Michael Hanson and the Desolate Woods
by E.L. Ervin
3 out of 5
Michael Hanson’s high school peers think he’s weird, at least in part because of the golden armband that’s been there since birth and grown as he grew. But he doesn’t let it bother him. He’s got two good friends, a loyal (if sometimes annoying) little sister, and two parents who love him. He’s figured out he’s adopted, but other than that, he doesn’t think there’s anything exceptional about him.
Just before his fifteenth birthday, the symbol on his armband begins to glow, and Michael starts waking up floating over his bed. Little by little, through the guidance of the winged beings Ethan and Izra, he learns who he is—a powerful immortal from the ancient bloodlines of Earth.
Together with his sister and friends Trenton and Anya, Michael explores a fantastic world of magic and unseen dangers, where a rogue immortal whose plans for gaining power and wreaking havoc threaten total destruction.
To fulfill his destiny and defeat Zaric, Michael will have to master his new powers and accept help from the unlikeliest of allies. If he fails, Michael’s immortality won’t outlast his adolescence.
Michael has always known that he was different - the hints have been there for years. But when he finds himself hovering above his bed near his 15th birthday, he knows for sure.
Michael Hanson and the Desolate Woods is a fantasy adventure that introduces us to the world of Ezron.
I'd say that it's suitable for young readers, and it's a bit of a younger read than I normally do.
It's a very sweet book, with a lot of emphasis on the importance of friends and family (blood relations or not!).
Michael is a very likeable main character. He's modest, cares a lot for his best friends and his annoying little sister. He meets every challenge head on, from finding out about his true parents, to rescuing his sister.
Speaking of his little sis, Victoria was my favourite character. She isn't afraid of anything, has no respect for personal boundaries, and manages to make friends wherever she goes.
The story follows how Michael discovers who his parents are, and why he has certain powers. He has been blessed by the immortal King and Queen of Ezron.
Michael and his friends find a way into Ezron and quickly become immersed in this magical world of warriors and flying horses. The most peaceful world, thanks to the good King Ethan, that hasn't seen misery or war since the fall of Ethan's older brother Zaric.
It's a creative story, that has something quite old-fashioned about it, the part with the three sister's reminds me of stories my Nanna used to tell us as kids.
What didn't work, was that it was too sweet for me. With the exception of Zaric and Celeste, everybody was very quick to love and accept. I know it sounds super-cynical of me, but the part where Michael meets his grandfather, and the old man immediately accepts him, and dotes upon him (and likewise that Michael immediately embraces him with the same affection as someone he'd known all his life) - it was just a bit much for me, and it's a theme that carries on throughout the book.
There were parts of the plot that I found unclear. I got the feeling that the battle between the immortals, and the interference of higher powers was ancient history, at the beginning of life on Ezron. It seemed like a peaceful world, whose strife was merely a story, outside of living memory (well, excluding the immortal living memory). How then were Zaric's sons (of about 15 yrs) involved?
There were also parts that I found disjointed and others overly coincidental. The fact that all of Michael's friends have powers, and nobody blinked an eye I could sorta understand - but nobody being surprised that they were suddenly ninjas and weapon pros after one day of training?
The imps' help? The sister's gift? Adonis' information? The Chase/Chaz switch? It felt like every time there was a need, there was suddenly a supply; often without any lead-up, or hints that these people and legends existed in Ezron.
And I was a little upset by the conclusion of the book. ((spoiler-ish)) I thought that with all the build-up of Michael being the Protector, destined to appear when Ezron was threatened, then the single focus of the return of Zuric. It was disappointing that nobody seemed to mind that the biggest evil in history had reawakened; and our heroes decided to win the kingdom competition instead.
I know that it's a series, and Zuric will make an excellent big bad in it, but... I wish the book had been written with more focus on the curse of the sisters and the desolate woods; of the necessity of keeping the kingdoms together by winning the games; allowing Michael and his friends to test their skills, knowing they'll have to face Zuric...