The Road to Nyn ****
by Brian Michaud

If you want to have a Tolkien-ish adventure with (or as) a middle grade kid, then this is a good story for you. Kay is following two paths, one toward outlaw wizardry and the other toward honorable knighthood. Then goblins ransack town and carry off his village for enslavement in their underground mountain community. He groups up with his wizard mentor, Alamin and an unlikely group of travel companions with various abilities. He can talk to animals too, which I thought was great.

I received an ARC of this audiobook and listened to it while traveling.

There are a lot of elements common to the High Fantasy genre in this book. There is a dragon who loves sitting on gold, an aloof and ageless wizard, people live like its medieval Europe, pixies are mischevious, and there is a foxy elf ranger. The end was familiar to me thanks to my love of the fantasy genre, though not identical to anything. I think Kay’s magical weapons were unique and the characters were very well described. They jumped out from tropes and became their own people.

We get access to quite a few character’s thoughts through a third person omniscient narrative but the story only follows Kay. I have seen this formerly shunned option appearing more and more in middle grade fantasy. I’ve used it myself in YA books. 

I think it can be helpful sometimes, but I also think that some things can be showed to the reader through the Protagonist’s observations of other character’s facial expressions, body language, dialogue, and physical reactions.  

The tale leaves off with plenty of room for this to turn into a series. It looks like book two, The Ring of Carnac, has recently been released. It will be exciting to see Michaud’s talent and storytelling grow as the series progresses.

I took off one star because a couple things stuck in my craw.  We spent a bit of time being told about who went where and what happened rather than sharing Kay’s experience of the event. I think the reason people choose books over other media because they get to have a vicarious experience. We want to see what it’s like to be someone else. Novels have the unique ability to read minds, show a birds eye view of action, and share first hand sensory stimulation like the feel of a punch connecting, the smell of a swamp, and the motion in shadow that might be a goblin. Using adverbs after dialogue tells a reader how a character felt, but describing what the character is doing instead let the reader see and evaluate how the character must feel. I’m sure I put a magnifying glass to a very inconsequential part of this outstanding fantasy adventure. I openly admit that I over-scrutinize this area of writing because it has been a focal point for my improvements as a writer.

I’d like to point out that I’m way older than middle grade, as I have a third grade son who reads in this age group. None of these complaints matter to him, he was very interested in the story. I intend to listen to the whole thing again while driving him around. Check back on this review sometime, I’ll add his comments in after he’s had a good listen.

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