ARC Book Review: CAMERON BATTLE AND THE HIDDEN KINGDOMS by Jamar J. Perry (Middle Grade Monday)

I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Middle Grade
Star Rating: 2.5 stars
Series: yes - first book

Synopsis:

Book cover for CAMERON BATTLE AND THE HIDDEN KINGDOMS: title in red and white above a Black boy and two friends emergin

Cameron Battle grew up reading The Book of Chidani, cherishing stories about the fabled kingdom that cut itself off from the world to save the Igbo people from danger. Passed down over generations, the Book is Cameron’s only connection to his parents, who disappeared one fateful night two years ago.

Ever since, his grandmother has kept the Book locked away, but it calls to Cameron. When he and his best friends, Zion and Aliyah, decide to open it again, they are magically transported to Chidani. Instead of a land of beauty and wonder, they find a kingdom in extreme danger, as the queen’s sister seeks to destroy the barrier between worlds. The people of Chidani have been waiting for the last Descendant to return and save them. Is Cameron ready to be the hero they need?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

I really struggled to get into this book, and I think it was because of the writing style. The premise is great, and the characters were promising as well as a fun adventure across a hidden world, but I simply never clicked with the book. There was just something stopping me from slipping into the story and being able follow along on the ride, and I think that has to be the writing style.

It kept jumping out at me as quite awkward at times. It didn’t feel smooth and flowing. I kept jerking to a halt at phrases that seemed to glare out at me, not feeling natural. It was a lot of short sentences for emphasis that didn’t sounds like anything I’d expect someone to say. Like “It’s nice to meet you. My family.” When you get a lot of that, it sort of undermines the story because it makes it hard to believe these are real people.

It would also often imply something, and then state it obviously in the next sentence. That had the dual effect of feeling like I wasn’t being trusted/was being talked down to, and also slowing down the pacing.

The other thing that kept jerking me from the story was that Cameron gets these memories of his parents’ time in the Hidden Kingdoms. However, they weren’t always immediately clear whether he was watching his parents do something, or whether there a scene in the present that he was simply watch rather than interacting for. It did mean I occasionally had to stop and reassess what I’d just read when Cameron’s name appeared – and work out whether he had just come back to the present or what interacting with the others.

One thing I did really like though was how it dealt with jealousy. Cameron is the supposed hero, but his friends (who weren’t supposed to be there) get to grips with the magical fighting far faster. That doesn’t seem to be the norm in my experience of these sorts of books, and it meant there was an exploration of resentment on top of the feelings of inadequacy.

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