I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Ratings: ☕☕☕☕ (4/5)
Tim Learn once again entertains his readers with another of Chewy Noh’s adventures–this time with a far more intriguing, complex but also amusing plot. In this second installment, not only do we see a lot more of Korean mythology, but some of the loose threads from the first book were taken care of here. Funny, light, and entertaining, this a was nice refreshing story after all the serious books I’ve read this past few months.
While the first book slowly built the suspense, this book began with a bang. I was hooked from the very beginning, and the writing had me turning the pages until the very end. The occasional shifting to the mythology was a bonus too (who knew Koreans had a bathroom goddess?) and I enjoyed the references to the cultural differences between Korea and USA (by the way, face size matters in Bangladesh too–the smaller your face, the prettier you are). I didn’t find a single chapter that felt like a filler, or one that seemed boring to me. I wouldn’t call it mind-blowing amazing as the writing style is very simple, but it has a certain charm to it.
There were certain intense scenes that could have been written better–in an attempt to avoid spilling spoilers, all I can say is that the “scary” parts of the story were not in fact scary enough, even for children. I am not saying it was bad, because it wasn’t…it just lacked believability. Other than that minor flaw, the overall storytelling was humorous and easy to absorb.
The Characters: Unlike the first book, we don’t really get to see that much of the large supporting cast, which was honestly fine by me–Chewy, Su Bin and Clint’s characterization was so smooth and well executed that I didn’t really care. In a book like this there isn’t much space for character development, but I enjoyed the way the kids (namely Chewy and Su) resolved their conflicts and eventually became friends. Clint and Su Bin’s puppy love never failed to put a smile on my face, and as annoying as Kent The Bully and Miss Wolfe were, I enjoyed watching Chewy juggle his normal life problems with his supernatural problems.
The only issue I have is with the mother, the grandfather, and the grandmother. Chewy has horrible adult figures in his life, and their lack of responsibility and awareness really did not make any sense to me. I understand why writers don’t want to give spotlight to parental figures in YA/MG books, but making them act more immature and childish than their own kids is certainly not a good way to go. Not only is it ridiculous but it also makes the entire story a lot less convincing.
The Plot: The plot of this book was a lot more complex than that of the first book. In The Fall of The Mu-Dang, the plot is focused entirely on Chewy and his superpower. In the Phantasm of Winter, we get to see more of the supernatural world the book is set in, a lot more action, a whole lot of suspense and much more unexpected twists (and thankfully very little school drama). The pacing was quite fast too and it’s finally allowing the series to develop more.
The Ending: Usually I find cliffhanger endings rather cliché; not all books need to have an open ending. This book is one of them. That being said, the ending wasn’t good enough to get me excited about the third book in the series, even with all the hints about what might happen in the next installment.
As I said before, this book belongs in the MG genre and not YA. I imagine children will love this series, so if you are looking for a book that will suit a young audience then I would definitely recommend you to give this a try.