Title: Far From Shandesto
Author: Wyborn Senna
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Length: 180 Pages
“Far From Shandesto” is a sweeping tale of fantasy and magic (and horrible, horrible meals… though, I have to admit, I might give scrambled eggs and candy bars a try sometime). It begins on the outskirts of El Paso, by the Bridge of the Americas, in a town haunted by the disappearance of three local boys four years prior. Whispered rumors persist that they must have been captured and killed, that some powerful killer stalks the woods behind Shandesto High and lurks in wait for more bones and fat to add to his macabre statuary littered amongst the trees. Everyone now avoid the woods… everyone except our intrepid heroes.
The likable but flawed teens — Sofia, Jen, Rob, and Holly, the new girl — brave the woods to steal a trophy souvenir from Madame Elizondo, the fortuneteller. They soon discover, however, that the real danger lies not in Shandesto, but through the portal to Arcanaland, a mystical land on another plane and home to a dizzying array of magical realms (like Coldania, Roundtable, Mana, Animalya, and Samhain), and an even more dizzying array of characters (including Fedelm, El Colgado, a host of gnomes, the Lady de los Muertos, and the ghost of Father Andrew).
In this, the first book of the series, they find themselves reunited with the missing boys, and together they must all find a way to navigate the wondrous but dangerous realms of Arcanaland if they ever hope to find a way home.
This book had me from the start, which is something I really appreciate. The characters are developed very well, the plot was refreshingly original, and it perfectly fit the YA book genre with its verbiage and actions. I liked the contrast between normal teenagers and the fantasy world they suddenly found themselves in- and how that allowed for fun interactions and natural explanations. I found the world to be built with great technique- it combines the traditional magical world with fairies and ghosts, but there are some interesting elements that make it unique to Far From Shandesto. The portal in the forest was fantastic- I love it when there are entries to other worlds that are right in the middle of the world we know today.
The story itself was fast-paced and exciting. The creatures Wyborn Senna built into the plot were so fun. The whole book had a whimsical and charming feel. It’s very adventurous, and it made me really engaged in the work the entire time. It was very entertaining, and definitely a fun read.
The lowlights for me was the lack of conflict. Often times in a world of fantasy, there are dark creatures that balance out the fun and light ones- but Far From Shandesto didn’t really balance it for me. I appreciated how light it was (I thought it was age appropriate), but a little darkness would have been a little more realistic. Everything came a little too easy to the characters, and the tasks weren’t gut wrenching or even that problematic. I would have liked to see a little more of that to round out the story.
All in all, it was a fun read. I definitely recommend it, and I look forward to the red of the books in the Arcanaland Series.