“Liornabella” by a. e. outerbridge

Liornabella is YA writing based loosely on the Harry Potter style of fantasy, but with much less magic: an English-style boarding school, bullying upper classes, school teams with strange names, childish behaviour in older teenagers. All standard fare for youthful readers.
One of the strengths of the story is a plot full of hints and suppositions, carefully doled out, keeping readers on the edge of their chairs right up to a fairly satisfying end, but leaving us with a few unsolved mysteries to entice us on to the sequel.
As with many of these stories, characterization is the key to our entertainment. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between the two leading ladies: funny, relaxed and natural. Likewise we have the main character’s interaction with her lifelong best friend from back home, who is conveniently gay in an understated way that makes it all completely natural. These characters draw the reader in like a group of friends we enjoy spending time with.
But when it comes to the quality and style of the writing, I am torn.
While there is no rigid format for Fantasy, there are certain conventions that fans of that genre expect. An author, whether through choice or ignorance, disregards those conventions at a cost. The casual attitude towards editing in general in this book leads me to suspect the former. The setting is like, but not really like modern or maybe Victorian England, because the nations have different names and the geography is different. But the Holy Grail and the French language are mentioned, clothing has zippers, and common people exhibit casual knowledge of bacteria. I found these modern, realistic references jarring. On the other hand, one of the supporting characters speaks in such a hodgepodge of dialects it is impossible to pin it down. And that’s exactly how he’s meant to speak, and we soon accept it as part of his eclectic and slightly mysterious persona.
I set this book’s flaws down to a writer who hasn’t quite learned the line between when to follow the rules and when to break them. This is a promising author who needs to read a lot more in her chosen genre in order to gain the respect of the majority of potential customers.
Recommended for rather inexperienced YA readers who won’t know or care what I’m complaining about.
(4 / 5)

About the Author: Gordon Long

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