Review: Dusk Gate – Seeds of Discovery
As you might remember from last night’s post, I met @bputtroff on Twitter via the #wordmongering community. She was beavering away on the second book in a series she had started and was more than willing to both cheer me on–and chat and distract me between sprints. In the heady moments after I realized I had actually made my deadline, she was there to celebrate with me, too. So I asked about her book. It sounded like just the kind of escapism I like to use to relax my brain:
Quinn Robbins’ life was everything she thought a teenager’s should be. She has good friends, a family that she loves, good grades, and an after-school job she enjoys. And, she’s just been asked out by Zander Cunningham, a popular football player and great guy. But one day when driving home after picking up her little sister from the baby-sitter’s, she nearly hits a boy who, after running blindly into the street, mysteriously disappears.
She was kind enough to send me a copy of the Kindle edition via email so I could read it. I had a very hard time putting it down Thursday night to answer questions or eat dinner.
Don’t let the somewhat pixellated text on the cover, or the handful of editing errors in the first few chapters make you think that this is anything less than a professional author’s outstanding debut novel. (I would recommend someone go back through to at least uncapitalize the pronouns, though, since it left me wondering if our protagonist was intended to be some kind of goddess.) Puttroff vividly captures the sense of teenage romance in scenes like:
“I’m inviting you.” Zander turned to Annie, who was struggling to pull her coat sleeves the right way out. “We were both wrong, kiddo. Quinn is the silly goofball head.” As he said it, he reached over to Quinn and tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear, causing a swarm of butterflies to flutter into her stomach.
“Yeah!” Annie declared. “Quinn, you’re the silly goofball head!”
“So do you want to go?” Zander’s face was earnest.
Quinn’s heart was pounding, and the blush reached up to her hairline, even coloring her ears, though she wasn’t sure why. She’d known Zander her whole life, this should have been easy, but somehow it was completely unexpected.
Quinn as a self-contained, self-sufficient teen, coming into her own in a careful way was completely relatable. She’s smart enough to know what’s acceptable and normal, and when she realizes that the boy she had almost run over is one who’s made a career of blending into the background at school, her curiosity is piqued.
She fights the tension of how she neglects her friendship with her best friend Abigail with the kinds of justifications that will feel familiar to most readers. She is resilient and bounces between emotions like any hormonal teenager, though it did grate that there were a few crying scenes front-loaded into the book.
I’m very glad to be waiting for the release of the second book now, to see how the author ties in the prologue and the early references to flowers and choices–two foreshadowed elements that get short shrift in the second half of the story. This is a classic frame story, building a believable bridge between our recognizable world and a fantasy world living at 1/10th the speed, where there is an accessible monarchy and a closer connection with nature coupled with a distinct reduction in technology.
The very interesting leitmotif about secrets and other hidden elements should give some unique meat to the resolution of the story arc over the next book(s?) in the series, while in this one we got to witness the first unraveling of a mystery. That, in itself was deftly handled, though the author telegraphed the resolution to careful readers with the way the boys reacted to Quinn’s flower-picking.
I can absolutely recommend this as a fun, engaging read to anyone interested in light fantasy (no werewolves or vampires or elves here, though something about it kept tugging at my memories of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale). The fact that the second book will be coming out soon means this is a perfect time to pick up and enjoy a new indie author.