Aldo’s Fantastical Movie Palace by Jonathan Friesen

 In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m not fond of fantasy above the low category. This book isn’t high fantasy; part of it takes place in this world, but the majority is very much high fantasy. However, I stuck with it until the very end.

The premise is interesting: Chloe was scarred by her inventor father and Mike is blind. Chloe’s family runs a movie theater which has seen better days. The kids collaborate on a film script which gets mixed in with a movie reel Chloe is showing when Mike invites himself into the projector room. The next thing they know Chloe and Mike find themselves in the world they invented in the script.

Except it isn’t. At least it doesn’t seem to be. They are constantly surprised by the people, creatures, and settings they find. There is a plethora of all of these which results in confusion for the reader, at least for this reader. Early on, Mike goes his own way, so the book centers on Chloe, rendering Mike seemingly a surplus element.

I was never sure whether I was in The Last Picture Show (from the description of the movie theater), The Witch, the Lion, and the Wardrobe, The House of Arden, The Princess and the Goblin, The Wizard of Oz, or a half dozen other fantasy novels. The story lacked coherence and narrative focus.

The story insists that Chloe has been sent to these world for a purpose. The didacticism comes so unrelenting that it interferes with the already overloaded plot. The book is intended for YAs 10-14 years old, but I can’t imagine any keeping with it all the way through.

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