Book Review: The Strings of the Violin by Alisse Lee Goldenberg

483744_520338378004928_174011960_nTitle: The Strings of the Violin

Author: Alisse Lee Goldenberg

Genre: YA Fantasy

Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: 3,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon (PB), Amazon (Kindle)

Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Seventeen-year-old Carrie is lying in her backyard ignoring all the looming responsibilities in her life, when a fox makes a mad dash across the grass in front of her. After she manages to keep her dog from attacking the frightened animal, the fox turns to Carrie and seems to bow in gratitude before he disappears into the bushes. All Carrie knows in that moment is that something has unexpectedly changed in her life.

Carrie has been best friends with Lindsay Smith and Rebecca Campbell for years. During a summer when they should focus on choosing colleges, the girls suddenly find themselves swept away on the adventure of their lives. The fox reappears three days later and reveals to Carrie that he is Adom, emissary to the king of Hadariah. With his land of music and magic in peril, Adom has been sent to seek help from Carrie and her friends. In the blink of an eye, the three teenage girls go from living an average suburban life to being the champions of a world where they must contend with giants, witches, and magical beings. Will they ever make it home once more?

The Strings of the Violin is intended for a young adult audience, but the characters all act significantly younger than their age. Carrie, the main character, is supposedly 17, but she acts more like a 12-13 year old girl. In general, with the character interactions, the setting and the events that happen in the book, it seems more suitable for a middle grade audience. That’s not to say young adults won’t enjoy it, but I’m confident middle graders would probably like it even more. It has that fun mix of humor and fantasy middle graders tend to love.

While our main character, Carrie, is wondering what she’ll do with her life after the summer holidays are over – go to college or not? – she meets a talking fox named Adom. While that’s certainly peculiar, what’s even stranger is that apparently Adom needs her help. He comes from another dimension, a magical world that is in great peril, and he hopes Carrie will drop everything and help him out. Carrie, beings a surprisingly good person, does exactly that. With the help of her friends Rebecca and Lindsay she travels to the kingdom in danger. Apparently an evil wizard stole the strings of an enchanted violin, and if he destroys the strings, their world will end forever, and Carrie and her friends have to stop this evil foe.

It doesn’t take long before they encounter Emilia and rescue her. Emilia is a princess who defied her father and, as gratitude for being rescued, she agrees to guide the three friends to the castle of the evil wizard. But the longer their journey takes, the more Carrie begins to wonder if she can trust Emilia or not…

Let me start by saying the good stuff about this book. There’s a lot of folklore, which I thought was pretty cool, like dybbuks, for instance. The whole plot with the magical strings of the violin was pretty original as well. The world Carrie and her friends end up in, is vibrant and exciting, and we meet all kinds of creatures, from giants to witches to enchanted trees.

Now, on to the not-so-good. My primary concern was how the book is targeted at young adults, yet everything about it seems aimed at a younger audience. Then there’s also the writing style. It is rather fluent, sure, but two things bothered me about it. One would be the telling instead of showing. “Carrie could see”, “she was frightened”, “Lindsay was petrified”, “Carrie smelled”. All this distances readers from the book, and it happened all the time. I would’ve been much more involved in the story if there was more showing instead of telling. Second was the dialogue. Sometimes it was repetitive, or stiff, or totally out of place. I understand wanting to make Adom and Emilia sound like they come from an exotic fairytale land, but even Carrie, Rebecca and Lindsay suffered from this sometimes.

Apart from the writing style problems, the book was a blast though. I never knew what to expect, and it’s obvious that the author has an amazing imagination and an astonishing eye for detail. All in all, an enjoyable read in a fantasy world you won’t soon forget.

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