The Secret of Spellshadow Manor, by Bella Forrest

spellI’d like to say that I’ve never succumbed to the lure of clickbait. Usually I’m a strong person on Facebook. Clickbait? That’s for simpletons. But … well, there was this kind of ad post with a cool-looking book cover for The Secret of Spellshadow Manor that said “If you loved Harry Potter, you will LOVE this new series! Get the kindle deal today only!” And unfortunately, I’m a huge HP fan, and, well, anyway it was a great kindle deal. I mean, yeah, the author is known for a ton of cranked-out vampire mysteries, but this could be her Shining Star … right?

And then the worst part is that Spellshadow was nowhere near as good as Harry Potter – but I Couldn’t Stop Reading It. AND THEN I WENT AND BOUGHT THE 2ND BOOK! So basically this post is a plea for an intervention – from my fellow book club members (Natalie? AB? ANYONE??).

But in case you’ve seen a similar ad OR if you have teens who are interested in these books, I wanted to just give you the scoop in a few simple points:

  • No, these are by no means as good as the Harry Potter books.
  • The writing is not horrible, but it’s not really that great either. It’s okay. Not as funny and witty as Rowling. (Possibly the difference between having to be accepted and published versus self-publishing.)
  • The stories are fairly “clean” as far as that goes (for teens & kids) – there’s nothing sexual at all at this point. Also no graphic language.

Worldview perspective – pretty basic. Teen magicians are trying to fight evil while also trying to become more powerful to fight evil and then wrestling with the temptation towards “darker magic” in their pursuit. Nothing horrible, but no truly great themes yet that stand out. Harry Potter’s ultimate themes of self-sacrificing love for friends and family, and the true loyalty of deep friendships is much stronger. So in comparison, the friendships in this story just feel weak.

So why did I keep reading? Well, some of the plot points are rather intriguing. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you take the main premise of HP and Hogwarts, and then imagine that all the students are trapped at Hogwarts and can never, ever leave – and then factor in a squib who actually has other kinds of powers, it gets interesting. If you are thoroughly confused, join the club. Maybe I kept reading because I was desperately searching for clarity.

Anyway, buy the book if you want, but feel free NOT to buy it too. If your kids are reading it, then just find a way to converse with them about it or read along too. You’ll never regret that.

The Secret of Spellshadow Manor – 3/5 stars


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