The Twistrose Key
By Tone Almhjell, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr
Expected publication October 22, 2013 by Dial
Lin has felt pretty lonely in her family's new home, especially since her beloved pet, Rufus, passed away. When a mysterious key arrives, Lin feels certain she is meant to uncover its secrets. What she finds is a new land, called Sylver, home to animals who share a special connection to a child in the human world. Rufus is there waiting for her. What Lin doesn't know about is the great mystery she has been brought to Sylver to solve.
This book was getting a big push from the publisher at TLA and ALA and I was bummed when they didn't have any ARCs to hand out. However, I discovered the book was available on Edelweiss, so I requested and was delighted get access to the book. I thought this would be a great title in my quest for more middle-grade, and, of course, it appealed to me because I love fantasy novels.
I guess in my excitement over the pretty cover and how much the publisher was pushing the book, I failed to notice that this falls into that particular brand of fantasy for which I don't care terribly much - talking animals. I still wanted to give it a shot, as I've been pleasantly surprised by a few books in this subgenre in the past.
How did this book fare, in my humble opinion? Pretty well, though not without its flaws. I found the first part of this book quite confusing - until Lin actually makes it to Sylver and Rufus begins to explain things, I didn't really have any idea what was going on. I don't know if I just wasn't reading closely enough or if the book itself was a bit confusing, but once Lin arrived in the magical world, everything became a bit more clear. I liked Lin well enough, though I'm not sure I fully understand why she was chosen to save Sylver, and I'm not sure she's developed enough for me to truly care whether or not she succeeds.
Surprisingly, what I really liked were the animals and the mythology surrounding them. I liked the idea of Petlings and Wilders and I thought Almhjell did a fantastic job imbuing each animal character with a distinct personality. In fact, I felt like I knew the animals better than the people in the story.
I thought the quest that Lin and Rufus undertake was the right mix of excitement and danger. I was pleased by the twist - I hadn't seen it coming, but once it happened, it made perfect sense and an astute reader would probably be able to spot it ahead of time. I liked how everything tied up in the end; I think it'll be a very satisfying conclusion for readers.
Overall, I think fantasy fans will find plenty to enjoy in this novel.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.