4 out of 4 stars
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The Hidden City of Chelldrah-Ham: Belas Rift by Stephan von Clinkerhoffen is a fun and fast-paced sci-fi/fantasy book for younger readers. The story follows Meg and Stig, two Manna from a different dimensional universe, on their quest to stop the evil invisible human Anet's plans of genocide and chaos. Their pursuit of Anet takes them through the Belas Rift where they find themselves in the surprising land of humankind. Meg's kind heart and loving way with plants and animals are put to the test in the new land, while Stig's ever-inquisitive mind finds no end of amusement in the humans' technology.
Meg and Stig discover that, like Anet in their world, they now in the human world are invisible. Not to mention humans are gigantic! So how much trouble could it possibly be for two little invisible Manna to get by in the human world? Apparently a lot more than you might think. All out chaos and disorder follow Meg and Stig as they upset just about every human they come in contact with. The two little people find themselves constantly pursued by the authorities while they unravel an ancient mystery of the two worlds and their connection through the Rift. Can they avoid capture in this strange new world long enough to solve the mystery and stop Anet?
This was an incredibly enjoyable book. Though it is geared towards younger readers, it is intelligently written and the fast-paced action is well thought-out. The story is engrossing and even though this book is part of a series; it stands alone quite well. The little tidbits thrown in from the previous stories are not very detailed; they actually leave you with a bit of mystery and a want to read the beginning of the tale, but in no way take away from the current story. The dialogue is excellent and full of local flavor. The author weaves English history and quantum physics theory into the story, giving a bit of enjoyable education for younger readers. The novel is also full of excellent moral and social messages, such as kindness to others, care of the environment and respect towards all living things.
The action is downright hilarious at times and I found myself giggling through a good portion of the book. Stig's constant curiosity with machines and endless fiddling keep the story moving along from one outrageous adventure to the next, but Meg's patient kindness and quick thinking get them through to the next escapade. The little Manna see the human world from a very different perspective and the comparisons are a source of endless fun. I was hooked from the moment Stig makes his first ever so polite 'swoon'. The little cultural differences are so well done by the author that I found it to be one of the most endearing aspects of the story. The illustrations are also beautiful and well placed throughout the book.
Overall, I found the book to be a very good read and give it a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. There were very few editing errors and the writing was well done. The story is imaginative, full of memorable characters, and just plain fun. I would recommend this book to avid sci-fi or fantasy readers who enjoy a humorous light read, but I second the author's recommendation that it is for readers 12 and over. The violent acts in the conclusion are handled descriptively, showcasing the realistic aspects of consequence in taking violent actions towards others. It is handled in an empathic and insightful way, but it is vividly described. While I cannot label it as overly gruesome, it may be too intense for the youngest of readers.
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