Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: The Tree of Mindala by Elle Jacklee

The Tree of Mindala
The Tree of Mindala by Elle Jacklee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wonderful tale!

The Tree of Mindala is perfect for kids and kids at heart. The story unfolds 40 years ago when the magical land, Wunderwood, is under the attack of power-hungry Thornton and his followers. Their goal is to find The Tree of Mindala and steal away it's essence so they alone can decide who can use magic and to what extent. But, although the flora of Wunderwood withers under Thornton's attack and all seems lost, a young man named Truman discovers he could be the key to righting things. And that's just the Prologue!

Fast forward to present day, near Halloween, and we meet Miranda and Marcus. Eleven year old Miranda, ever the daydreamer, reports seeing a mermaid in a pond and gets in trouble when her teacher investigates. Marcus, her pessimistic
younger brother, knows this latest antic will lead to nothing but trouble for him. He's right.

Their parents decide to skip the normal Halloween traditions and take the kids to spend a few days at their grandparents' house in the country. Of course, that dashes Marcus' plans to attend a friend's party. But the trip isn't all it seems, and soon the two realize their parents might have something else to discuss with them, something serious. Then things get interesting...

I love several things about The Tree of Mindala. First among these are the characters. The cast includes the charismatic, the sinister, and the downtrodden, but all are believable. I enjoy the variety of creatures and magical beings and the way they interact with each other and Miranda and Marcus. I also enjoy that several of the characters' motives are unclear, keeping me guessing until the very end.

Next, the magical world of Wunderwood engaged my imagination. Such places like the Prophecy Pond, Thornton's Lair, and the hidden base in the Silvercap Mountains bring the story to life. The descriptions are rich without being overbearing, and the images they bring to mind leave a lasting impression. Set aside the story, and the quality of writing is solid, including: character development, conflict/plot, and world-building.

Besides the things I liked, I felt the return to real life and the events leading up to it seemed reminiscent of the way the Pevensie children in Narnia return to the real world in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Plus, while everything else is neatly resolved, we never find out whether Miranda's and Marcus' heroic efforts make a lasting difference for Thornton.

That being said, I would recommend this book as a present for a middle-school aged reader, especially those who love stories with magical creatures, faraway lands and young protagonists who discover strengths they didn't know they possessed. Parents, or adults who enjoy books with a younger cast, may also find this story to their liking.

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