Spoiler Free Summary: Lantern by Chess Desalls is a short story of a teenage girl, Tori, who’s visiting her grandmother’s estate. She encounters a magical lantern with more inside than a decent bulb. The mystery of the lantern forces her to choose whether to believe in magic or not. It also tests her close relationship with her parents. NOTE: I bought the Kindle edition, but because my reading list got enormous at light speed, I chose to grab up the Audible edition since I had a road trip ahead of me.
Character: Tori is a believable teenager. She has enduring qualities of adventurism and a strong affection for her baby brother. I’ve mentioned my personal bias against teen novels, but Tori made this book easier to go through as her choices and actions were a little less wayward than is common in the genre. I’m not saying that is completely absent in this book, but I will say I had far less trouble believing this story and connecting with Tori than I usually do with book of this sort. I also like that the parents weren’t complete morons (which is another common trait in teen novels). Listen, I get that in teen stories, you have to account for the question, “Why don’t parents get involved,” but I appreciate an author who doesn’t negate a parent’s role or mitigate that issue by making the parents completely oblivious. Yes, Tori had to get out to adventure, but there were explanations and consequences for Tori’s actions that, to me, give this story a more realistic feel. That made the story resonate. Plus, her relationship with her parents was a plot line, and her choices that stressed that relationship weighed on her mind. I appreciate that about this story.
Exposition: I’ll talk a bit more in regard to dialogue (as usual), but this was an absolute strength for Desalls, who I’ll confess is a friend and fellow member of the Slush Brain. (Being open about my friendships is something I find important. This allows readers of this review to add whatever amount of salt they want to the review.) One of the reasons this book was able to be so condensed is because Desalls doesn’t beat us to death with exposition or back story. The narrative in this story is tight, allowing the reader to flip through the pages without a steep learning curve. She used the questions the reader had to build tension as the story unfolded.
World building: I have to tell myself this was the first book in a planned series. There were magic system and world building questions that I wanted the answers to that I didn’t get. Some readers love this. I’m frustrated by this as much as I am by cliffhangers (both techniques do have their place in storytelling, but they always annoy me). The open questions don’t slow down the plot or negate the reader’s ability to enjoy the story. Yes, they exist, but they exist more to show the scope of the story than they are holes to be filled in.
Dialogue: Desalls used dialogue to get around a lot of the exposition issues. I noticed it, but the dialogue was still effective. Desalls countered the potential info dump issue with nice descriptive beats and character building quirks, which broke up the dialogue and gave it a more natural feel.
Description: This was a strength of the story for me. The character (which is number one on my book) was the strongest area for Desalls, but I like a fast-moving story with well placed adjectives and descriptive beats. I was able to see what I needed to see and allowed to use my imagination to fill in the rest. The hard-core scifi guys probably will want more intricate detail, but that’s just not my flavor ice cream.
Overall: This was a charming story that opened the door to an interesting world. Any teen story that has the usual themes but also allows for realistic reactions and consequences sets itself above the rest. Lantern does that for me. It’s a nice quick read I think adventurous young teens would enjoy.
Thanks for reading,