Rift Healer is the first installment of the ‘Forest Magic’ series, a Young Adult Fantasy/Romance set in Central and Western Massachusetts.
After a minor earthquake, the enchanted forest in Bidwell, MA, is infested with monster-spewing rifts. Gisele Westerfield’s great nephew, the gifted Micah, and his distant cousin, Selena, arrive to assist. Together with Gisele’s summer students, twins Haley and Lacey, they will try to heal the magical forest.
Much to the consternation of the beautiful Selena, Micah identifies Haley as The One whom he’ll share his future. But after witnessing a terrifying display of Micah’s Gift, Haley cools to his advances and unexpectedly discovers her own Gift– she can heal the earth.
Monsters, mayhem, and teenage angst follow the small group as they confront evil in the forest and a dangerous prediction that ‘one will fall’. Will they heal the rifts in time? Can they save the unicorns? And is Haley really destined to be with Micah?
Okay, now for the excerpt I chose because fantasy adventure is the kind of thing that most attracted me to the book and what I like reading most:
Now for my review. If you’re okay with omniscient point of view, and if you like romance in with your fantasy adventure, you’ll probably love this book. I wasn’t thrilled, but I was entertained and happy about the real ending, not one of those cliffhangers.
What worked best: The old woman, Giselle (never called a witch), as mentor and teacher makes a nice change from the usual old wizard. I liked the creativity of the magical creatures and the mix of different mythologies and religions. I liked the team concept when so many books thrust the entire responsibility on one teen’s shoulders while the others come along for the ride. The mythology and characters were well developed and believable (except for the depth of romance for the age). The characters each had problems and quirks, so I had no trouble keeping them straight. Even more refreshing was the adult who stayed with them and guided them for the entire story. Far too many books strip the adult leadership as if teens can’t complete a hero’s journey when adults are present. Yes, they can, and more than one can be a hero. Haynes proved both points very well. Also kudos for the concept of free will, persevering to overcome dire predictions, and most of all the complete arc, including a very satisfying outcome.
What didn’t work as well: The writing isn’t great (awkward in places, too many mistakes and some missing words), and sometimes the point of view switched so fast I couldn’t tell whose head I was in. In this story, three points of view (Giselle, Haley, and Micah) would provide more than enough enlightenment and enrichment. To avoid confusion, each should be in a different section, and that section should start with the featured person. The romance is entertaining to a point, but it overbalances the adventure. It’s those fantasy adventure scenes that kept me entertained enough to keep reading.
One monster confused me–a Terratress described as having a Siren effect on males. Later, the author calls her a harpy. What threw me most is why, with a deadline looming to save the forest, the group didn’t go to work more often. I can see taking a day or two between to recover and train, but not three or four. Romance fills those intervals, and it’s not as important as saving the forest. Once the group learns that failing to save the forest means evil will spread beyond, they should step up the pace.
I’d rather the romance had developed slower, kept the kids guessing longer by giving them less time alone and more time working to defeat the forest monsters. Yes, I remember how it felt at age fourteen to be so head-over-heels for a guy. But I had a new crush every so often. A girl that age and a sixteen-year-old guy becoming so serious made me nervous. I also wondered if I’d wandered into a series at the second book because of the large amount of back story. A little is fine, but I don’t want to read that much of what happened before unless it’s told so it seems like the present. Back-flashes, for instance. Better yet, another book telling the whole story of last summer. Bring on the current action.
Overall 3 stars, like but not love, due to the overbalanced romance, head-hopping and poor editing. The complete arc and ending were worth 5 stars though. I will be interested to see the author’s development in the next book implied by The Greenman’s statement about a continuing curse.
Author Diane M. Haynes
Diane has lived in Massachusetts all her life where early on, her artistic talents were fostered, though her skills as an “excellent report writer” were often noted in previous employment.
On her brother Rick’s birthday, November 16, 2004, seven months after his death, she woke from an amazing dream which would not fade. She outlined the dream, made a few quick notes and days later produced a 12 page short story. After deciding her story was interesting but incomplete, she began writing her first novel, using her dream as its climax. She now believes the dream to be a ‘Spirit Gift,’ sent by her brother.
Diane continues to reside in Central MA with her husband and a very naughty Basset Hound named Basil and his new adopted sister-Basset, Ruby, both of whom cleverly wreak havoc on the Haynes’ formerly well-ordered lives. She spends her time writing, reading books about writing, talking about writing, painting with watercolors, antiqueing and attempting to train a very reluctant Basil and a willing, but highly comedic Ruby.