4 out of 4 stars
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Hale, written by J.K. Noble, is an imaginative fantasy novel. When its intricately crafted narrative begins, in the eighteenth century, Felix, Bayo, and Greon are in a mystical place looking for treasured magical artifacts – a pendant and three glassy orbs that represent different realms. One of them represents Malphora, home of the humans and the extraordinary, who share the realm. There is, however, an untraversable divide between them, which can only be breached using the orbs or knowing the location of an ancient tree.
Back in the twenty-first century, readers get to know two orphans, sixteen-year-old Hale and his older sister Carly. They have been abducted by a conflicted man named Greon. Carly tries to escape but ends up getting killed in front of a horrified Hale. Using her last breaths, Carly begs Hale never to take off a protective amulet their father gave them. But Hale loses the amulet and ends up in a whole different realm, the home of the Griffin Clan, where he finds out he is a Griffin, a lion-eagle shapeshifter with extraordinary powers.
The book is full of positive aspects. Firstly, what I liked the most about Hale was its rich and energetic narrative arc. The author skillfully weaves several plot threads and does a great job of tying everything neatly, which I appreciated. I also enjoyed the coming-of-age undercurrent that permeates the whole narrative, which is full of symbolism. Hale gets transported to a completely different world and is baffled by this new place and its violence, having to fend for himself at such a young age. The teenaged protagonist is a multidimensional and relatable character that makes us root for him. The author developed him very well, creating vivid descriptions of his surroundings as a background for his state of mind. For instance, Noble does a great job of portraying Hale’s anguish as he watches the Griffins fight to the death on a stage almost every night, with bodies thrown into a fire.
Also, the mystical elements are explored very well by the author; there are nymphs, sirens, potions, portals, magic spheres, and kings, among others. It is a feast for fantasy fans. I particularly liked how each Griffin (including the elders of the Griffin Clan) had one of five powers: shielding, ardor, light, dark, or endurance. Noble explored these characteristics creatively and masterly. There were also illustrations that added to the worldbuilding. A map of the territories at the beginning of the novel came in handy, and I resorted to it several times as the story progressed.
In closing, I found no negatives worth mentioning in this book, and I give it 4 out of 4 stars. It seemed professionally edited, for I only found a couple of very minor mishaps. With all the elements of a great fantasy novel, I had lots of fun reading it, and I recommend it to all readers who enjoy the genre. I believe it is a good read for teenagers as well, for it has no profanity or sexual content. It does have a good deal of violence and gore, though, so sensitive readers should be aware of this.
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