4 out of 4 stars
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Halia Bodine never considered herself ordinary, but she would soon find that she was more unique than she ever thought possible. She grew up in a coastal town called Ameral Alley, yet she had never seen the ocean in person. She longed to feel sand on her skin, explore the beaches, and frolic in the waves, but was never permitted to by her Aunt Deedee. Halia always thought that her physical ailments were to blame. She was born with an incurable and rare lung disease. The disease required her to breathe oxygen through a nasal cannula and shortened her life expectancy to 20-years old. In addition to living with the disease, Halia never knew her parents. She had never even seen pictures of them. They died when she was one day old, leaving her to be raised by her loving but strict aunt. Their deaths remained a mystery to her. It wasn’t that she didn’t wonder what caused their demise, the information was just never shared.
Up until the day of her 17th birthday, the only adventures Halia had been on took place within the pages of novels she read. That and everything she thought she knew about herself changed when an enigmatic new classmate arrived at school carrying a strange book containing a map that she had only seen in her dreams. Trailing the strange boy, as well as using the information she recalled from the map, Halia stumbled upon Moa’s Rock and the hidden alcove it housed. Once inside the alcove, her adventure began. While meeting a variety of extraordinary underwater creatures and bonding with warriors, Halia comes to know the truth about her heritage and uncovers the cause of her parents’ death. Halia also learns the real reason her aunt forbade her to go near the ocean and finds herself facing a great darkness that has tormented her dreams since she was little.
In Pembrim: The Hidden Alcove, author Bree Lenehan weaves an intricate tale of self-discovery, strength, courage, and mercy. It is an inspirational piece of work filled with a plethora of excellent lessons beneficial to readers of all ages. It is classified as a young adult fantasy novel but carries subtle tones of romance, mystery, suspense, and action. Lenehan often used similes and alliterations throughout the novel. For example, she describes a gathering of nynxes, little living lights of the sea, as being “like a constellation in the night.” Examples of Lenehan's use of alliteration include, “inviolable infallibility,” “dangled dainty,” and “big, black beads…” The overall imagery of the book, which was aided using alliteration and similes, was brilliant. Lenehan crafted this beautiful, intriguing world that came to life as I read and made me want more. One sentence that I loved reads, "Her wheezing, heavy breaths were masked by the songbirds singing from the treetops; it was as though she could hear the stars twinkling. With the evergreen forest glowing and the crystallised flowers shining against the moonlight, she could've sworn black and blue that she felt the water vapour soaking her pores as the moisture evaporated towards the moon."
I found myself learning new words while reading this book. The vocabulary used by Lenehan is excellent. She includes words like pedantic, canorous, and pernicious, and also created an entirely new language called M'deian. It is the native tongue of the underwater warriors that Halia meets. Lenehan included a M'deian Glossary at the end of the novel, making it easy to follow along. The book was perfectly paced. The climax, which was well placed, had me at the edge of my seat.
I don't have many negative things to say about Pembrim: The Hidden Alcove. The punctuation and grammar were excellent. I only noticed a few errors, none of which took me out of the book. For example, one line of dialogue was missing quotation marks. The novel did contain some sentences that could be revised for clarity and a few that were redundant and unnecessary. An example of a sentence that could be revised reads, "The roots, they dug at the sand like claws." These do not distract from the book, and for that reason, I am rating it a 4 out of 4. I strongly recommend this book to anybody wanting to read a fantasy that they can get lost in. I feel that the book is comparable to a modern-day, underwater Alice in Wonderland. I would gladly reread this book (and probably will.)
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