Review: Return to Exile by E.J. Patten

September 14, 2011 3.5 stars, Book Review 0 ★★★½

Review: Return to Exile by E.J. PattenReturn to Exile by E.J. Patten
Series: The Hunter Chronicles #1
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on September 6, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade & Childrens
Pages: 512
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads

*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.

Eleven years ago, Phineas T. Pimiscule rescued his nephew Sky Weathers in the town of Exile. Since then, Sky studied traps, puzzles, science, and the secret lore of the Hunters of Legend, believing it all a game, while his parent and uncle sacrificed to hide him. On the eve of Sky's twelfth birthday and his family's return to Exile, Phineas disappears.

To find him, Sky joins ragtag teen monster hunters whose weapons are made out of garbage and know even less than he does. If Sky can't solve the riddles his uncle left for him within two days, Exile will burn. Who is Sky and why does everyone want to kill him?
three-half-stars

I won this ARC from a First Reads, Goodreads contest shortly after I started using my Goodreads account more actively.  Oddly this is the same time I found out about the book blogging world.  It took quite some time for the ARC to arrive – in fact it arrived just one week before the actual book was to be released.   Given how fat this book is for middle-grade fiction, it took me quite some time to finish it – 20 days infact.  Now normally 500 pages wouldn’t phase me, but I was in one of my moods of wanting to craft rather than read and I didn’t fancy the idea of a “children’s” book at the moment.
So my thoughts on this book – I enjoyed it, I really did.  There was plenty of mystery, action, riddles to solve, snarky humor and my favorite thing – MONSTERS!  Who doesn’t love a good bit of monster action?  I know I do – heck I collect them!  Plus it’s so nice when a book keeps you guessing right til the very en- d.There were often moments when I couldn’t get at all what might happen next.  It was full of plenty of unexpected moments and had just enough hints here and there for you to have those “ah hahs” and know that the scene is being set up for later on and that perhaps that bit you ought to hang onto and remember.  I really liked that and I think the younger audience will enjoy that.  It helps you to get into the story and think you are solving the puzzles right along with the main character.

Now with all that said – I didn’t really start enjoying it thoroughly until one third of the way in.  I think I was turned off to the fact that it was so thick for the genre it is aimed at.  I kept thinking while reading it that its target age group didn’t seem to fit quite right.  I have two twin nephews that are 9 years old – I don’t think they could pick this hefty book up until they were at least 14 which is the tail end of the age range it is categorized in.  Though I do think they would enjoy it if I read it aloud to them (accompanied with all the funny voices of course).
One concern I had was I don’t think the mental images of most of the characters were built well enough.  I could only successfully conjure up mental pictures of three of the characters.  A few times I went back to the physical descriptions of the children so I could better get a mental grip of them again.  The small bits of backstory you got on each character helped add mystery to the story but I often wished there were a bit more by the time the book ended.  One in particular I felt lacked in background so much so that it made it difficult for me to latch onto her emotionally (Crystal).

In the end, I would definitely recommend this book to readers that enjoyed the Harry Potter series.  I really like the main character Sky a lot as well as his supporting cast and think he was a well rounded out character.  He had a good balance of redeeming qualities and flaws which made him very endearing.  I definitely plan to read the next one in this series!

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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