I guess this is life. Maybe, strange things happen without much meaning.
The number of strange things happening around Oliver is pretty large.
So, hundreds of years ago, Merlin put himself in a suspended animation of sorts, and hid his body behind some clever little puzzle -- like a video game. Wizards have made a few attempts to find him, but they haven't worked out (obviously). The last attempt ended in death, destruction and betrayal.
More than a decade later, it's time for another shot -- one last shot. Merlin's last male descendant, Oliver (although I'm not really sure about the math on that -- sure, he's a dork and awkward with females, but there's no reason to think that Oliver couldn't have kids). Oliver has no clue that he's a Wizard (I guess the owl from Hogwarts got lost), his mother's memory has been magically wiped, so she has no clue, either.
Oliver's kidnapped (for his own good) and whisked away to begin to learn about his heritage while being introduced to a world of elves, witches, trolls, goblins, demons, seraphs and more. Most of whom are on the verge of war with each other, and only Merlin can stop it.
Oliver, a mind-reading goblin, a couple of attractive adolescent witches (he's a 15-year-old nerd, of course that's how he categorizes them), and an old friend of his father are the key to bringing back Merlin and saving the world. This isn't your typical Merlin -- or your typical anything -- beyond the very typical socially awkward teenage male protagonist.
The plot, on the whole, was so-so. It got the job done, but never really grabbed me. The characters were . . . all right. Nothing special, nothing we haven't seen before, but nothing eye-roll inducing or annoying. The world-building was very detailed, intriguing, and impressive -- although sometime it wasn't explained clearly. Still, if anything would bring me back for a second novel, it'd be the world-building. I don't think the chapters of Goblins speaking to Goblins were anywhere near as funny as Lovato seemed to think they were, but I admire the fact that he stuck with them for as long as he did.
There were a few quirks that caught my eye -- each race's magic is characterized by a color, and Lovato spends a lot of time talking about them -- so much so that I wondered if Hal Jordan and the Guardians of Oa were going to show up. I'm not sure I remember reading anything where the hero gets knocked out so often -- it's worse than Daredevil, Season 1. It's not a huge thing, but there's a difference between someone being a novice/rookie and someone being pathetically helpless. Reduce the knock-outs by 20% and I probably wouldn't say anything.
My main complaint was the language -- a few idiomatic phrases were off, the dialogue was frequently stilted, a lot of the word choices were not wrong, but certainly not right. About halfway through the book, I skipped ahead and read about the author -- the fact that he's a non-native English speaker explained just about every problem I had with the mechanics of the writing and I was able to ignore them. That's precisely how it reads, and if I'd known that going in, I'd probably have enjoyed the whole experience a little more. Still, far too often Lovato uses three words when one would do.
Not a great book, but an entertaining read -- and at the end of the day, that's enough. For a little atypical YA fantasy, this would be well worth a look.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post, the honest thoughts contained above, and participation in the Book Tour.