REVIEW: Countryside: The Book of the Wise by J.T. Cope IV
SYNOPSIS: You have a power within you, one that is within everyone...It's the same power that fills that building, that keeps that tree alive...and the same power that has attracted your attention...I know it's all a bit strange to you, but I assure you it is quite real..."
Eleven-year-old Luke Rayburn has never seen a skyline without skyscrapers or fallen asleep to anything but the sound of traffic. But his life is about to change in ways he never imagined. When his father leaves for a year of military service, Luke and the rest of his family move into their grandparents' home in the remote town of Countryside, a place like no other. Reachable only by a mysterious traveling tunnel and horse-drawn carriage, centaurs roam the landscape and shadowy wraiths slip among the trees. There, Luke will be drawn into a centuries-old quest for an almost-forgotten book whose secrets will determine the fate of the world. He will have to reach deep to discover the power within him as he battles the forces of darkness and an alliance of sinister men who seek to destroy any who get in their way. Luke's only hope is to find the book before they do, but to do so he'll need help from someone he never expected as the forces of evil come to bear on the magical world of Countryside.
SERIES: Countryside #1
GENRE: Middle Grade, Fantasy
RATING: ★★★☆☆ / 3 age appropriate stars!
REVIEW: I don't normally read middle-grade books so as I was making my through the first Countryside book, I was of two minds: Would I buy this for an 11 year-old as a gift? And, Would this also capture the attention of an adult, is it versatile?
Anytime I read something that isn't necessarily in my age range, I always think in terms of who would enjoy this, who can I recommend it to or buy it for? That's just how my brain works. Countryside is the first book in a series and incredibly age appropriate (that's usually important to point out). It follows the story of 11 year-old Luke Rayburn and his family as they move to a magical pocket world because dark things have suddenly taken an interest in Luke. Things are getting a little weird. Since it's the first book in a series there is a lot of set-up and establishments that need to be made. Therefore it moves a little slow and there are a lot of characters to meet and not much time to get to know them very well. Even though new magical precedents are being set for this new world, some that are vastly different from our reality (opening doors and travel, for example) it's still very relatable; making friends, family feuds, school bullies, sports, and the unquenchable curiosity of youth. I mean, it probably isn't a good idea to follow the mysterious light down the dark hallway away from all the adults, but a kid's got to do what a kid's got to do... it make's for a good story and even better life lessons. Right?
So now I suppose I need to answer my own question: Would I buy this as a gift for a youngin'? Yes, if for no other reason (though there are other reasons too) than that the Rayburn children are taught to be and are unfailingly polite! There are plenty of pleases and thank yous as well as Sirs and Ma'ams. There always seem to be a lack of social decorum and niceties in general practice, so any book that provides a story full of them seems like a good idea to me. I will note that the copious amount of Sirs and Ma'ams did at times make me double check who was being addressed and/or speaking. It did make it hard to establish new characters and their names indelibly into my brain, but that leads me into the second question for my reading experience...
Would an adult also find enjoyment in this book? Maybe, maybe not. If you were reading it in tandem with your child/sibling/nephew/etc. then I'm sure you would be reasonably entertained, but alone, not so much. The flow is too slow and it lacks any intricacies or tongue-in-cheek moments that would tickle an adult's fancy. Once again, though, it is the first book in the series, so I'm sure there is more detail to come.
Overall the book is very thoughtfully written and perfectly edited, any English teacher would be in heaven. It is wonderfully descriptive, full of heart, and has an enormous amount of potential for the books that will follow. The adventures of Luke and the new friends that he has gathered will definitely be entertaining for middle-grade readers.