Although most of our Book Spotlights are either for Young Adult or Adult Speculative Fiction, when this intriguing Middle Grade story fell into my inbox for a Blog Tour, I couldn't pass up the chance to review it.
Conceived in a post-Apocalyptic laboratory, 12-year-old Toby has never known anything but his underground home, has never known anyone other than his Grambles—the scientists who created him.
Toby is not just an ordinary boy, though; he's a Trilby—part human and part feline. It is because of his creation and his uniqueness that Toby begins to question whether or not he was given a soul.
He goes on a quest in search of God to ask that very question, and along the way he finds new friends and amazing adventures.
Watch Book Trailer:
Gems for Writers:
Description. Angela has a very unique way of describing the characters, the settings, and the action that we witness throughout the book. Prepare yourself for colorful and textural elements painted with a different word palette; clichéd, overused metaphors won't be found in her story. [That said, Toby's character was described with the very basics; with it being a fantasy novella, Castillo could have added more fantastic elements to the Trilby race—is Toby just a boy with cat ears and a tail, or are there other elements to a Trilby such as cat claws, superior agility, et cetera?]
Narrative Voice. Being that Toby is young, naïve, and a bit sheltered, the narration is executed with a curious innocence only found in a child. On the other hand, Castillo surprised me with the profundity of the subject matter, too; seen through a child's eyes, the more adult parts of the story—especially the not-so-pretty, dystopian elements outside the safety of the underground bunker—seemed a bit more riveting.
Pebbles to Polish:
Loose Endings. I felt Castillo could have carried the story a bit further than she did; Toby's story is wrapped-up with a neat little bow, but some of the other character arcs (mainly that of his companion, Mia) were left undeveloped or unsealed. Even though this book is the first of an intended series, which means the author left some things untold purposefully, the ending felt more like an extinguished fire rather than dying embers—I would have loved to stay warm by the fire just a bit longer.
This book was heart-warming, full of beautiful prose, unexpected poetry, and lovable characters. Angela Castillo does an excellent job at creating a unique cast of characters (I especially love the Grambles!) and adventures that are real, riveting, and even a bit horrific at times. That said, I would have loved for this story to transcend religious boundaries so that its wonderful message could reach more, for it to be less literal and more allegorical (think Narnia) so that it could reach both Christian and non-Christian audiences alike.
Write the Story in your Heart and You'll Change the Hearts of Others,
***The Amazing Adventures of Toby the Trilby (2013), by Angela Castillo, is published by and copyright CreateSpace. It is available in stores, online (see above), and from your local public library.
***Per FTC Regulations: I received a free Advance Reading Copy (ARC) from the author and was not compensated in any way, monetarily or otherwise, for this review.