Monday, January 20, 2014

Switch! The Lost Kingdoms of Karibu (Karen Prince)

Switch! The Lost Kingdoms of Karibu
(The Lost Kingdoms of Karibu series, Book 1)
Karen Prince
Karen Prince, publisher
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**+ (Bad/Okay)

DESCRIPTION: Ethan didn't want to spend a week hunting in the African bush; he'd much rather stay with his mom and stepdad in Capetown playing computer games, far away from fleas and dirt and germ-ridden animals. But he wants to spend time with his cousin Joe... and Joe's best friend from school, Tariro, bullies Ethan into joining them on the expedition. He thought his biggest worries would be Tariro's mean-spirited teasing and predators, but the trip takes a strange and terrible turn - one that thrusts Ethan, Joe, Tariro, and a local boy into a magical quest to a lost realm.
Gogo Maya comes from the kingdoms of Karibu, a magical realm deep in the impenetrable mountains. With magic literally floating on the drinking water for anyone to use (or abuse), Karibu abounds with strange creatures and terrible dangers. She and her leopard familiar, Salih, were just trying get out of a scrape when Gogo Maya made the switch. The witch thought she'd trade places with a rock or a tree a few miles away. Instead, she switched places with Joe, sending the white boy to Karibu in her place. Worse, when she was pulled from the pool where she arrived, another white boy stole her magic by kissing her, though the fool Ethan claims he was just giving her CPR.
With Salih as their guide, the newly-empowered Ethan and his companions must trek into Karibu to rescue Joe... assuming they can reach him before the inhabitants of Karibu finish the boy off.

REVIEW: This sounded a little different, a young adult fantasy with an African flair, plus it was free when I downloaded it on Kindle. Unfortunately, it trips over its own feet more often than not. Characters go out of their way to be stupid; some initial skepticism is called for, naturally, when a woman who claims to be a witch suddenly pops into existence where a boy used to be, but at some point the evidence is simply too overwhelming to ignore, even to boys as blockheaded as Ethan and Tariro. It's hard to sympathize with characters that stubborn, especially when their belief or disbelief wavers in direct proportion to the needs of the story. Karibu is a strange, sometimes wondrous place, but I had trouble keeping track of who was who, with an impenetrable tangle of names and personalities clamoring for my attention amid bursts of magic. Frequent bursts of action liven things up, but often arrive and resolve abruptly, making them hard to visualize as they played out. It all builds up to an anticlimax of an ending, then cuts off so abruptly that it was hard to figure out if all the necessary lessons had been learned by the necessary people. (I strongly suspect not, and that their further education forms the backbone of future books.) In the end, while I enjoyed parts of my visit to Karibu, I feel no need to make a return trip... especially not with the same characters.

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