Reading level: Middle Grade
Size: 272 pages
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone?
Source: ARC through Amazon Vine
Rating: 3/5 stars
I got an advanced copy of this book to review through the Amazon Vine program. This sounded like a fun and magical middle grade read. There were some neat concepts in this story but it takes a long time for the story to get moving. By the time things are really starting to get interesting the book is over. I had an absolutely awful time with this book keeping my attention; I am not sure why but my attention just kept wandering off.
Maya just wants her mother to recover from cancer and be well again. When Maya’s father gets an offer to move to Paris it is a dream come true for most of the family. When Maya’s brother is kidnapped it is up to Maya to scour the magical underworld of Paris for him. Little does Maya know two families are feuding (one believes in science and one in magic); at the center of it all is the Cabinet of Earths.
I stopped and started this book a couple times. I was finally determined to get through it, but it was still a slow read and I had trouble reading for very long without loosing my interest. It’s not that this is a bad story, in fact it is a pretty neat idea…it just takes a very long time to set up the story and none of the characters were really all that interesting to me.
The story is somewhat complex. There are two families in Paris’s magical underground. Both of them know the secret to immortality and at the heart of this secret is the Cabinet of Earths, an addictive substance called anbar, and a history of missing children.
Maya and the surrounding characters were all okay; they just seemed a bit two dimensional to me. None of the characters were all that interesting and, while I didn’t mind reading about them, they never really captured my imagination.
The Cabinet of Earths and its purpose was a mystery for the first half or more of the book; why Maya was drawn to it and what it was used for was speculated about early on, but uncertain throughout. There are a lot of things going on throughout the beginning of the book that don’t seem all that related. In the end they are all important, but rather than coming off as clever this just came across as kind of cobbled together.
Overall an okay read. I loved the Paris setting and thought the concept of the Cabinet of Earths was interesting. None of the characters really drew me in though and it took a very long time for the story to get to the interesting parts. I kept trying to read this book and my attention would wander because I just couldn’t get engaged with the story. By the end, the story just wasn’t that memorable and I was happy to be done with it. It is set up so that the characters could have more adventures in future books, but I wasn’t able to find info on whether or not there will be another installment in this series. Middle grade readers who enjoy a magical realism type story set in a foreign country might find some here to love. I personally won’t be reading future books in this series.