4 out of 4 stars
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Wheel of Katarnum by Jam Calliotte is a fantastic story about growing up, facing your fears and realizing that not everything is as it seems. Geared primarily towards preteens, I believe this novel is a great read for anyone age 8 or older.
Rob Hawkins has had a hard time adjusting since his father’s disappearance. How can a person simply vanish into thin air? But when Rob discovers that his father is being held captive in another universe known as Katarnum, he knows that it will take all his bravery and skill to rescue him. Along the way he gets help from a Gate Elf, a talking donkey, and his best friend Sam. Rob and Sam are able to learn a little magic before they journey to Katarnum, but will it be enough to keep them safe and rescue Rob’s dad? And how will Rob's Native American heritage help him discover the truth?
Calliotte has done an incredible job creating the perfect mix of fairy tale and adult fantasy. The concepts are intriguing without being overly complicated. The story has a lot of detail and yet never seems to drag. And the characters are absolutely wonderful! My personal favourite is Bobbelonius Cauliflower III (or Bobbel, for short), a talking donkey with quite a keen intellect.
Aside from the fantastic plot, the thing I like the most about this book is that both of the main characters are people of colour, and that one is a strong, confident female. Rob is part Native American and is described as having long, straight black hair and bright green eyes. And Sam is an African-American girl with the skills and intellect to back up her confidence. I firmly believe that there needs to be more representation of both people of colour and strong females in literature; and especially in books geared towards children and young adults. I also really enjoyed that the plot had very little to do with the colour of the character's skin, as is often the case when showcasing people of colour in books.
I often find character development to be lacking in stories geared towards preteens, but that was certainly not the case here. The characters have strong, distinct personalities and it is a delight to notice the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) changes in them throughout the book. I really like that most of the characters have layers and are not completely “good” or “evil” as is often the case in stories such as these.
I did find several small errors in the print, but they did not distract from my ability to enjoy the book. There are also several instances of borderline profanity, mostly the repeated use of the word “jackass” in reference to Bobbel. Overall, I rate Wheel of Katarnum 4 out of 4 stars and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys light adventure stories; especially preteens and teenagers. Other than the few grammar mistakes, I have nothing negative to say about this book. I look forward to reading the next installment.
Wheel of Katarnum
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