It is always so exciting when Maine is the setting in a book that isn't Stephen King. No shade towards Stephen King! I love his books, but to see this fun middle grade fantasy novel be not only set in Maine but written by an author who has connections to the small island I have called my childhood home for over ten years. It's just really inspirational as a aspiring novelist.
The Keeper and the Stone by Paige W. Pendleton is about these four siblings, two boys and two girls, who move to a new area titled Black Ledge. There they go exploring and stumble into a man who says he has been waiting for them, and he introduces them to a world of elves, dwarves, and a dangerous creature they call Noctivagus. A powerful rune stone has gone missing and the four siblings discover they have had powers hidden away inside them all along waiting to be unlocked.
I really loved this story. The author obviously has great talent when it comes to telling a fantasy story. It was fun and whimsical. I enjoyed a lot of elements in this novel. The main character, Eleanor, was one I definitely rooted for. I rooted for all four siblings, they were cute characters. However, Eleanor and Flora were the two siblings who had more time for us to get to know them. Jack and Rob were more background characters at time, which isn't a bad thing, but I found myself more interested in the two girls.
The magical element to this story was a lot of fun. After their powers are unlocked by a charming man named Camedon the children can talk to animals, their senses are heightened, and bad things start to happen to the dwarves and elves. I hope that in the sequels the magic is a bigger part of the story, we get a glimpse of it especially at the end which I loved, but I definitely was left wanting more.
I did have a few problems with the writing. It is a short book only hitting the page count of 185 which should have made it an easy read but it took me longer than it should have to get through it. I think the cause of that is the information dumping that happens frequently in the book because the author has a lot of information to help build the world but instead of letting it naturally come out its given in chunks of dialogue that made it hard to stay invested.
Talking of the dialogue, I had an issue with the writing here also. Unfortunately, it's another thing that felt very unnatural. Granted, it was worse in the beginning of the novel verses the later sections. I think it got better because the story was unraveling a bit more naturally instead of the big info dumps, which helped the character's personalities shine a bit more. Which helped, because my last real issue with the book is that the author didn't do enough to help the reader feel like they were in the book with the characters. I felt very distant, and I think it's because there weren't enough descriptions to help make the world a full realistic setting. I do think that there is a line between over describing and under describing and I think Pendleton is guilty of the latter.
However, I do not think my few issues with the book hinders the story much as a whole. I do think that if the story was fleshed out in more detail I would have had a better reading experience but that doesn't mean my reading experience wasn't a good one. I really loved the scenes in the last chunk of the story with Gunnr and Eleanor. Their connection and communication was really well done. Pendleton's writing really shines in these scenes because the characters have great chemistry. Their new friendship and magical connection seems very real even if they have known each other a small length of time. Also, I say earlier that I had a problem with the dialogue, but besides the scenes with Eleanor and Gunnr the other times I feel like the dialogue felt more natural are any of the scenes where the siblings talked to the different animals. Which I feel like can be a hard thing to do because talking animals can come off cheesy or unrealistic even in a fantasy story.
Overall I recommend this book to anyone 12+. There is a little violence but it isn't gory and is explained in a way that I could see middle graders reading it without any problem (obviously, each kid is different). I think all ages would enjoy this fun whimsical fantasy novel. I most definitely have plans to purchase the next book in the series and I want to thank my best friend Erica at Erica Robyn Reads for gifting this to me for Christmas.
Thank you for reading!
What are your favorite middle grade novels? Fantasy or not comment below! I think some of the best quotes, art, and stories are written in middle grade books.