Book Review: Hallows Haven

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Reading is a luxury, did you know? Not just in the sense that having the money to buy books is a luxury by some, as we addressed here, but also in the sense that, as readers, we can sit back and enjoy a plot already assembled, characters pre-formed and predestined, and settings imagined or described by someone else. The author has already done the work; we have only to use our imagination to follow along. The work of writing and publishing a book is indeed work, a labor of love, to be sure, but labor nonetheless. That's why Stephenie Meyer referred to her writing of New Moon as "the birthing of another book."


As a writer myself, I am acquainted with that labor. I have a B.A. in Journalism, a masters degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration, have written book reviews, research articles, and posts on service for MomItForward for years, as well as posts on my own unique blend of hobbies on my own blog more recently. I'm currently writing my own young adult science-fiction novel. I'm also on the board of my local writers' club, and interact regularly with published authors and the occasional editor. I've written alot. I also read voraciously, a couple of books a week. When I review a book, I write it with appreciation for the sheer effort of the author in producing that book, flavored with my interpretation and opinions of the book. Such is the case with this review, this time of Hallows Haven by Melissa Brodsky and Nicole Madison.

Self-published in July 2013, this book follows the story of 16-year-old Gwen Valiente, a young woman who finds that she possesses magical powers and has a mysterious magical heritage. This discovery takes her to a haven for magicians—Hallows Haven—where she finds things both very similar to her life in Michigan (e.g., drama and romance), and very dissimilar (e.g., the ability to transfigure, the true identity of her long-lost parents, etc.). It is a plot loosely reminiscent of the first Harry Pottery novel, with the major differences being that the main character is female, and that there is the question of whether or not Gwen's powers are light or dark, good or bad. The premise is definitely intriguing.

But if one is looking for a formulaic fulfillment of Blake Snyder's popular "beat sheet"—the plot structure most movies and many books follow these days—in this book, or the expected ups and downs of a typical three-act structure, one will not find it. There is conflict, to be sure, between Gwen and other characters, and Gwen and the mysteries that may defeat her, but it ends abruptly at beat 10, or just as a surprise bad guy closes in. That surprise is one of several throughout the book that, coupled with its unique structure, make for a distinctive read.

While I believe the book would have benefited from more in-depth editing to eliminate grammatical errors and stilted dialogue, writing a book is, as I have said, a difficult endeavor, and I admire Melissa and Nicole for having completed theirs. As members of a community I believe it is important for us to support one another, and I am grateful for the opportunity I had to read and review Hallows Haven.



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