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James Calliotte
Author, Translator
Wheel of Katarnum

Children/Young Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)

Wheel of Katarnum tells the story of Rob Hawkins, a fourteen-year-old from a small southern town who has struggled in vain since childhood to win his father's love and attention. When his father inexplicably disappears one night, Rob bitterly tries to write him off as a lost cause. He is reluctant to put his faith in anything, particularly himself, until he meets two unlikely mentors, the leprechaun-like Mr. Fleetag and a renegade, big-mouthed donkey named Bobbel. "There ain't no helpin' it...sometimes you just gotta believe," the donkey tells Rob, voicing the main theme of the novel. Rob's new friends claim that his father is being held captive in their homeland, a fantastic world in another realm called Katarnum, where "The Wheel" exerts an all-powerful influence. With the guidance of his two outrageous mentors and the steadfast support of his friend Samantha, Rob does begin to believe, and eventually finds the courage to plunge into a daring mission to save his father.
Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 6 out of 10
Prose: 7 out of 10
Character/Execution: 6 out of 10
Overall: 6.50 out of 10


Plot: Calliotte's endearing narrative follows a somewhat predictable pattern, though the work takes somewhat too long to expand into the fantasy world of Katarnum. Once there, the worldbuilding similarly drawn out, exhibiting the occasional info-dump; the novel would benefit from revisions that focus on structure, setting and clarity.

Prose/Style: The prose is smooth and at times beautiful, if not ultimately memorable. Dialogue is generally lively and organic and effectively drives story momentum.

Originality: Calliotte's narrative features moments of originality, while still borrowing significantly from well-worn classic fantasy stories.

Character Development: The central characters are individually appealing with distinct traits. There is a degree of over reliance on highlighting racial stereotypes which, while well-intended, does not always serve the story well. Bobbel, the charming and outspoken donkey, is a particularly fun and alluring character.

Date Submitted: May 23, 2020