Book Review: The Sapphire Flute by Karen E. Hoover

Today, I am reviewing author Karen E. Hoover's debut novel, The Sapphire Flute, which is the first of a seven book series, called The Wolfchild Saga.

My husband mentioned I should put a disclaimer here. I thought it was unnecessary, but I find that while some of his advice is annoying, he's generally correct. So, here's the disclaimer: Karen E. Hoover and I are published by the same company - Valor Publishing Group. Karen and I also belong to the same writers organization - AuthorsIncognito. This in no way effects my opinion of her (she's totally awesome!), her book (the reason you're all reading this blog post), or my review (which is completely based on what I, as a reader - not friend or author - thought of the book). Disclaimer finished - on to the review!

Blurb from Valor Publishing Group's website:

It has been 3,000 years since a white mage has been seen upon Rasann.

In the midst of a volcanic eruption miles outside of her village, Ember discovers she can see magic and change the appearance of things at will. Against her mother's wishes, she leaves for the mage trials only to be kidnapped before arriving. In trying to escape, she discovers she has inherited her father's secret--a secret that places her in direct conflict with her father's greatest enemy.

At the same time, Kayla is given guardianship of the sapphire flute and told not to play it. The evil mage C'Tan has been searching for it for decades and the sound alone is enough to call her. For the flute to be truly safe, Kayla must find its birthplace in the mountains high above Javak. The girls' paths are set on a collision course...a course that C'Tan is determined to prevent at all costs.

My Review:

Anyone who is familiar with my reading tastes, knows I am a huge fan of romance, humor, and suspense. Sometimes I find books outside of those genres that I enjoy - usually because they contain elements of one of those three things I like. I've only just started reading fantasy in the last three years. Mainly because James Dashner asked me to edit the first book of his 13th Reality series, and I became addicted to his LOL humor, interesting characters, and suspenseful plot twists. Since then, I've tried to read other fantasty books, and discovered there are two different types of fantasy - fun, quirky fantasy, such as James Dashner's series & more serious epic fantasy, such as Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. Of the two, I find the more serious fantasy not at all my style.

When Karen announced her book was being published, I was so excited! I couldn't wait to read it, as I thought it would be more along the lines of the fun, quirky fantasy I enjoy. As soon as the ARC arrived in my mailbox, I ditched the rest of the mail and settled onto my couch for a good long read. The prologue was incredible. I immediately connected with the father, rushing to save his daughter from an evil person who wanted to destroy her. I felt his confusion and conflicted feelings that this evil threat was someone he loved and trusted - his own sister. And even cried when he died in a fire after battling his sister, giving his wife and daughter the opportunity to escape. What a powerful prologue!

After the prologue, the book dramatically slowed down, so much so that I ended up putting the book down to help my kids with whatever they were pestering me for at the time. It took me 2  1/2 weeks to read the first one hundred pages. While there were some points of the plot I thought were really neat - like when Ember received her birthday presents from her father,which he left in the care of one of his friends - there really wasn't anything that made me want to dig in and devour. Some scenes even had me rolling my eyes at how naive the characters were acting - such as Kayla hiding the Sapphire Flute under her bed, only to have it stolen while she was gone. Um, hello? She's staying in a mansion. Why didn't she put something so valuable in the safe?

I also had a hard time trying to pinpoint the time frame the book takes place in. There's a clash of old-time vs. modern which left me confused.

I talked about my concerns and frustrations about the book with my hubby - who is a die-hard fantasy genre addict. He's read just about every boring popular series out there - Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, and whoever wrote the Lord of the Rings series, Narnia, etc. He even read the Harry Potter series (I've admitted before that I couldn't finish the first HP book. I love the movies - hate the books). Anyway, back to my conversation with my hubby. He said that good epic series aren't like my one-off books I prefer. They tell a single story through multiple books, which (for him) is a slower telling, filled with more details, some of which you may not realize are important until a later book in the series - and then it all clicks into place. He also said it's not uncommon in epic fantasy to use a blend of old time settings and modern technologies. Or at least, that's what I understood from our conversation.

I felt guilty because I knew I couldn't write a "rave" review of The Sapphire Flute. So I asked my friend, Sara, to read it over the weekend. Sara is a fantasy-lover, just like my hubby. In fact, they trade books back and forth as they finish them. At this point, she has not finished the book. She, like me, loved the prologue. Since finishing the prologue, she said the book has been good, but a little on the slow side. She's interested to see if the powerful writing from the prologue is going to reappear again after the middle of the book, when things generally start to build back up before the cliffhanger ending that leaves series readers dying for more. I do know that my hubby is just waiting for her to finish the book, so he can get his hands on it next.

So, here are my final thoughts:

If you're a romantic comedy type of reader who occasionally throws in some light fantasy - you most likely won't like The Sapphire Flute. But if you enjoy books like Mistborn, The Wheel of Time, Narnia, and yes, even Harry Potter, then The Sapphire Flute is something you'll definitely want to add to your reading list.

To find out more about Karen, you can visit her blog. If you'd like to meet Karen, check out her blog for upcoming events. Some of which include:

19 March 2010 - 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Clark Johnson Junior High
2152 North 400 West
Tooele, UT 84074-3737

19 March 2010 - 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Latter Day Book
986 North Main Street
Tooele, UT 84074-1616
Phone: (435) 843-8532

Saturday, 20 March 2010 - 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The Purple Cow Book Store
992 N Main Street
Tooele, UT 84074-1616
(801) 456-0100

Would you like to comment?

Tristi Pinkston said...

Thanks, Danyelle! It is true that not every genre is for everyone. Me, read a Western ... um, I don't think so. At least, not the really heavy Westerny Westerns. But I hope you had fun giving something new a try!

Kendra Mitts said...

I think that might be a book that will be in my ball park on reading. I am a huge fan of Harry Potter books. I'll have to look for it.

Braden Bell said...

Very thoughtful review--thanks for posting.

Karen E. Hoover said...

I must admit, I waited to comment on your review because I wasn't sure what to say. I will say straight out that I appreciate your honesty, Danyelle, and no hard feelings. :) If somebody asked me to review a straight romance, I'd have a hard time giving it five stars too. Everybody's different, and thank heavens for that! John is right in the way High Fantasy usually works. If my humorous urban fantasy gets published, it would probably be a little more to your liking.

Anyway, thanks for doing the review, even though it wasn't your thing. I appreciate that you took the time to read it and be honest. Can't wait to see you at Storymakers. :)

Cindy Beck, author said...

Sounds like a good book to me! And I can appreciate what you had to say about it, even if you're not a big fantasy fan.

Stephanie Black said...

Thanks for the review, Danyelle. I love that there are so many different kinds of books for so many different tastes.

I'm planning to purchase The Sapphire Flute at the Storymakers Conference and look forward to seeing you and Karen there.