The story seemed to be geared to a younger audience, based on the age of the characters, the general helpfulness of other characters, and he straightforward, matter-of-fact, language used throughout.. I will review it from that perspective.
Read the story now
The setting was lovely, and the author evokes it well, reminding me of Narnia or the worlds of Tad Williams. The story begins in Victorian period England, and expands to several other worlds, each with it own cast of helpful characters from the imagination of Emma - and a few terrors..Meanwhile, the frame story of the grandmother's romance is warming. The overall mood of the story is characterized by novelty and wonder - through the eyes of a child.
I have a few nitpicks. The dialogue is often on-the-nose, and the narration matter of-fact, in short paragraphs and accessible language. The wording is occasionally awkward, and while the earlier portions are well-edited, the latter half of the book includes such distractions as misused semi-colons, many awkward sentences, and a few typos. Even from the perspective of a children's story, I found the characters a bit saccharine, and with the exception of Ms. Plumlee, most treat the (very likable) protagonists with implausible respect and generosity. While the thrust of the plot is strong, the tension is not, so the primary drive of the piece is wonder/terror. However, with the exception of the encounter with the first monster, the terror probably could use more emphasis., However, if the intent of the work is to charm, the single most important thing is to develop the most charismatic writing style possible, and I thought the dialogue and narrative fell slightly short of that. The end felt abrupt (likely due to concerns of length), though in hindsight the conflicts were appropriately timed: perhaps better transitions and foreshadowing could help?
All in all, however, this was a fine story, even if I'm perhaps a bit old and jaded to represent its primary audience. I look forward to reading the sequel.