smilingrid: Haven: A Stranger Magic (Book Review)

February 27, 2014

Haven: A Stranger Magic (Book Review)

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial. 

I am so unbelievably excited to share with you the first book I have been sent to review! The first anything I have been given to review, actually, so let's mark this milestone down, yes? I recently joined Tomoson, a website that connects bloggers with products that companies would like reviews for. As an English major and life-long lover of books, when I saw books from the Haven Series by D.C Akers up for review... Well, I simply had to apply! Forget the crazy paper and exam schedule I am currently swimming through, I wanted to read. Do things that make you happy, y'hear?

Well, that got  wee bit off subject. Terribly sorry, I know you guys really want to hear about book one, A Stranger Magic!

*drum roll pleeeeease*

Overall, I greatly enjoyed reading this novella-length introduction to the series. The book has made it to the top five in several categories on (where the first book is free for kindle users, btw! lists here and here) and I'm very excited to see where D.C. Akers decides to take it from here!

That being said, this book made evident the manner in which my tastes have shifted since coming to college. I enjoy fantasy novels with an older target audience to a greater extent (who knew? Does this mean I'm an adult?). It reminded me of the writing style Queen J.K. Rowling used in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/ Philosopher's Stone. That is, written for readers of comparable age to the protagonist. I am comparing it to the Harry Potter Series, though, and am itching to find out what happens next (somewhat literally, actually. There's a scene in A Stranger Magic where an army of spiders crawl up, over, and around two of the main characters. I am still feeling the urge to liberally apply bug spray to my person.)... so I guess this isn't so much a complaint as an observation.

Since it is the first book, I really feel the need to read more in order to give you a better  response. At 60-odd pages, I don't have quite the grasp on the characters and their interactions that I would like. There are a few characters (Marcus, Vernon, and even Bobby somewhat) who received a full introduction- with physical descriptions and the whole shebang- that don't affect the story in any deeper way.

The main characters, however, are wonderfully crafted. Sam and Travis are perfectly geeky (seriously, though, I want to carry them around in my pocket) while Sarah breaks my heart a bit with her dual identity (Externally, popular queen beeeeyotch. Internally, unhappy and terrified of her emerging aquatic powers). All three are extremely relatable. Sam is clumsy, doesn't know how to express himself, and pretty much refuses to clean up his room (my mom is laughing herself silly reading this, I can just tell. Sam is pretty much exactly like my middle/high school self). Travis is a loyal friend and family member- he lives with his grandparents, meaning he had to grow up quickly to take care of them. He also doesn't run away screaming when he and Sam discover magic by means of giant wave of spiders He should get points for that. When Sam is the speaker, Sarah comes across as a bit of a she-devil, constantly pranking him and cutting into his self-esteem with her wit and insults. However, when she takes control of the narrative voice, she becomes much more dynamic as she reveals her fears over her unexplained powers and sense of isolation in their school's popularity game.

Some quotes from/about Sam and Travis that made me especially happy:

"Cautiously Sam pressed on, hoping all the hours he had logged playing Ninja Warrior 5 would pay off." (13)

"Travis rambled on about Star Wars.'You know I love the movie but come on! First you try to save the princess, then you kiss her, then you find out she’s your sister! I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking I would have shot myself in the face with a blaster!'" (37)

"Sam’s spider senses were doing more than just tingling. They were screaming RED ALERT!" (49)

"Sam and Travis loved the caves. It was their sanctuary, their Fortress of Solitude. Travis called it his Yavin, which was a planet from Star Wars, of course." (52)

Superheroes AND Star Wars? YES, this book has quality references to both! YES, it makes me happy enough to use capitalized exclamations! YES, you should be equally excited!

Some advice from the ever eloquent Sarah:

“You know, dork, you should never enter a battle of wits unarmed, just sayin’.”(20)

I have mixed opinions of the relationship between Sam and Sarah. Sometimes, they seem like ideal representatives for sibling-hood. They poke fun at each other with a sense of affection lurking beneath the surface. 

For example:

"Ooh no! his brain warned him. THE GRIN! It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The “grin”, if that’s what you wanted to call it, was like that of a sly wolf, the cat that ate the canary, or the Grinch who stole Christmas. It was the kind of grin that would have consequences. It was mischievous in every sense of the word, and whatever happened next would not be good for Sam, that much he knew. He was already visualizing the duct tape over her mouth." (17)

"As for Sarah, there was no way his mother was going to trade her in for a really cool brother, or even give her a good smack upside the head.(44)"

"The bottom floor was one big cloud of smoke. Through the smoke Sam could see Sarah running around frantically, trying to open the kitchen windows.“What are you doing?” Sam asked with a puzzled look as he held his large pile of clothes with both arms.
Sarah stopped in her tracks, awestruck by the sight of Sam attempting to do laundry. “What are you doing?” she asked with a chuckle. “I’m doing laundry, but I could help you burn the house down instead.”“Funny. I was trying to cook you something,” she said through gritted teeth while trying to pry open the stuck kitchen window." (45-46)

However, there are other times when it becomes clear that they don't know each other. Like, at all. Sarah has no idea of the extent to which her brother is bullied at school while Sam doesn't even think that his sister has feelings. When he says he hates her? He actually means it. Yeah, yikes.

But I have high hopes that they'll gain understanding and affection for one another in the next installment... Which I also get to review! So, keep an eye out for that and start getting excited!

Final thoughts: The length was perfect to read during an especially busy period. I'm hoping for a bit more development, but I really want to know what happens next! I'm convinced that my cousins need to read this, as they are the intended audience and it's a mix of their two genres- school/regular drama for Emma, fantasy and magic for Conor!

Get your copy here OR wait until I do a giveaway (!!!)

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.


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