Jimmy’s world is exciting and unique. Despite starting out at a school, the story quickly ventures out into a wide world of magical trains, airships, and the gulf between the official history and the actual history of the Eight Countries. While Jimmy’s adventures can at times feel like he’s a game protagonist following a tutorial, he exhibits a hearty, can-do attitude that makes him enjoyable to read; he holds his own with a very strong supporting cast. Michaels surrounds his protagonist with strong and interesting women, including the fort leader Jenna, who takes on a mentoring role; the prickly but helpful nurse Christine; and of course, Tessa the ghost, fallen hero, who at times can be bossy though she genuinely cares about Jimmy.
The plot is straightforward, with more action than talk, but still builds to a satisfying confrontation with the villain. A fresh adventure through a unique magical world, this series start will leave readers eagerly awaiting a sequel. Fans of fantasy series–and RPG games–will relish the story’s world and style.
Takeaway: Christopher Mannino’s The Scythe Wielder’s Secret, C.M. Carney’s Barrow King.
Great for fans of: This promising YA fantasy debut pits a teen boy and a ghost hero against the secrets of the past.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A
Combining the best elements of the fantasy adventure genre, the ghost story, the murder mystery novel, and the coming-of-age novel, Jimmy Chartron and the Lost Keystone has everything a young adult novel needs to be gripping and thought-provoking.
For sixteen-year-old Jimmy Chartron, trainee electrician at the Navale Academy of Eagleon, adventures, heroes, evil, and magic are things of the past. They haven’t been a part of everyday life since the Great War, which was a hundred years ago. However, when Jimmy becomes possessed by the ghost of the long-dead healer Tessa Marlise, adventure and magic suddenly become a horribly real and immediate problem. Caught in a web of mystery, murder, and magic, Jimmy realizes that he needs to come to terms with the ghost in his head because if he doesn’t, the fight against evil won’t just be his new reality—it will be everyones.
Jimmy’s challenges may be epic, but he also struggles with relatable problems like feeling different and managing change, making him an easy character for readers to empathize with. At the same time, the plot lines exploring possession, heroism, and duty gently encourage readers to think through complex concepts of identity and fate. Jimmy Chartron and the Lost Keystone is an exciting and original read, sure to delight young speculative fiction fans.
Jimmy Chartron and the Lost Keystone is a work of fiction in the fantasy, paranormal fiction, and adventure subgenres. It is intended for the young adult reading audience and was penned by author J.T. Michaels. In this thrilling novel filled with mystery, suspense, and excellent twists, we follow our protagonist, the sixteen-year-old Jimmy Chartron, through history and the here and now. When a magical mishap sees Jimmy living with the ghost of a forgotten war hero in his head, the presence prompts him to find out who Tessa Marlise really was, and why the tales of the Great War have mysteriously excluded her.
One of the most enjoyable sub-genres of YA fiction for me are those set in unique schools and academies, so I really enjoyed the worldbuilding and settings around Navale and Jimmy’s aspirations therein. Beyond this, the wider context of the Great War and its aftermath is well explained through engaging dialogue and discovery moments, but never overdone or too prolonged so as to hold the interest of the target age group. This makes for a compelling read where the action is never stagnant and there’s always a new piece of the puzzle to find. Author J.T. Michaels has a keen sense of balance in terms of plot and character, giving us unique interactions between Jimmy and Tessa that help us relate to their vulnerabilities as much as their triumphs. What results is a fascinating tale with plenty of tricks up its sleeve, and I’d recommend Jimmy Chartron and the Lost Keystone to YA fantasy fans everywhere.
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