Steve Westover asked me to review the advance review copy of his middle-grade adventure and fantasy-fiction, Crater Lake: the Battle For Wizard Island.
Crater Lake was a fun and interesting read. It will appeal to its intended audience, and it is a rarity; a story directed to middle-grade boys. We need more of those.
I felt that the legend, geography, mythology and overall imaginative conceptualization of the world of Crater Lake were very well done. The characters are perfect—a quarreling pair of siblings, a jock/bully, a cute girl, the good boy scout. Any kid who picks this up will find someone to identify with. I enjoyed the interactions between the characters. I appreciated that they were generally consistent, without improbable changes in personality or behavior.
My favorite thing about this story is the sense that it’s not a cozy little world Westover has created; there is real danger. Overall there was a feeling of eeriness and impending adventure (or doom) throughout the story, which drives the reader in spite of the disturbing tragedies that occur in the course of the story. I did feel that there was a little bit more of that than I’d expect in a middle-grade book (tragedy, particularly as one of the tragedies remains unresolved at the end) but the violence isn’t such that I would keep my children from reading it. Overall, I recommend this book to anyone with grade-school aged children, boys in particular—they will love it.