Strangewood by Christopher Golden

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Strangewood is the story of Thomas Randall, creator of Adventures in Strangewood, the most popular series of children's books in the world. Thomas is recently divorced, and dealing with the repercussions of that trauma, as well as the damage it has done to his five year old son, Nathan.

But there is other damage being done as well.

Due to his recent life changes, Thomas has begun to neglect the world and characters of Strangewood. The creatures who live there are not at all happy. Strangewood must be saved, but to do so, they are willing to risk anything, even the life of a little boy.

Strangewood, you are a strange one. You sounded so exciting. Blending fantasy with writing and writer lifestyle, making a written world in a book come to life. Instead I was lost and downright bored half the time. The shame of it all. I almost felt annoyed after reading this book because of the letdown I felt after being so excited about the promised adventure that sounded so unique.

We all crave uniqueness after we've read so many books - some genres start blending together since they share and embrace tropes and cliches that readers come to know and expect. You've read one serial killer story, you recognize twists in others. You've read horror with a particular creature, you're basically an expert on ways to try and make that creature stand out next. You've read so many mysteries, it becomes easier to solve the riddles through spotting red herrings and eyeing the least suspected culprits. Strangewood seemed like a potential breath of fresh air because it seemed like it would be so different from the get-go.

Pacing is a hindrance. The beginning takes too long to start up the demented storyline with drawn out foreshadowing. During this slow buildup I should have warmed to the main characters, but it felt disjointed. The situation with the child custody situation is a personal pet peeve and tugged on my heartstrings, in a bad and distracting way. When the fantasy came into play, it was slow paced and rather humdrum. The invented characters were so unique they were awkward. It felt like childhood characters - demented ones - trying to make themselves work into an adult story where they just didn't.

Christopher Golden is a new-to-me author, and fortunately I did enjoy his writing style. It's direct and evenly flowing. He has imagination for sure, but the pacing needs work, some of the scenes felt awkward, and characters didn't come across as anything more than plot devices with suitable personality quirks just suited to get a plot point of the story started. The biggest letdown was definitely the invented creatures for the story, though. They just don't work.

While I did like a twist at the end, this was a chore to read. I hope I find more success with another Golden book.

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