Sam is the best archer in all of Salem. With her latest win, she and her sister, Abby, herself a gifted fencer, have the chance to train for the Olympics at magical Xenith. Prestigious and affluent, this training camp in Fletching provides an opportunity of a lifetime. As an added bonus, Sam and her sister will get to spend a lot more time with their mother, who lives in the area, and Eli, an old friend with whom Sam is excited to rekindle a friendship. It's a dream come true. But dreams don't always turn out the way we expect. Sometimes our dreams turn into nightmares. How will this one end?
Written for a young adult audience, "Qi" is fanciful and engaging. I found Sam's character to be realistic, with real flaws and strengths, and I liked her. The rest of the characters were a little less developed, and not quite as engaging. The adults, in particular, were less complex and compelling than the children in the story. The adults are, in fact, secondary characters, which really serves to highlight the strength of the younger characters in the story. Nicely written, in fluid prose for this age level, this novel is quite appropriate for the middle grade or younger young adult set. The author sets the scenes with descriptive language that allows the reader to picture the events and characters.
The storyline is immediately engaging, and I was eager to find out more about Fletching and the Liffey family. A mysterious stranger is introduced right in the first few pages, and this infuses a nugget of expectation, which pulled me in further. Although the book is titled "Qi," I felt like not quite enough was done with this concept, and I would have loved for it to have come up a bit more than it did. When the magic doll, Will, was presented in the story, it became more clear what type of a fantasy story this was. Although this doll played a major role, I feel like I didn't really get a good sense of him. He seemed to be such an integral part of what goes on in Fletching, but, in his introduction, we find that he's been locked up for years. I wondered if he was the only creation of his sort, and how he might have come to be.
I found the ending of the book to be a little less engaging than the first half of the book had been. The ending seemed a little less relatable and almost like a different type of story than I had been expecting. It's hard to define exactly what I felt, but I found myself thinking "what??" on several occasions during the climatic scenes of the book. I like the way the ending wasn't completely tied into a neat package with a pretty little bow, but I was confused by just how much was left open to the imagination. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the book is titled "Book One of the Baba Yaga," so it seems there is much more to come in later installments. I hope that's the case, because one of the things I wanted most probed was the triangle between Dr. Dante and Sam's parents. I also wanted more about Jonah and his experiences, and what was in store for both Abby and Sam. There is a lot left to discover, and I look forward to seeing where this story leads.
Engaging and fun, this was a really nice start to a series that has the potential to be an exciting fantasy adventure for younger readers.
3.5 /5 stars
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