Storm Walker, by Mike Revell

Stormwalker, by Mike Revell (Quercus, December 2016) is a portal fantasy with an interesting twist, and Owen, the young protagonist, is not your typical portal fantasy chosen one.

 Ever since Own's mom died, his dad has been a wreck.  Owen sympathizes, being devastated by grief himself, but he needs his dad to come back to him.  And so he pushes his father to start writing again.  It seems like a fine plan; the words are flowing well, and his dad is happier.  But then Owen finds himself transported into a horrible future world, one devastated by storms of paranormal darkness, where kids like himself are forced to scavenge for scraps of what once was our civilization, risking the dangers of the zombie-like Dreamless, and where those in power hold secrets almost as dark as the storms.

Oliver bounces back and for between the fantasy world and the real world, realizing to his dismay that he is being forced to live the character his father is writing.  If he breaks the story, he'll loose his father in the real world, but if he keeps going into the mysteries of the dark storm world, he'll keep loosing chunks of his real life (jeopardizing his once in a lifetime chance at soccer success), and he'll have to keep living the horrors being experienced by his fictional alter ego....

It's a strange and engrossing fugue of real life and fictional world, given impetus and conviction by the grief shared by Owen and his dad.  Though I would have liked more obvious interplay between the events and themes of the two worlds earlier than it came, it was still pretty effective, in large part because the fictional world made for a truly gripping read on its own merits.  And toward the end, when things are really picking up steam in the fantasy world, it becomes clear that the theme of desperate efforts to forge connections to those lost to you is there in both stories, leading to a moving conclusion.  Grief and darkness are both overcome.

Though the hybrid story telling didn't quite coalesce into a truly satisfying whole for me personally, it's a good one for kids who like reading about other kids plucked from their normal lives and thrust into paranormal hellish futures....

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

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