Finding Angel (Toch Island Chronicles) (Volume 1) Paperback – September 1, 2011
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"Opening Finding Angel is like opening a living jigsaw puzzle. Reading it becomes the delight of joining the enchanted pieces even as they change shape into dragons and mushrooms..."
~Sherry Thompson, author of Seabird and Earthbow~
"I'd recommend it to anybody who loves a fairytale. It reminded me a bit of Fablehaven and the Spiderwick Chronicles. If you liked either of those then you WILL like this book."
"This is a delightful YA romp, free of many of the genre's recent cliches and objectionable material (a la the Twilight romances). The characters are likable and the stakes high. The plot grows a bit leisurely in places, but the worldbuilding is exquisite: an imaginative fairy land hidden in plain view. The author has done a lovely job of taking standard fantasy tropes and turning on them on their heads to find new originality."
A great book for young nature lovers and fans of the Spiderwick Chronicles, Finding Angel is filled with friendship, mystery, and adventure.
From the Back Cover
Magic and science collide when she embarks on a journey to her true home, and to herself.
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.
- Publisher : Splashdown Books; 1st edition (September 1, 2011)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1927154138
- ISBN-13 : 978-1927154137
- Item Weight : 15.3 ounces
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.72 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,517,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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It’s hard to say a lot about the book without spoilers but I’ll give it my best shot. The blurb says a lot of it – Angel lives with a foster family and is very close to her youngest “brother.” She has no memory from before she was found wandering alone and placed in foster care. And then one day she meets a mysterious guy named Gregor and shortly after, she’s whisked off to the homeland she had forgotten. There she is busy trying to remember the events that led to her initial disappearance, waiting for her parents to return (from searching for her) and learning all about this world she was born into. Add rocker Elves, dragons (dog-sized pets!), and an evil man bent on acquiring magic through whatever means necessary and you get a unique adventure.
I will say the story slows in the middle while Angel is “finding” herself. But the slowness fit with the events and I was enjoying exploring the world and didn’t really notice it. There is reference to some animal cruelty which might disturb some – I’m fairly sensitive and it danced just on the safe side for me so most readers probably won’t find it an issue. Romance is very low key – there’s a bit with some side characters but only hints at future possibilities with Angel. The climactic ending was well done and kept me guessing up to the last minute. And faith is implied but never spelled out – it’s more in the world-view of the characters than any overt mentions. I’d qualify the book as more MG than YA. Best of all, the sequel picks up pretty quickly after the events in the first volume.
Anyway, I finally bought another copy and I'm glad I did. The world-building and characters really shine. More than anything, I enjoyed the portrayal of friendship. I hope that doesn't make the story sound too tame, because there are stakes, there is a plot. But it felt to me like the characters are central.
As a 12-year-old, I would have devoured this in one sitting (and probably both sequels). But even at 28, I really enjoyed it!
I really, really wanted to like this book more, especially since I ordered all the books in the series based on the reviews. I am rating this 'generous' 2.5 stars rounded up to 3 because this is the author's first novel.
To start, I find the writing style 'clunky.' Worse, the text is peppered with discontinuities. It reads as though someone edited out entire explanatory paragraphs, then expects the reader to intuit the content of the missing text.
The beginning of the book was interesting and held my attention. But then I got to the broad 'sagging middle' of the book where the action halts. In all fairness, this is Heckenbach's first novel and this is a common 'rookie' mistake. But it is often a fatal one. I generally read 3-5 fictive books a week. I put this one down and almost didn't finish it due to lack of interest in the story at that point. I forced myself to finish because I had already downloaded the second and third books and it was too late to return them.
It is also unclear whether or not the characters are in an alternate universe or this one. It seems to be this one with the use of magic 'hidden' from the Unempowered. But this leads to further plot holes, like why the people of Toch are unaware that dragons are not common in the U.S.
The rhetoric is overblown; there is too much sobbing and lunging and other overly dramatic language.
Pros: Original ideas; interesting characters; no obligatory YA romance.
Cons: Clunky, awkward prose; numerous discontinuities; sagging middle (underdeveloped plot line); lack of clarity; overuse of superlative language.
Will Heckenbach's writing improve in the sequels? I sincerely hope so.