Author: Colm McElwain
Genre: Middle Grade • Fantasy
Version: Paperback (240 pages)
Publisher: Troubador Publishing (December 1, 2011)
Source: Author Review Request
Alongside his friends Ben and Mary Forester, James Clyde must protect a powerful diamond from falling into the wrong hands. A strange and sinister man dressed in black is also pursuing the diamond and will stop at nothing to obtain it. James and his friends set off on a perilous journey to return the diamond to its rightful place. But they are being hunted every step of the way by the relentless man in black and his blood-thirsty army. Outnumbered, James finds he must use the power of the diamond to escape their clutches – or become another victim of their murderous quest. So begins a journey that will transport them to an alternative world where they must confront the mysterious man in black for a final, winner-takes-all battle…
James is an 11 year old orphan living in a foster home along side two other foster kids, Ben and Mary. Life is seemingly normal for James; he goes to school, he has friends, and he even has an uptight foster Mom. Every year James, along with Ben and Mary, visit his Grandfather for the holidays. Their stay with Wilmore is the highlight of the year for the children. Wilmore fills the time with magical stories about the land of Orchestra and the children’s favorite pastime is exploring the old mansion filled with mysterious rooms. It is the only time of the year the children feel at home. When strange things begin to happen, James and his friends find that the stories that Wilmore has told them over the years may be more than just stories… Through a series of tragic events, James and his side kicks are propelled into another world, and must find a way to stop the man in black from achieving his dark purpose.
You can definitely feel the author was inspired by works such as C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter. It shares many of the same elements and themes that appear in these works: action, adventure, magic, friendship, bravery, etc etc. All elements I feel make for a successful middle grade fantasy. With short action packed chapters, James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra is a quick paced read. This book is sure to thrill young readers. I would say this book would most likely appeal to boys ranging from ages 8-13 years old.
Looking at this book from an adult perspective, I would consider the writing in this book to be developmental to basic, as expected with a debut author. At times I found that the book felt choppy and did not flow well. There could definitely be some more editing work done here. There were a few parts of the book that did not further the plot, for example the opening scene in the mall could have been omitted as it didn’t feel relevant. Furthermore, I think the timeline could use some adjustments. I think the back story of Ochestra should have been told first, then James should have been introduced after the fact. This is not to say that I did not like the back story, actually the opposite. One of my favorite parts of this book was learning about what brought about the turmoil in Ochestra. In particular, I enjoyed learning about Kila and the 12 knights of Zara. I just think this information would have been better suited in the beginning of the book as opposed to the middle to end.
Even with the minor transgressions, I think this book was still a cute and enjoyable read. I do not necessarily think this book is going to appeal to the Young Adult or Adult audiences, however I think it will do the job to entertain those in the middle grade age range. I cannot ignore how much my son enjoyed this book. He rated this a 4 out of 5 stars.
*Big thanks to Colm McElwain for providing me with a copy of James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author:
Colm was born and educated in Monaghan, Ireland. He has a BA Hons in PE and enjoys reading books, watching films and playing sport. He has always loved storytelling, whether through the medium of literature or film.
James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra is his first novel and brings a very fulfilling creative experience spanning a number of years to an end.