Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Finding Angel - Kat Heckenbach

A copy was provided by the Author
in exchange for
an honest review.
Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach
Series: Toch Island Chronicles #1
Genre: Middle Grade, fantasy
Published on September 1, 2011
Published by Splashdown Books
Pages: 294
Read From: 7.6.13 - 7.7.13

Angel lives with a loving foster family, but dreams of a land that exists only in the pages of a fantasy novel. Until she meets Gregor, whose magic Talent saves her life and revives lost memories. 
She follows Gregor to her homeland. . . .a world unlike any she has imagined, where she travels a path of self-discovery that leads directly to her role in an ancient Prophecy. . . .and to the madman who set her fate in motion.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Yes, I do like it. It's simple yet intriguing - and I love lockets. :-) While it's not exactly indicative of a fantasy novel (I actually thought it was some inspirational tween story when I first saw it), there still is something attention-grabbing about it, and once one reads the story, one can definitely see the "fantasy" in the cover art.

Characters: Despite her name, I really liked Angel as a protagonist. She was curious and not overly emotional. She wasn't constantly flying off the handle at Gregor for not immediately telling her everything, and when she did get angry, for the most part she kept it to herself. Perhaps Angel was a little too quick to accept everything that was happening to her, but given that all her life she had had a sort of "premonition" - a feeling - that things weren't all that they seemed, it was relatively easy to believe that she would come to terms with her new life faster than most people. The only real thing that bothered me was how readily she left her foster family behind, knowing that she may never see them again. I understood her eagerness to find her real parents and to learn about her forgotten past, but she was close to her foster family; maybe she could have shown just a bit more turmoil over her choice? My opinion on Gregor was on and off throughout the book. Overall, I liked him, especially since he's too old to become a romantic interest for Angel, and their relationship settles into brother-sister affection. Gregor was kind and patient and very helpful. But as the story progressed, his temper grew short, and he started getting angry at Angel for no reason. Oh, I understood perfectly well why he was always so upset - I wouldn't expect him to be otherwise, given the circumstances. But he shouldn't have taken it out on Angel, nor should he have dismissed Angel's theory on the Prophecy so swiftly. Still, what's a good character without their flaws, right? In general, Gregor was awesome and I never disliked him, even when he was being a pill. Now for the villains. While Dawric wasn't a "pure awesome" quality villain (few are; villains have to work hard to make it into that category), he worked for Finding Angel. Power hungry, manipulative, and maybe just a bit like Voldemort (in the fact that everyone is convinced he can never return to Toch, when in fact that's exactly what's happened), he has enough cold ambition to be a guy I wouldn't want to meet.

The Romance: Gregor is in love with an Elfin girl, and I admit that I became rather invested in their emotional turmoil. Gregor and Siophra love each other dearly and want to get married, but Siophra's father won't allow it. This is probably my favorite kind of "love against impossible odds" scenario, right next to "our countries are at war." And the Author pulls it off very well.

Plot: Angel can't remember her life from before she was taken in by the Masons, when she was six. All she has is a beautiful silver locket on a charm bracelet, along with five silver letters, which is where she got her name. All her life, though, Angel has been fascinated with fantasy worlds - art and literature and mythology. And though she loves her foster family dearly, she dreams of being in one of those novels herself. When Angel's brother Zack finds a curious beetle and she goes to the library to look it up, she meets the mysterious Gregor, and before Angel knows it, her entire life is turned upside down. Gregor takes Angel to Toch Island - a magical British Isle closed off from the rest of the world because technology interferes with magic. There, Angel remembers her past and realizes her special powers - and discovers that she might be part of an ancient Prophecy. And with Angel's return to Toch Island, an old enemy who once tried to kill her - and was responsible for her escape into the real world - may have returned to finish the job. At first Finding Angel takes a little while to get into the Prophecy and the return of Dawric. For a while, Angel is busy learning how to use magic and her own special Talent - a specific magical ability that everyone is born with. Gregor's is opening portals through trees, and Angel's is an ability to find things no matter where or how far away they are. Hers is a rare Talent, and one that Dawric is desperate to have for himself. But the book doesn't feel slow, because the Author presents the Reader with a fascinating and engaging world. Somewhat reminiscent of J. K. Rowling's universe, Toch Island is a charming and exciting place, with strange creatures, adorable dragons (I really want a pet dragon now!), exotic plants, and bizarre animals. The magic rules even make a bit of sense! At least, as much as "magic rules" can. The Author tries to inject a bit of scientific law, and it somehow works. Once the Prophecy comes into play, events pick up, though not really until the climax. But it never gets boring; that is a word I would not apply to this book. Maybe some Readers will get tired of the pace, but I was all right with it. The world and characters kept me engaged.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. The style was very pleasant, with pretty descriptions, but not an excess of unnecessary detail. I found it to be very relaxing, and relaxing reads are always nice.

Content: None.

Conclusion: As events pass, Angel becomes more and more certain that the ancient Elfin Prophecy is indeed coming true, and they are running out of time before Dawric can be stopped. I'll admit, the Author pulled some fast ones on me. There were a few major twists that I was not wholly expecting. The conclusion of Siophra and Gregor's romance was surprising, as well as who the real villains were, and the very climax itself. The arrival of Angel's parents was rather sudden, but didn't detract from the overall ending. Finding Angel is one of those fantasy reads that is great for the weekend, but also shows a lot of promise as the series progresses. The Author has set up a world that I am eager to learn more about, and a world which she can expand as much as she wants. I found it very easy to care about her characters, and I look forward to reading more of their adventures.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, thirteen-and-up, great for Harry Potter and fantasy fans.

Others in the Toch Island Chronicles:
1)Finding Angel
2)Seeking Unseen

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