“The book doesn’t occupy the world… it is the world.”
– The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One by Jess Lourey
Jess Lourey is best known for her work in the mystery genre – namely her light-hearted Murder-by-Month saga (May Day, June Bug, et. al.) featuring Battle Lake, Minnesota, amateur sleuth Mira James – but that’s all about to change. With the release of The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One, Lourey has entered into the young adult arena with a story that will appeal to fans of folkloric fantasy as well as classic literature.
Lourey could’ve easily “dumbed down” the storyline by directing her narrative into the realms of books that are currently in vogue and theoretically more palatable to a mainstream audience – Twilight, Hunger Games, Roth’s Divergent trilogy, etc. But instead she focused on classics like H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, etc.
The cover art was spectacular, the storyline was highly intelligent, but it’s Lourey’s dreamlike writing style that makes this novel so compelling. I’ve read some of her mystery novels and I can say that The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One is easily her best work to date. Her evocative style, which is powered by an unwavering sense of wonder, is perfectly fitted for fantasy. Here are a few examples:
• “…dense hardwoods forming a canopy so thick only ferns and horsebalm sprout beneath them, and an occasional patch of grass where persistent sunbeams have fought through. The dappled light gives the forest an underwater quality, making it both vibrant and hazy. The ground is peppered with fallen branches…”
• “She leans back on her heels on the topmost branch of the fruit tree, its bark digging into her knees. Her head spins and her pulse races with a combination of joy and fear. She’s in an actual book, inside of a story, living a dream. Despite herself, she smiles. But what is reality then, and what is fiction?”
Young adult science fiction and fantasy is such a dynamic category right now – arguably some of the strongest writing in all of genre fiction is happening there – and, even with all of that competition, teen readers should add Lourey’s The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One to their list of “must read” releases. It's that good.
Readers will, like the protagonists, literally get lost in this book. Beautifully written and unquestionably entertaining, this projected trilogy truly does have the potential to become a young adult classic – only time will tell...
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulgoatallen and get all the latest Barnes & Noble book news from @BNBuzz.
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