In Finding Meara, author Lara Schiffbauer’s freshman novel, Meara is the four year old sister whom first person narrator, Hazel (26), never knew she had. Hazel learns about her natural family when she is kidnapped and flown through a portal into another world. Hazel is able to escape but upon her return to her own world she is under suspicion for kidnapping and needs to find a safe place to hide because she is still on the run from her evil, natural father, Lucian. His henchmen could attack from any direction, including the sky. Lucian plans on ritually sacrificing one of his daughters to extend his own life. He is for sure one mean, magic-wielding Daddy.
First, let me advise that this review will likely only be of interest to readers of Teen Fantasy novels with a heavy Romance component. If you are not a fan of novels written for the Twilight and/or Amanda Hocking crowd, you will probably want to pass. Although I have seen the novel described as “new adult”, I feel the book would not have as much appeal for the 18-30 age range is it will to the teen/young adult group.
For those of you who are readers of inexpensive, Teen-oriented Fantasy, welcome. At the current price of 99¢, Finding Meara by Lara Schiffbauer may be your cup of tea. It is important for me to note before continuing that Teen-oriented Romance is definitely not one of my preferred genres. I like the Fantasy just fine, but I prefer my Romance to be layered into the background of the tale instead of being front and center. Please understand that my review may be colored by my preferences.
First, why did I read the book if I don’t like the level of romance? The answer is simple – there was nothing in the book description or the book sample I read to tip me off to the lurve angle. While I always expect books with teen or early adult narrators to contain romantic or lusty yearnings, the book was often more “Finding Hunks” than “Finding Meara”. Because of this, I encourage Ms. Schiffbauer to put something about the romance aspect into the book blurb. There are plenty of young ladies looking for what the book offers. A synopsis highlighting the romance aspect will help the book connect with that audience.
Now, as to the rest of the story…the author creates an interesting alternate world with natural-world magic elements – think elementals and guardians-of-the-forest. The world-building was good if not as in-depth as I might have liked – however, it is about right for the age group I think it will appeal to. When Hazel, her BFF, and her newfound younger brother travel to the Adven Realm, they track Meara, who is now on the run with her grandmother, in an effort to rescue her and take her back to Colorado to keep her safe. In the meantime, there is danger all around that they will need to fend off with the help of some of the Realm’s hot guy guardians.
I would have liked Hazel better if she and her friend had been 17 or 18 (a year or two older than the girls I think this novel would most appeal to). For a 26 year old, Hazel was far too self-involved and immature – she expends most of her emotional energy on worrying about whether or not her preferred Realm men think she’s hot. (Once again, I thought the book was about Finding Meara, but the topic of Meara comes up only when it is needed to send them off on another leg of their journey.)
While I think Lara Schiffbauer did a good job for a first novel and shows some definite creativity with plotting, the book suffered from an overall lack of focus – is it a fantasy/adventure or a fantasy/romance? It is my feeling that the author didn’t have it fixed in her mind which of these it was; for this reason, she was unable to build a fully satisfying story in either direction. The romance competed with the adventure and significantly detracted from building tension around the search for Meara.
On the other hand, if I had been reading the story as a romance, I would have found the love triangle far too easily resolved and the male love interest(s) far too perfect. That said, I am familiar with the kind of romance teens find compelling and the book is probably a good fit with teenage expectations. If you are a teen considering blowing a buck on a book for pure escapism, you could do worse than Finding Meara. At a price point of less than $1.00, I think it is a decent read for the right kind of reader (by now, you know who you are).
Two final notes — one of the really good things about the book is that it is not chock full o’ reading and grammar errors. The author gets kudos from me for attention to the details. However, I then give a stern glare in her general direction because Hazel, whom one assumes the reader will identify with, intimates that men don’t need to be advised when they are to become fathers. She does this for no other reason than her own hurt feelings; a woman’s hurt feelings are much more important than fathers and their children having the opportunity to know each other, right? I do understand the reason for this in terms of the plot, but I still don’t have to like the message it sends to young women.
If you are interested in the book Finding Meara, you can purchase it at Amazon.com by clicking here.