As you may have guessed, I'm still struggling to get back on my normal reviewing schedule. Today, though, I finally finished the ARC of Roots Entwine that Vicky Bastedo was kind enough to send me, and while the book has not yet been officially released and may undergo some changes between now and then, I do have some preliminary thoughts.
Roots Entwine is a fantasy bildungsroman in which the sheltered teenaged protagonist is recruited for a quest and, along the way, learns more about the world in which he lives and about the contours of his own peculiar gifts. The main character, Joaquin, possesses the magical ability to enhance his own senses to the point that he can hear a man's heart beating even at great distances, but because he is young and has not yet learned discipline, said ability is often disruptive and disabling rather than a source of strength.
The novel is primarily written from Joaquin's perspective, which brings with it a few common downsides. Unfortunately, the adult characters are rather under-developed. We are told several times, for example, that the elders of Joaquin's home clan love him dearly -- but that doesn't square with their years-long refusal to acknowledge Joaquin's existence in public. We also see Joaquin's travel companions become intensely protective and fiercely loyal to the boy -- but the text doesn't really provide solid reasons for this affection beyond a few scattered fragments of exposition. On the whole, many characters behave in ways that, to me, just don't have sufficient psychological justification. People - including strangers - warm to Joaquin simply because he's the hero, darn it, and that's the way it has to be.
Bastedo's magic system, however, has promise. I like that Phoshat has a price; imposing that sort of limitation forces the characters to rely on more than just magic to get out of trouble and accomplish their goals. I also feel that the characterization of Joaquin himself is likely to resonate with young readers who are neurologically atypical. Children and teens with sensory processing or autism spectrum disorders will no doubt relate to Joaquin's difficulties navigating - and tolerating - a busy town marketplace -- and with Joaquin's longing to be accepted as he is.
As noted, Roots Entwine hasn't been released by its publisher, so I do not have a direct Amazon link. I do, however, have a link to the imprint in question, so if anything I've said here piques your interest, feel free to visit the publisher's website and keep an eye out. I myself am curious to see if some of the criticisms I shared above are addressed in the final version.
Final Verdict: Recommended, But With Notes