Reviewed by Kelly Michelle Baker (Guest Reviewer)
Seventeen-year old Wolfdon dreams of travelling to Aizai, a forgotten realm connected to our world by invisible sol-lines. He begins his search as a “word-warrior” in his hometown in France in the late 17th century, hunting for rare books that mention Aizai. One obscure book, by the philosopher Paulo de la Costa Santamiguero, has given him a lead to start his journey—to go to the northern coast of Spain where a portal to Aizai supposedly exists.
With a noble horse he borrows from an astrologer and armed with a strange magical device, Wolfdon travels to a place that surpasses even his vivid imagination, with walking statues, animals with glowing gems of power, beautiful towers and misty valleys, and Aizians whose magic is innate to their souls. He meets many peculiar characters, from the cryptic Philosophers of the Eastern Empyrean to beautiful Aizians and dark magicians.
Though death and danger loom ever near, nothing can dim the brightness of Aizai kindling within Wolfdon’s heart. Yet as he strives to discover Aizai’s secrets and fate, a frightening truth becomes perilously near, and may cost Wolfdon everything, including the future.
Armed with what he’s read in books, the story follows Wolfdon—a boy in search of an alternative world to our own called Aizai, where he delves into the philosophies of time travel, good, evil, and life itself. While commonplace fantasy at face-value, his journey is painted vividly through the author’s rich prose. The beautiful writing, which is becoming increasingly rare in the young adult genre, absorbs us into a clever place split between reality and the mystical. Like the cryptic setting she creates, Harris is equally deceptive, writing like a seasoned author when she is, in fact, just debuting.
The author’s greatest strength is world building. Along with the protagonist, you see the structures and hear the sounds through a literary instrument reminiscent of Niel Gaiman. We begin in France, real France, then slowly descend into an ethereal community. But unlike most fantasies, the reader is introduced to magic along with the protagonist, accentuating the suspense (in a similar fashion to Harry Potter’s training in wizardry). The non-magic elements give equal intrigue, as they ground the story into something recognizable, touching on Catholicism, familiar cities, European history, etc. It’s incredibly well-researched and was a learning experience.
Harris’ second strength is in her characters, which are diverse and not without depth. Wolfdon isn’t stone-faced in his bravery. Rather, he’s curious and all around good-natured. He’s an ambitious fellow and you want him to succeed.
One criticism (and it’s small) is how descriptive the author can be. She is not wordy, but rather dwells on the physical environment. For some readers, like myself, this is part of great storytelling. However, others may find it a bit overwhelming.
“Aizai The Forgotten: The Soul Wanderers” is a sophisticated and intelligent read promising more stories to come. It is deserving of a wide readership, and I hope she will inspire other burgeoning authors.
Name: Kelly Michelle Baker