Title: Bad Apple [The Warner Grimoire 1]
Author: Clay Held
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Adventure, Middle-Grade
Rating: 3 Stars
Simon Warner isn’t having a very good October. To start with, he drowned, and then the real trouble started. Next thing he knows, he’s back among the living, there’s a ghostly voice rattling around in his head, and a nasty ghoul has burned down his home and kidnapped his adoptive father.
But even that is just the beginning. A mysterious stranger draws Simon deep into the hidden world of the supernatural: a dangerous place full of vicious monsters, cunning madmen, and unbelievable magic. There Simon finds not only loyal friends, but powerful enemies lurking around every corner, and a dangerous legacy that’s been waiting for him. Cheating death has also revealed a terrible secret: Simon is a warlock by birth, and with powers like his, he is destined to embrace evil.
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
I’ll admit, this book was a bit of a push for me. When I first picked up Bad Apple by Clay Held months ago, I didn’t enjoy it. A handful of pages in, I was ready to toss out the book. There were a few small typos—nothing too jarring—but mainly… the opening sequence just didn’t interest me. The narrative was wordy, awkwardly phrased, and it was hard to follow what was going on. In fact, other than providing Simon with a fear of water, the whole opening sequence didn’t seem to have any impact on the story as a whole. It was a bit like a needless prologue, and it bored me.
Months passed, and determined not to let this book become lost in the depths of my TBR pile, I picked it back up… desperately hoping that the second chapter would be better. To my surprise, it was. A lot better. The story quickly developed into a gripping, magic-filled adventure for 14 year old Simon Warner, and was filled with colorful characters. I’ll admit, I got sucked in.
I loved the character of Nathan—he was probably my favorite—and he reminded me of a character out of a comical wild-west drama. I mean, how do you not love a man who walks brazenly into a room and introduces himself as: “Nathan Alan Tamerlane, born in a summer storm, raised in the rain.” Likewise, I’ll admit some affection towards Penny, Luke, and the adorable Malik. Were all the characters as entertaining? No. There was a fair share of one-off characters that showed up, introduced themselves, and were never mentioned again. This includes Molly and Zoey, the two women in Simon’s life. They show up in the first couple of chapters of the book, and don’t reappear until the very last chapter. Frankly, by the time their names were mentioned again, I’d forgotten who they were.
For the most part, the story was well written. It kept a decent pace, the characters were interesting, and the world building was well fleshed out. Unfortunately, the book wasn’t all rainbows and puppies in that department. There was a lot to this book that wasn’t explained or resolved. In the end, the plot didn’t feel resolved, and it didn’t feel like Simon and his friends had actually accomplished anything. Other than rescuing Sam…. everything was left open. It was a bit of a disappointment in that regard. I really wish more had been explained or resolved in a way that made the ending feel more complete. I understand the need to leave the plot open for future books in the series—but the book felt like a bit of a goose chase. Simon’s adventure had him running around all over the place, learning new things and meeting new people, but he didn’t accomplish anything. He eventually returned home and things went back to normal. It wasn’t satisfying.
Overall, I liked the book. It wasn’t the best YA fantasy book I’ve ever read—in fact, it’s probably better suited to the middle-grade crowd. Simon wasn’t a super intelligent character, and he had a tendency to bumble along through the story, not understanding what was going on or listening to what anyone told him. This certainly wasn’t what I’d call an intellectual read. The novel had some definite flaws, but I did enjoy the adventure. Would I read it again? Maybe. I’ll admit, there were some times when I got lost and began to skim, and another read-through might give me a more solid opinion of the story. Would I recommend it? Yes. I think so. The series holds a lot of promise, and it has some really great characters. I’d suggest this story for anyone who enjoys middle-grade fantasy adventures. It won’t be for everyone, but it is an entertaining read.