2021 Reading Challenge

2021 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 3 books toward her goal of 245 books.

Book Review: The Friar’s Lantern by Greg Hickey

I was contacted by the author and asked if I was interested in “helping revive a genre” – with an opening like that, how could I help but say yes? Greg Hickey told me he was bringing back the “Choose Your Own Adventure” idea, but for adult readers.

I was immediately intrigued. I LOVED the Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid. (If you don’t know them, check out this amazing Medium.com article.) I grew up in their heyday and read them all. I loved being a part of the story. So often, I felt that young adult books had characters make ridiculous decisions. I was convinced I could do better as a character, and the CYOA books let me try my hand. Sometimes I did well. Sometimes, well, let’s just say perhaps it’s a good thing that I’m not a book character after all… But every time I found it entertaining and enjoyable. Letting readers be a part of the action extends the enjoyment and possibilities of a story, and isn’t that what immersive reading is all about?

I went into this book with (in hindsight) unreasonably high expectations. I wanted to relive my youth and younger reader experiences – which is folly at its highest, frankly, because there’s no way to really capture the magic of younger experience as an older person. As a result, I struggled with this book mightily…

Let’s be clear upfront: This is NOT Hickey’s fault. I love the idea of participatory reading for adults and think it’s one that has been a long time coming. I am delighted that someone is tackling this concept and trying to revive the genre. I think e-book formats are a brilliant way to do that, and think that the shortened attention spans that seem to be the name of the game lately for so many readers make the CYOA concept a marvelous choice for the current environment.

That being said, I definitely suffered from the expectation problem here… I went in looking for the constant-action, constant-choices format of the CYOA books of my youth. Hickey’s book reads more like regular fiction with occasional options. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it wasn’t what I was expecting and so it felt slower in pace and less, well, exciting than I was looking forward to as a result. That is my issue, not the book’s, but it inevitably colored the read for me.

The Friar’s Lantern is a tale about a guy who finds himself in the midst of a bizarre experiment that could change his life – on many levels. It’s an intriguing concept and the choices as they are presented are thought-provoking and ethically interesting – as is the narrative text that sets up those choices. But be aware – this is more of a novel and less of an action story than the CYOA concept suggests. I suspect if I’d gone in as a cold reader, without expectations or history of the genre behind me, I’d have had an entirely different experience with this one. Unfortunately, I couldn’t distance myself from what I expected to find, and so the book didn’t work for me. I want to give this one another go, but have to give it some time to leave my head first…

If you’re intrigued by the idea, definitely give this one a go – but go in without preconceptions. You’ll be glad you did…

Thanks to the author for his patience with me on this one, and for my complimentary, obligation-free, review copy.

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