“The Pariah Child and the Ever-Giving Stone” is the tale of young Sarafina (or Sarah to her friends) whose imaginary fairy friends aren’t all that imaginary, despite her strict mother’s best wishes. Threatened by her mother to abandon her fantasies of mythical talking friends or she’d be sent to an asylum, Sarah does her best to comply, until she is attacked by a not so ordinary pack of wolves. The “imaginary” friends she thought she banished have returned, begging for Sarah to help them save their world by returning something vital to it, or more nasty creatures will come to Sarah’s world, and destroy the magical place known as Lyrica. Sarah doesn’t fit in back home, and yet these magical creatures immediately offer her acceptance. Spurned by her small town, Sarah agrees to the task they have placed at her feet (she’s thirteen, it’s a lot of pressure for a young kid) and travels to Lyrica, not knowing anything about the place, its inhabitants, how it’s dying, or what she can do about it. She’s not entirely alone though, with the help of a few friends (not all magical), Sarah decides she’s not going to be afraid anymore, that she wants to help, at any cost. Oh man, there is so much in this book! Magical creatures of every kind, a dying world, a child of prophecy, a sweet coming-of-age story, an epic quest, and lots of action and adventure. This story was quite the roller-coaster, and I loved parts of it, but I think it was also trying to pack too much into just under 300 hundred pages of book.
I liked Sarah early on in the story. Her shyness, her fear that others will see her as crazy, her desire to be liked, the innocence of her crush on the one boy who’s nice to her, she’s an endearing character and I instantly fell in love with her. I liked her best when she was on Earth and struggling to stand on her own feet, though. That was the Sarah that felt the most real to me. Not that I didn’t enjoy her transformation as the book progressed, but the depth of feeling that I had for Sarah began to evaporate as the author introduces us to more and more characters and gives us their POV.
All the characters she introduces the reader to have interesting pasts or abilities, but I wasn’t as emotionally invested in them mainly because this wasn’t their story. We don’t get to see how they became the things they were/are, how they live in Lyrica (the only exception to this is the vampire Alexander, I’ll get to him in a moment), heck, we don’t even get to see much of Lyrica to get a sense of how it’s supposedly dying, we’re just told it is. As Sarah comes into her own, she loses some of the charm she had early on, and it almost feels like she’s not the same person, as in, maybe a lot of time passed for the author in-between sections and Sarah’s thirteen year-old country-girl vibe was hard to capture again? I’m not sure, but I found myself yearning to feel the way I did for Sarah in the first 40% of the book that I did with the last 60%. She’s still a great character that does amazing things, but some of her shine wore off for me.
I mentioned vampires, right? Ok good because there are vampires. And there are witches. And there are fairies. And there are dragons. And there are elves. And there are dwarves. And there are cursed wolves. And there are nymphs. And you see where I’m going with this, right? There are A LOT of creatures in this book, and Sarah spends a bit of time with most of those races. Perhaps too brief a time, in my humble opinion.
The author took great pains to fill her fantasy world with every fantasy creature there was, but I struggled with the sheer amount of them, and trying to understand why some were on Sarah’s side, and why some weren’t, because their reasoning isn’t explained. Perhaps those things were left on the editing room floor, I’m not sure. But it felt like big chunks of backstory were cut because the reader is just given brief glimpses that, ultimately, left me a bit confused as to how Lyrica functioned as a world, which included the magic system, and, again, just how it came to be dying in the first place. Was one of the many mythical races responsible? Why are the vampires and the elves the only fantasy races we get to spend any great deal of time with? Why is Sarah the child of legend? And just what is the deal with Serwa and Jacob? Why is Sarah's mom so freaked out about a four year-old having imaginary friends? These were the questions I had by the end of the book, and, I feel that some of these could have been answered if the author spent more time building Lyrica rather than just name dropping the creatures who inhabited it.
My lingering confusion and questions aside, I thought this book would have been great for young readers. Sarah and Jacob’s age, plus their awkward just entering puberty interactions, along with all the fantastic creatures would have made this book wonderful for middle school readers. Except the vampire scene. I’ll avoid spoilers, but suffice it to say, the violence that came with all the action scenes was relatively tame and wasn’t discussed in great detail, until Sarah visits Alexander’s people. That whole section felt so out of place in terms of the sudden graphic violence (ok, it probably wasn’t that bad, but given there was really nothing bad in the book until then, it felt bigger) would make me leery of giving this book to a thirteen year-old. Which is too bad, because you want the age of you main character to appeal to the audience you want, and I felt Sarah is most appealing to a younger audience given her struggles instead of the young-adult crowd.
Lane has an amazing imagination. The fact that she crafted a world inhabited by so many creatures and created an epic quest that felt a bit like the journey to Mordor at the end (there’s a mountain with a volcano and a thing that must be delivered to it, but I’ll say no more) is a testament to all the stories the author has bubbling up in her just yearning to be told. At the end of the day, I think that’s what happened with “The Pariah and the Ever-Giving Stone”. There was just so much that needed to be explored further, that needed more world building, or just page time, that didn’t get the attention it needed in this book. I’m not sure if this will turn into a series, if we’ve seen the last of Sarah, Jacob, and Lyrica, or if there’s more to come. Part of me hopes there is more because there was so much left unanswered, and I still feel a bit upset with what happened between Sarah and Jacob at the end, but the main story, the main quest, does get wrapped up in this book so I’m not sure where any of them will go from here. Still, this is a cute story with an endearing female lead by an author whose imagination knows no bounds, so I’m giving it a 3.5 stars and encourage you all to give the book a read so we can discuss it. Thanks to the author for providing me a copy for review!
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