To celebrate the release of Ghostly Shadows, the third book in the Edsel Grizzler series by James Roy, I decided to read the first one. How did that happen? Well, I got a review copy of the new book, and because I had not read any of the series, the lovely people at UQP also sent me a copy of book 1.
With a mile-high pile of review books, it was my intention to read the first book, to get the gist of the series, and then skip over to book 3. But I just couldn’t do it. I loved the first book way too much to miss any of Edsel’s adventures. In fact, I was halfway through that first book when I hopped online and ordered book 2, Rescue Mission. And because I then finished the first book on the same night, I now find myself waiting impatiently for book 2 to arrive. Dammit! Why can’t the postal system be instantaneous?
Anyway… on to book 1, Voyage to Verdada.
Edsel is not a happy boy. He doesn’t have any friends, he’s not allowed to do anything that is even remotely dangerous and his parents are super-embarrassing. He is sick of his life and desperately wants to escape. The opportunity to escape is presented is a rather odd way — a large egg-shaped thing, big enough to fit a seated person. The egg wisks Edsel away to the land of Verdada — a place full of kids, and fun and food and friends… and lost things. It’s a never-never land where Edsel can stay forever young.
“Forever young in a place of forever fun.”
But, of course, things are not quite as they seem. Verdada is not as real as it first appears and there are mysterious entities in control of it. Even though kids are enticed into staying with the promise of receiving their “heart’s greatest desire”, happiness may not necessarily follow… especially not for Edsel.
I thought I had this book pegged after reading the back cover. As I started reading the actual book, I was sure I knew where it was going and how it would get there. I was wrong. Every step of the way, James Roy managed to surprise me and take me in directions I did not expect to go. There are not many books that manage to do that.
I was expecting Edsel to get transported to Verdada fairly promptly, so the adventure could get going. But the author takes his time, giving the reader the opportunity to get to know Edsel and his parents. Rather than delay the adventure, it grounds it and makes Edsel’s decisions understandable.
There’s a lot to like in this book, but what stands out for me are the characters. Edsel is a wonderfully realised character. He could easily have been a whinging stereotype… but he’s not. He feels real. He is easy to sympathise with. He is easy to care about. And I found myself caught up in his personal journey as well as in his extraordinary adventure. The other characters, from his parents to his new friends in Verdada, are equally well written. I found his parents particularly poignant — their love for their son and their tragic past coming together to make them so over-protective, so difficult for Edsel to understand and to love, and yet so caring and, well… understandable.
Voyage to Verdada is the first book in a trilogy. It is complete in itself, giving the reader closure and a definite conclusion. But the epilogue is a teaser that sets things in motion for the next book. I can see that epilogue hooking the kids in and making them desperate to get their hands on the next book. It’s certainly done that to me. 🙂
I will report on books 2 and 3 after I’ve read them. But tune in next time as I interview James about the Edsel Grizzler series.
Catch ya later, George
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