Reader's Review: "Conner's Odyssey: Discovery" by Ian Bristow

Synopsis from Amazon:
When 14-year-old Conner finds himself on Rohwen—a world as dangerous as it is wondrous—he is forced to come to the hard realization that the only chance he has of finding his way home rests in the hands of a 15-year-old Rohwenite named Medwin. But Medwin has other plans for him. Lost in a world he knows nothing about, Conner has no choice but to follow Medwin on a journey that, unbeknownst to him, will uncover the truth of his destiny.

My Review: 

What’s more fun than making new author friends? Finding out that said author lives in one’s area! That’s right—yet another network connection via Jeffrey Cook, and a willing donor to the Upstream Writer Review List! It sounded like a fun adventure (and I am not one to resist a good, light-hearted fantasy!) so, after whittling down on my To-Read list a bit further, I finally got to take a crack at reading Conner’s Odyssey: Discovery! (Warning: this review isn’t as spoiler-free as most of my other reviews, but I try to gloss over specific events, and I don’t give away the ending… much… Sorry in advance!)
The beginning was mundane enough—young boy’s life is uprooted as his family moves to another state, and he’s feeling forlorn and left-behind as he has to start all over again. Life is so uncertain, he goes exploring in the woods behind his house… and discovers a magical portal that leads to another world—and that’s where the story really begins.
After the generic beginning, I kept waiting for it to take off and show me a breed of fantasy I hadn’t seen before—and, to my delight, it did! Turns out a very specific line of people in this world have a power called “cognition”, which means they can will things into existence, or manipulate matter with the mind. Conner has this ability, of course, but it’s a while yet before he receives any kind of training or explanation.
Unfortunately, the “cognition” aspect was the beginning and end of the originality in the plot. One of the first people he meets is a boy about his age, and his father—who inform Conner that he was a prophesied Chosen Hero to defeat the wicked and malicious mage who yearns for ultimate power to do whatever he wants, and uses his cognition for evil purposes. Of course, the father and son decide that the son should guide Conner on an epic journey across this fantasy world, to find the mysterious and reclusive good mage who will explain everything to Conner. There’s a sea voyage with all the perilous trappings you could want in a fantasy-world sea voyage, an epic battle between the forces of good and of evil, dramatic death scenes, and…
A talking wolf?? Yeah, I was a little thrown by that one, to say the least. No other non-human beings have the power of speech at any point, nor is it implied that there is a race of Talking Animals… To be quite frank, I wasn’t expecting this character to actually be an animal at all, so the effect was rather haphazard and it sort of lessened the impact a loquacious character like him would otherwise have had.

Bottom line, I loved the cognition, and any part of the story having to do with that: the villain and the mentor were both wonderful characters, and the way Conner and his in-world friend related through the fact that they both could use it (the difference being that the boy had been practicing cognition all his life, and Conner had only just learned of the possibilities it presented) and the ensuing friendship and character development that went on between the two—everything about it was absolutely wonderful! I could appreciate the quality a little better when I considered it more of a middle-grade novel, instead of YA like most of what I’d been reading. So if your reader is between the ages of 8 and 12, and they love fantasy and epic battles and sword-and-sorcery-and-sea-serpents type of books, then Conner’s Odyssey is definitely the series to read!

Conner’s Odyssey: Discovery earns itself a hearty ****4 STAR**** rating from The Upstream Writer, and I’ll throw in a Middle Grade Recommended rating as well! It’s clean, it’s wholesome, the characters make great points—from a "seasoned" reader’s standpoint, yeah, it’s got little “dings” and “scratches” and it’s not the most mind-bendingly awesome thing that I’ve read—but it’s a solid start to a great series for parents who want to give their kids something worthwhile to read, and that’s good enough for me!

Further Reading (YA/Young Reader/Fantasy Adventure)

The Alexander Legacy--Sophronia Belle Lyon
   -A Dodge, A Twist, and A Tobacconist
       -The Pinocchio Factor  
-Puck's Choice--Skye Hegyes