Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: The Fossegrimen Folly

I was drawn at once to the cover and the blurb for The Fossegrimen Folly, and I actually contacted the author Michael Almich to ask for a review copy (generally it goes the other way around). He was kind enough to send me one, and the time I spent reading it definitely wasn't wasted. I'm very much looking forward to the second book in the series.

I wanted to read a YA novel with a male lead, and I'm pleased to say I picked a good one. Shy is a completely believable kid who's been sent, against his will, to summer camp. He fits his name well; before camp, Shy spends most of his time with his dog or dodging bullies at school. He's upset about his parents splitting up, and not at all looking forward to two months of forced separation from the world he knows. 

At first. Soon, Almich takes Shy (and me!) into a world of magic and mystery. Camp Lac Igam is introduced in spectacular fashion, along with supporting characters like the staunchly loyal Daniel and the laid-back camp counselor Tad. Gust, the oldest and wisest camp employee, is gruff and mysterious, but there are a few moments when true warmth pokes through his crusty exterior. Almich is superb at showing the byplay between characters, and the dialogue flows naturally through every page. Every one of the campers and counselors are unique, with their own distinct personalities, and I loved getting to know them.

Of course, they're just the human characters. Camp Lac Igam is also populated with fey creatures, faeries who remain mostly unseen to most of the people wandering around the camp. Shy stumbles, rather clumsily, into an adventure involving many of the intriguing creatures of the camp. Through the summer, he learns new stories and finds new evidence of the fey, almost always to fantastic results. Almich borrows from Scandinavian lore to create a truly unique fantasy world that's superimposed on the real world, and he blends the two together beautifully through Shy. 

He's already got enough to worry about even without the magical creatures. Shy's nemesis and the resident bully at his school is also at the camp, and much of his adventure is internal. Almich brilliantly leads Shy along on his quest toward self-confidence, and honestly I was just as excited about the end-of-camp games as I was about the faerie treasure (yes, there's treasure!). The good news is that Shy finds true friendship, and not all of the fey variety, during his all-too-short summer at camp. The bad news is that school bullies aren't the only forces of evil he'll have to face. 

A few formatting errors are the only thing that keep this book from being absolutely perfect. It's satisfying, it's exciting, and it's sure to please even non-fantasy fans (and I ought to know, since I'm one of them). At times, the reader does have to suspend belief -- the camp's adults are nothing if not negligent. But I stuck with it, and I'm glad I did. The fey creatures that live around Camp Lac Igam aren't cute or cuddly, they're like nothing I've ever seen in any other book, and I'm pleased I got to know them. 

It's an ideal world, and while it may be a little hard to swallow at times it is a fantastic place to visit. Since such a camp could never possibly exist in the real world, it's nice that at least it does exist in this book.

Almich is a strong writer with a very outside-the-box story to tell. It's certainly a fantasy book, but it's not at all a cookie-cutter tale. Shy is an unlikely hero that everyone's going to root for, and I'll be happy to wave a banner for him while he competes in camp games, refuses to back down to bullies and tries to find a way to live in his two worlds successfully.

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  1. Jade,
    I appreciate your review! It feels like you got what I was trying to put out there. I hope there are some boys out there that read this story and can disappear into it. That is really what makes me want to write stories. I want others to experience that story that takes over your thoughts and makes you feel like you miss the characters when it ends. Anecdotally it seems to me that boys aren't as big of readers as girls... thoughts? I know you noted the male lead.
    Again, just wanted to thank you for taking the time to write a well thought out, well written, and honest review!
    Mike Almich

  2. I agree with you there. Girls are generally more verbal in nature, but as a female reader I've read lots of books with male protagonists. Christopher Pike is one of my favorite YA writers, and many of his novels are led by men.