I wanted to like this book (The Forbbiden Stone), which I did as a read-aloud with my son after getting a free copy at NCTE. I should say that he thoroughly enjoyed the book and was caught up in the adventure unfolding. He was hooked early. Me? Not so much. I appreciated the story part of the book, noting that this is the clear start to a series of books about four kids and a dad uncovering a time-related mystery that began with Copernicus and stretches to the modern day with secret societies, puzzling dilemmas, and globe-trotting action.
What I could not get past was the writing.
We’ve had the same problem with Tony Abbott before, when we read his Secrets of Droon series. My wife and I found the dialogue wooden and rather lifeless (sorry, Tony) and the action and plot was incredibly predicable. But my son (actually, sons) enjoyed the series and I guess that is the real audience for Abbott, not us picky adults. Here, with The Forbidden Stone, though, I felt that same feeling I had with Droon, even though I know Abbott is setting up the series, introducing characters and action for future books. But I never got a good sense of any of the characters. Instead, it felt like we were breezing through the heads and internal voice periodically. I had the sense of the writer struggling to make sure we cared about the protagonists. Abbott was working too hard. I didn’t find myself caring about the kids. That’s a problem for me.
I know adventure books have improbably scenarios that resourceful protagonists can solve. There were just one too many of those here in this book, in my opinion. (Can I venture a guess that a movie contract is in the mix here?) I know we will be reading more of this series as it comes out, and I am glad my son is intrigued and interested in any books. I will remain hopeful that the writing gets stronger as the focus gets narrower on the finding of the 12 “relics” that are at the heart of the story. And I hope I come to care for the characters.
Peace (in the pages),