Jenny Hale

Scholastic (2009)

ISBN: 978 1 74169 312 6

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Jatta is a pampered and protected princess in a world that has dark shadows on it. Although beloved by her father, the king, and tolerated by her older brothers, she knows that all is not what it seems. And one night, that which is hidden comes out from the shadows, and threatens to tear apart her world.

A werewolf story of sorts that morphs into even darker and more threatening areas, Jatta grabbed me at the start and dragged me into the book. I quickly became invested in the main character and wanted to know more about her journey. Unfortunately though, this momentum wasn’t sustained throughout the entire book, to the point where I became so overwhelmed by plot devices about halfway through that I almost gave up reading. The novel became so overcrowded with random characters and happenstance that it felt like the author was writing in whatever else could happen to stand in this character’s way. It felt like there was no real flow or purpose to the complications.

In fact, I decided towards the end that if felt like this was actually three or four books crammed into one. This novel may have worked better as series of shorter, more episodic books, because there seemed to be natural breaks in the narrative where this could have occurred.

I read the author blurb at the end, and that really defined the problem for me: “Might real heroes sometimes foul things up? Their plans go disastrously wrong? Might they ever feel overwhelmed, and just want to pack up their magic and swords and go home?” I think Hale tried too hard to make things difficult for her characters and it ended up feeling false.

Having said all that, it’s likely that many younger readers will not feel the same way as I do and might simply be drawn along from crisis to crisis with the feeling of “what happens next?” Even for me, I still wanted to find out exactly HOW all these problems would be resolved, and it was, I think, a satisfying ending. It’s a solid, if perhaps overlong, read, and with its beautifully enticing cover, it is definitely worth a look.