Book Review: The Circle

26 Sep

Today’s book review is for The Circle: Book One of The Sidhe, by Cindy Cipriano, published by Odyssey Books. I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Circle is the first installment of a new fantasy series targeted to the tween audience. Calum Ransom is an upcoming sixth grader with a secret–like his mother, he’s a Sidhe. He’s haunted by the disappearance of his cousin Finley, but is soon enough distracted when new girl Laurel Werner arrives in town. Laurel has a secret of her own that involves a necklace with a dark clan’s mark. Once they reveal their secret to the other, they discover that by working together, they might just be able to solve both of their problems.

Cipriano’s debut novel is captivating. It took me a few pages to settle into it, but once I did–I was hooked! She uses traditional fairy lore to start building her universe, but then adapts it to make it uniquely her own. By the end of Chapter One, she’s already set up plenty of questions for her audience. And while many questions are answered by the end of the book, not all are. In this way, lays the groundwork for future novels in the series. If we want to have our questions answered, we’ll just have to keep reading.

It is clear that this is a first novel for the author, though. There are moments where the dialogue feels unnatural, for example when Calum’s mother, Kenzie, greets him with “Good morning, son.” The words seem ridiculously formal, especially in comparison to Kenzie’s usually relaxed speech style. I also disliked some of the incredibly specific pop cultural references; when they referred to something unfamiliar to me, I felt alienated from the story and I imagine younger readers will feel the same. I suspect that it will make the story feel prematurely dated ten years from now. That said, Cipriano has enough skill at creating engaging characters and capturing adolescent emotion that overcoming these shortfalls should not be a problem.

There are some minor typographical errors in the text, that should be easy to fix in a second edition. Likewise with some of the formatting that leaves excessive amounts of white space at the bottom of some pages. The cover design features an attractive image, but then uses font selections that make the whole thing look a bit amateur. These are all common problems that I see with many of the newer small publishing houses. It’s a shame in this case, because I think it detracts from a work that has the potential to compete in major markets.

Despite the problems mentioned I’m still giving this book 4 out of 5 stars. Cipriano is a skilled writer and talented storyteller. With a touch more editorial guidance, she could easily produce a 5 star story. I look forward to reading the next installment in this series.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

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