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Review of Mombie by Barry A. Burgess

By / October 1, 2015 / no comments

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Mombie, a new indie novel by first timer Barry A. Burgess.

During the reading of it, I had the feeling this would be a good, cute story to read to your kids and that the author had this specifically in mind while writing the story.

And indeed, while the overall story is a bit rough around the edges if you want to really nitpick things, Mombie mostly makes for a nice fun light read to your kids…or for your kids.

The plot centers on a suburban family of five who are ripped out of suburbia and tossed into the center of a magical land, finding themselves in the midst of a civil war and as key characters in the conflict.

The heroes of the tale are our magically transported parents.

We have Annie Prockner, soccer mom extraordinaire, transformed into a crone of a necromancer with the ability to raise the dead (i.e the titular MOMBIE), and her husband Ben who changes from regular dad to powerful sorcerer. Along for the ride are their two children and dog, also magically transported and changed into creatures of the land.

Not only do the parents have to deal with a kingdom under threat, but they’ve got to deal with teenagers who’ve literally turned into monsters.

This family unit (who end up separated to different parts of this magical kingdom) find themselves involved in a civil war struggle against a tyrant swamp ogre who, like them, is from earth and a former teenage hooligan who found his way in the past to this magical land then proceeded to violently take control of it.

 What I Liked

Mombie is clearly written for the younger audience in mind. It’s not a complex story aimed at those who want a highly detailed fantasy world with an epic quest and a cast of tortured heroes who set about on it. As such, it’s an easy book for younger readers to consume (and besides the light violence, family friendly) and the author does a pretty good job at painting the picture of a regular suburban family who find themselves in an unbelievable situation.

The part I enjoyed mostly was reading about the day-to-day of the family both before and immediately right after being transported to another dimension. Barry does a good job at crafting a fairly realistic American family and a good job at their initial shock at finding themselves, well, in a strange world.

There is some humor here in how the author handles the parents’ dealing with their kids (a teenager and a couple preteens) who suddenly become monsters or magical creatures which added a nice touch to the story. I suppose if you find your children haven been turned into monsters, you may find some humor in the situation too.

The writing, for the most part, is good enough to tell the story without any major flaws. Functional prose that works.

This story is very child friendly and easy to read. While reading this, the book did feel like something created to read out loud to your kids before they go to sleep. If that was the author’s intention, then for the most part, he does succeed.

The author also includes some cool illustrations for some of the scenes which add a nice touch to the book, fleshing out some of the scenes.

What I Didn’t Like

As far as complexity goes, this novel is not that. The characters are one dimensional. Again, given that the aim of this novel is as a family novel or a novel for kids, this is not necessarily a bad thing if you are reading it for your kids. For adults however, who want to sink their teeth into a more complex narrative and story, Mombie is not that book.

I particularly did not like the villain. The character of Barthas, being a teenage punk transported into a magical land who finds himself a powerful ogre, doesn’t come off as either sympathetic or dangerous. I thought a lot more could have been done with this villain to make him either more sinister or more sympathetic. As it turns out, he is neither and by the end of the novel, never really a threat and comes off as simply a spoiled child.

The end game of the book ends on a whimper and not a bang, with the villain easily overthrown without even a final showdown — a big letdown since the the book spends a good deal of time trying to build up the villain as a real bad guy. Perhaps this is to keep in line with a read-to-your-kids friendly story, but I wanted to see more of a struggle and more risk to the parties involved.

The characters quickly find themselves used to the new reality of being in a magical kingdom full of strange, talking creatures.

I felt the ‘acceptance’ of the newly-transported suburban family to this new reality was a bit too quick — and convenient to mesh as believable. The story and plot would be better if the author spent more time detailing the difficulties (and denial) of the strange new reality by the heroes, rather than the heroes, within a few days, suddenly become powerful new leaders in the new reality and masters of magical powers.

If you look at a few classic portal stories like The Chronicles of Narnia aimed at children, you’ll see quite a bit of the early part of the books always follow the characters’ trying (and often failing) to make sense of the new reality. The characters don’t just walk through the magical wardrobe and suddenly master Narnia within a day. No, it takes a while and a good deal of narrative before that happens.

Conclusion

Overall, Mombie is not a bad book and a good effort for a first time author; it’s arguably a pretty good book to read to your kids. As a family orientated book (being about a family itself — and appealing to younger readers) and as such is suited for this audience.

The story doesn’t take itself too seriously as a whole; there is no real attempt to construct a detailed world with consistent rules, nor an attempt to draw up a consistent mythology, history, or magic system. There are villains and heroes and nothing in between these two dichotomies.

As such, if you are an adult fantasy reader looking for your next great serious fantasy read, well, you probably won’t find this book suitably complex enough to interest you. But then again, you are not the target market for this book – younger children are.

But overall, a good effort on the part of the author with some entertaining, child-friendly moments.

If you want a family-friendly story about a normal family tromping about in a magical, Narnia-like world then saving it, pick this one up.

You can pick up Mombie on Amazon.

About the author

Ben

Blog editor, admin and founder of BestFantasyBooks.comYou'll find me on the BestFantasyBook forums and spending my spare time reading fantasy books and writing lists for this site. In fact, I have no spare time -- running this site IS my spare time!

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