Good morning (or afternoon, or evening) all, and here we are with my latest book review: The Tree of Mindala, by Elle Jacklee. I’m sorry this book has taken me the two weeks to read, but it’s a fairly sized book at 306 pages, and hey, I’m not technically working to any deadlines here; reading takes time! You see, before I started reviewing on request predominantly, I would review books I’d read before, so I could just skim-read through them to remind me of the plot and so forth, bringing all my feelings on reading it for the first time back to the fore. When reading these new books though, I get to sit down and read through a story that’s new to me, and that takes time as it rightly should. So, lets get going.
The Tree of Mindala is the story of siblings Miranda and Marcus Moon, two normal children going to a normal school. One thing though – Miranda’s obsession with adventure and her runaway imagination tend to land her in trouble, and having gone one step too far, she’s been suspended from school. Miranda’s parents decide to take the children on a holiday, of sorts, to a cabin in the forest owned by their late grandparents, Truman and Sunny. It’s halloween time though, and everything is not as it seems. Miranda finds a glass snow globe in which a little house is depicted. Miranda turns the globe upside-down, and that’s when things really get weird.
Miranda and Marcus both find themselves in front of the very stone house that had been in the snow globe. Little did they know that they had just entered Wunderwood, a land of trees and magic – and they had just freed the worst warlock of the lot – Thornton.
I very much enjoyed the story of the Tree of Mindala (ToM), it felt ‘real’ and not slightly far-fetched. Sure, fantasy stories shouldn’t limit themselves to the bounds of the real world, but sometimes they can go too far and the story becomes hard to believe as characters pull out unimaginable feats like sweets from a bag, as it were. Indeed, something Christopher Paolini (author of eldest) has talked about is how to place limits on magic within fantasy stories – ie, how to not render the story obsolete by having any problems easily solvable by magic. Magic, even within fantasy, cannot have limitless capability.
I think that the length of the book was well judged by the author. I don’t think it could have gone on for much longer without seeming to drag incessantly, but neither was it fleeting. Something that can become a problem within fantasy writing is trying to tell two stories at once. For me, a fantasy story should have a deal of lore and backstory, but not as much attention should be lavished upon this as with the main plot. In the ToM, the events past are of great significance to what is happening currently in Wunderwood and must be told, but the story is fed to us in parts as and when we need it. I think that Ms. Jacklee could go on to write respectable novels set in Wunderwood, expanding comprehensively on Wunderwood’s past.
Something I really loved about Wunderwood was that it was new to me. I haven’t ever come across anything quite like Elle Jacklee’s creation. The concept of Wunderwood is all about balance. Wunderwood provides what its people need, such as one house many stories, each story having grown after more children were born to that family. I guess you could call it idyllic – the people of Wunderwood do not lust, and do not bathe themselves in decadence. They have what they need and they are happy with that. There’s lots of little things going on in the ToM that didn’t need to be there for the story, but they make the world so very rich and real – like the Blue Brigade. The Blue Brigade are a group of people who support the study of Blue Magic, which is highly frowned upon for being powerful and unnecessary.
I think the most important thing about the plot should be the story itself. I know this sounds silly, but in trying to write about the plot, my mind seems to have wandered (above). I really couldn’t tell what was going to happen and how Ms. Jacklee was planning to end the book. I think that the ending was very clever, tying off strings but also leaving it perfectly open enough to continue on with Wunderwood – a place I’d love to return.
Moving not so swiftly on from my ramblings; the characters! There aren’t a huge number of characters in the book, the most of them that we meet are significant characters whom have a story-role to play as opposed to ‘filler characters’. I think that the world could do with a few more characters, or at least a reason why there are so few (perhaps Wunderwood is just a lowly populated place). I just feel that the place seemed slightly sparse, empty almost. The story never moved to a city or great place of civilisation (if there are any). I wanted to know more about the characters that I met, what they might be doing on a normal day in their lives and so on.
Miranda Moon is the main character and is the primary focus of the story. The focus does not follow her completely though, and the ‘camera’ does jump to others to show what they’re up to as well. Miranda’s character is developed very well, in my opinion, and she is the strongest character in terms of depth. Elle Jacklee puts a lot of effort into letting us know what Miranda is thinking and feeling about the strange situations. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen quite so much with other characters. Not to the point of negligence, I hasten to say, but there’s room for improvement. I didn’t actually realise this when reading the book, overtaken as I was with the splendour of Wunderwood, but looking back, I realise that I would have liked to have know more. Perhaps in future books!
Something else I loved about the book was the sense of continuity. Lots of the names revolve around nature and plants – Sunny, Petal, Ivy, Reed and Skye. The names of places had a nice ring to them, my favourites being Conundrum Cave and Spritely Springs. They give a sense of fun, although there are some very deep and sombre locations such as the Prophecy Pond. It just adds to what makes Wunderwood special, and I’m thankful for Elle Jacklee to taking me there.
I will score The Tree of Mindala an 8/10 for an excellent storyline in a place which I would love to be taken back to one day.