Avon Van Hassel

Building Worlds and Filling Them With Magic

Boy, do I have a treat for you guys, today–an advance review of a book still available for pre-order, here!

So a little while ago, my good buddy, Jacob Devlin, put out a call for ARC (Advance Reader Copy) readers. Basically, a few copies go out before the official launch and we read and review it to boost awareness and drum up some buzz.

So, what are my thoughts? Let me break it down.

Characters

Karina and Charlie

Karina and Charlie Rosas are the primary main characters, teenagers on a European holiday with their adventurer uncle. They have a solid Dipper and Mabel Pines feel, with neither of them being the dominant twin, and both have their own arcs and personalities. Karina is warm, friendly, and resourceful, with a big heart and an iron spine. Charlie is more emotional, he can be a little unforgiving, but he’s brave and quick thinking. They work well as a team as they navigate the confusing and chaotic world where they find themselves.

Diego

Diego Rosas is a tv celebrity famous for travel and survival shows, where he goes around the world and has amazing adventures. He is handsome and dashing, with a carefully preserved sense of wonder and an unshakable respect and reverence for nature. Even after the traumatic and bizarre things that happen to him, he never loses his nerve or principles.

Niraya Storm

Niraya Storm is the pirate captain of the ship The Red Hood. She is fearless, strong, and loyal. She’s both a guardian for the kids and a helper, taking her cues from them as often as giving the orders. She is full of stories, and a little birdie tells me that we have more to look forward to…

Other Characters

Roses in the Dragon’s Den is also full of lots of other familiar faces to fans of the Order of the Bell series. I personally feel very attached to a number of them (I won’t say who, it’s a surprise 😉 ), so it was fun for me to get to see some old friends. But there’s a whole cast of new people with new stories to tell, and each of them is complex and compelling in their own way.

Yes, I have trading cards. Be jealous.

Plot

Now, I don’t want to give away too much of what happens, but obviously, I do need to touch on plot, my favourite aspect of storytelling.

We begin with a train wreck, which catapults our heroes into the world of the story. I won’t spoil too much down’t worry, but allow me to whet your appetite.

The book is split into 5 acts, and much like a 5-act play, the tension rises and rises and rises, and just when you think it couldn’t possibly get any more crazy, something else insane happens. There are dragons plucking people into the sky, a werewolf attack, a whole village living under a curse, mythical objects, giant spiders (something close to my own heart), and honest-to-God, someone gets eaten alive. It’s a wild and crazy ride from cover to cover, and I promise you’re gonna love it. No detail slips by unnoticed and no punch is pulled. There were times I truly wondered how our heroes were going to get out of this one, and the solution always surprised me.

Theme

There are a bunch of themes Jacob explores in this book, the most important being family, or in Spanish, familia. Familia means no one gives up on each other, it means ‘we’re all in this together,’ it means loving each other even when you disagree. It means living in terror of how your mother or sister will react when she finds out what you’ve been up to. But because she loves you.

Familia doesn’t just mean flesh and blood, it also means the people we meet along the way who treat us like family; people who make sacrifices, people who are loyal and don’t abandon us. For them, we are selfless and altruistic and brave. We don’t leave them behind, we trust them, and we fight for them. And sometimes we have to defy them.

Style

Roses in the Dragon’s Den is a modern story for modern teens (and adults, too). Jacob is great at using modern slang and references in a way that firmly roots the story in our present day. It really feels like this story could happen today.

I’ve known Jacob a little while, and one thing I’ve always admired is his casual yet vivid style. Nathaniel Hawthorne said, ‘Easy reading is damn hard writing,’ and I can’t imagine how hard Jacob works because he makes it look so easy, so effortless. Having a good story is only half of the job–telling it well is just as important. If you can’t describe the action and feeling of what is going on and make the audience feel like they’re there, you’re just reporting the news.

Long, in-depth story short, you guys should totally get this book! You’ll be glad you did!

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