Please be aware that this review contains some extreme spoilers. Do not continue reading unless you are fine with being spoiled.
I received this book from the author last year and kept putting it off because I wasn’t ready for a middle-grade read. Whenever I read something from a different genre or age group, I try to wait until I’m in the best possible mindset to give the book a chance to blow me away.
Unfortunately, even when I was in the mood for a middle-grade book, The Book of the Wise didn’t get there.
To me, the beginning felt extremely slow, and could’ve been cut or condensed for a more engaging introduction. For example, Luke (the main character) has four siblings, but they don’t really have any bearing on the narrative so I forgot about them almost immediately.
Having polite child characters is lovely, but these kids seemed too perfect—to the point where I couldn’t identify with them at all, and I never ended up connecting emotionally.
The kids referred to so many sirs and ma’ams that I stopped trying to remember any adults’ names. And, to be honest, I didn’t lose all that much of the story when names melded together, which is a sure sign that some of the characters are expendable.
The thing that frustrated me the most, though, was the lack of explanation. Luke goes to a school where he is studying a form of magic, but we spend more time reading about his sporting achievements. I think there were maybe three scenes set in a classroom throughout the entire school year, and no mention of how Luke is progressing or whether he’s finding it difficult to understand everything.
Luke and his family are happy to be fed information piece by piece. Whenever knowledgeable adults are asked about the most basic aspects of the world, they say it’s too difficult to explain. Then a kid Luke’s age comes along and explains it in one sentence.
Entire weeks pass before we get some concrete answers. I just cannot imagine an 11-year-old kid waiting that long for things to be explained. It was frustrating me and I like to think I would have a little more patience than an 11-year-old.
Unfortunately, the story wasn’t enough to engage me but I have no doubt that many young readers will adore The Book of the Wise. It’s a lot like Harry Potter, but set in a magical town in America. The writing can be beautiful, a new world is always something fun to explore, and parents looking for the perfect moral characters for their children will be delighted.