Where Honesty Never Ends.
The Return of the Key by Alisha Nurse
Amazon Author Page
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to The Review Board in exchange for an honest review.
16 year old Eliza Aurelio grapples with her mixed race identity amid rising racial tensions on her little island. For their safety, Eliza’s grandfather sends her and her grandmother to a quiet town in Southwest England to stay with a relative. But this otherwise quiet town has been turned upside down by people mysteriously disappearing. Eliza eventually encounters a magical but dangerous realm accessible through a doorway in the town, and sees its connection to the abductions. She intends to put things right, only wanting to protect her family. To do this, she must return a stolen key to lock the open doorway. But Eliza has to overcome her own inner conflicts if she is to stand any chance of being successful and leaving the other realm alive.
Suspenseful and enchanting, The Return of the Key explores the power of love, sacrifice and the journey to self acceptance.
Hello and welcome to The Review Board. Today our very own Harmony Kent will give us an inside look at “The Return of the Key” by Alisha Nurse. Harmony, take it away.
The Return of the Key is a traditional fantasy fiction novel aimed at YA readers. Sixteen year old Eliza Aurelio is a mixed race Trinidadian, struggling amidst prejudice and violence in the run up to the elections, where—if you’re not in one racial group or the other—you’re in trouble. In an effort to protect her and the family, Eliza’s grandfather sends her to England, where she stays with her aunt in a quiet town in the southwest.
Soon, Eliza discovers that all is not as it seems, and people around her disappear mysteriously. When she happens across a doorway that leads to a magical and dangerous realm, everything is turned upside down, and Eliza must overcome her inner conflicts if she has any hope of returning home alive.
I have to start by saying how much I love the book cover; it is so lovely and intriguing, and certainly conveys the magical aspect of the novel. At around 215 pages, it is a decent sized read, and is clean throughout, which makes it suitable for a broad age group.
The book has all the aspects of an epic fantasy that you would expect, including magic realms and faeries, etc. The scene setting is descriptive, and yet things fell flat for me. I think this is due to the telling nature of the writing, rather than showing. This holds true for the character development, which left me wanting. It made the relationships between the individuals feel unreal and a tad pedestrian, especially when the connection was supposed to be deep—as with Gwen and Eliza, not to mention the supposed romance between Eliza and Arden. It’s not enough to be told that he blushes, or she blushes, etc., to give that romantic element … we need showing in so many little ways. The same with the friendship between Gwen and Eliza … I don’t want to be told that they spent a lot of time together and were best friends; I want to be shown it so that I can get to know each of them more intimately and actually care what happens to them.
The narrative style reads passively with lots of ‘wases’ and ‘weres’, as well as telling what has just been shown in dialogue. The best dialogue tags are the simplest ones, like saying ‘said’ instead of ‘charged’, ‘complained’, ‘challenged’, and ‘growled’, etc. Good dialogue shows these attributes without them needing to then be told. You also can’t use a beat as a tag: for example, you wouldn’t use ‘she grinned’ as a dialogue tag because it’s impossible to grin your speech. You would use it as a beat, which demands a full stop and separate sentence, and not the comma and connecting sentence you get with a tag such as ‘she said’. The same with ‘Urhouri eyed the crowd’ being used as a dialogue tag. It’s not: it’s an action or a beat.
Also, point of view issues crept in, where things were told that the character couldn’t possibly know at that stage in the book, such as: ‘Somehow, this clock-like device had become entangled with Eliza’s fate, though she was yet to know it.’ And, ‘but he did have good cause for standing by Eliza, as you will find out later.’ If the narrative had been written in third person omniscient, this might be acceptable; however, it is written in third person close, with thoughts and feelings being shown, which excludes the use of these kinds of narrative devices.
In summary, it is a good story premise that is let down by the passive writing and telling rather than showing. The book is a good clean read for a younger teen audience, and has a good message about dealing with discrimination and one’s inner conflicts. If the story sounds good to you, then give it a go. The issues I’ve mentioned did put me off, but that isn’t true of every reader. I offer this book 6 out of 10 TRB stars, which equates to 3 out of 5 stars on other rating scales.
Well, there you have it. Thank you Harmony, and that you, dear reader. Also, thanks for dropping by The Review Board. Don’t forget to share, like and subscribe. Have a wonderful day!