Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Strings of the Violin by Alisse Lee Goldenberg

Title: The Strings of the Violin
Author: Alisse Lee Goldenberg
Rating: 3 stars

The Plot

Carrie has always wanted to believe the kind of magic she reads about in her fantasy books, but she is still surprised when she meets a talking fox. With her friends Lindsay and Rebecca, Carrie travels to a mystical land that is dying because the dybbuk Asmodeus has stolen the strings of the magic violin that give the world light. The girls must journey to the demon’s realm and bring back the strings, but there are any number of dangers along the way.

The Good

The Strings of the Violin presents an interesting mystical land based on assorted folklore. During the trip, Rebecca frequently tries to recall the fairy stories that her grandmother told her, because she realizes that they are about this magical land. However, the stories varied, and characters like Asmodeus did not appear the same in every tale. This uncertainty in folklore is woven into the story so that, instead of being inconsistencies, the differences are all part of the true and strange nature of the creatures in the magic world.

The Bad

In trying to come up with what to put in my review for this book, the only thing that I found myself really wanting to say was that The Strings of the Violin is not YA. It’s Middle Grade. The characters may tell you that they’re 17, but for all practical sakes and purposes, they are about 12.

The book opens with Carrie about to become a senior in high school and stressed out about picking a college because all she really wants from life is to be an adventurer like in a fantasy novel. When she needs to convince her friends to travel with her to the other land, she points out that they used to believe in magic, so she doesn’t understand why they don’t now. These kinds of dreams and arguments would make perfect sense in a 12-year-old girl not ready to let go of her childhood, but in a 17-year-old, they make me start to wonder if she has some kind of mental deficiency. The plot was similarly simple, with the good guys going on a quest to get something from the bad guys without too many twists, turns, or surprises.

Aside from that, I pretty much don’t feel qualified to judge because I don’t read middle grade books. There were a few holes in the plot, but I’m not sure how typical that is of the genre.

The Romance

The girls run into a princess named Emilia who is being punished for running away with her love instead of marrying the prince her father wants her to. Since we never see either guy, you may count this as romance or not as you choose. The king and queen of the good guys were also married and in love. Carrie, Lindsay, and Rebecca had no romantic entanglements of their own. Which is fine, because they are 12.

Will I read more?

Per the author’s web site, there is a sequel to The Strings of the Violin, but I do not believe I will be reading it, and, again, it’s really just a genre issue.

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