Book Review: The Ocean and The Hourglass by Dan O’Brien

15012054Title: The Ocean and The Hourglass
Author: Dan O’Brien
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: September 9th 2011
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Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

Dreams are not for the faint of heart, they are for the brave to follow.
A Book, an Hourglass.
An adventure into the mind.
Nicholas had always dreamt of faraway places, distant lands beyond imagination. Wandering into the library on a cold day, he finds an adventure that he had not been looking for. Transported to a distant world, Nicholas finds himself involved in sweeping adventures of a broken and lost kingdom. Filled with sea giants and ancient cities, the young man soon finds that the adventure was greater than he could have ever imagined.

The Ocean and The Hourglass features Nicholas, a young, troubled boy who wants nothing more than to escape his daily life, filled with school bullies and an alcoholic mother. He finds solace in the library, until one day the eccentric librarian hands him an empty book and an hourglass to use. However, there are strict rules to use the book and hourglass, and when one day Nicholas doesn’t obey those rules, he finds himself in the middle of a war tearing a magical kingdom apart. Evil lurks around every corner, and Nicholas, referred to by many as “The Prodigy”, along with an eclectic group of friends, is forced to fight the evil and save the kingdom, if he ever wants to get home again.

The story has a LOT of potential. The concept is great, and reminded me of timeless stories like The Chronicles of Narnia and the Inkheart series, and even The Never-Ending Story. The story starts out strong enough as well. Nicholas is a likeable character, and easily relatable for the many bookworms who like to escape our daily reality and hide behind the covers of a book. However, the plot soon falls flat, and becomes unconvincing. The characters fail to come alive, the third person perspective is at times, very odd, since it introduces us to unnecessary characters. At times, we meet characters who are very interesting and necessary for the plot, but we only meet them briefly and then they disappear in the pages of history. I could’ve lived with that if this book was intended for the middle grade crowd, but as it is, Nicholas is a young adult and he behaves like a ten year old most of the time.

Then there’s the plot itself, which…lacked something. There was a sparkle of plot magic at work up to the point when Nicholas travelled to the magical world, and then the magic was lost. There wasn’t enough action to keep me invested in the book, the conflict seemed minimal and sometimes even non-existing. There are plenty of philosophical discussions going on in the book, but I can’t help but wonder if a YA book, or even MG considering the story, would be the perfect place for long, philosophical discussions. I wish the author would’ve left it out in favor of more action and adventure.

If one would cut out the sometimes overly flowery prose and heavy vocabulary and philosophical discussions, the many side characters adding nothing to the story, and would make Nicholas several years younger, one would have an interesting, fun MG novel. As it stands, it’s difficult to classify this book as anything except eclectic.

While I enjoyed the other books by Dan O’Brien that I read, this one didn’t feel right to me. Some of the ideas were too random, and the book wanted to be more than it was intended to. I liked the original plot idea, and the characters of Nicholas, so I gave points for that. It’s not an overly bad book, it just wasn’t for me.

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