Saturday, May 28, 2022

Barnabas Bopwright Saves the City

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Barnabas Bopwright Saves the City is an engaging middle grade/YA fantasy by J. Marshall Freeman. Released 10th May 2022 by Bold Strokes Books, it's 304 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a straightforward quest coming-of-age fantasy with a heaping dose of blindly stupid adults running around and messing everything up. The titular main character is 15 years old and deeply hormonal. That's fine, but I had a lot of trouble finding him likeable or relatable to any meaningful degree. 

This is a one-stop-shopping experience which combines a quirky blend of subgenres - the author has dabbled here with magical realism, a bit of fantasy, a bit of quest driven coming-of-age, some mock gothic children's fiction (think Lemony Snicket), and some academy/school slice-of-life vignettes. I never felt sure what the target demographic was. Much of the writing felt very middle grade-ish, but there are a number of sexual innuendos and some more mature subject matter than is probably appropriate for the average 12 year old. I have no problem with bi-positive and bi-curious characters, but in this case, Barnabas is not a particularly fun or appealing character in and of himself. 

There are a number of plot devices which I found poorly explained and not particularly believable (if they know about Tokyo and New York, how can they not know about the valley below The City). 

The author does write engagingly and well, and I liked the off-kilter tone of the book. The characterizations and dialogue were rough in places, however. 

Three and a half stars. Not sure who I would recommend it for - possibly YA/older teens who enjoy magical realism. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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