Thursday, July 21, 2016

Book Review: On Your Mark: The Adventure Begins by C.J. Milbrandt

I won a free physical copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways via the author and was encouraged but not required to give a review. This in no way affects my opinion of the book. 

Title: On Your Mark: The Adventure Begins
Author: C.J. Milbrandt
Series: Byways #1
Publisher: Byways (self-published)
Publication Date: November 25, 2015
Genre: Juvenile, fantasy
Pages: 50
Source: Goodreads Giveaways

Ewan, Zane, and Ganix -- three half-brothers take siblings rivalry to new lengths as they race each other across their homeland.

Magic isn't the only legacy Mr. Ian Johns wants for his bickering sons. The Postmaster hoped the boys would bond during a family trip, but they twist his vacation plans into a race. Ewan, Zane, and Ganix soon find themselves far from home, facing choices that are far from easy. Three routes stretch from coast to coast. The rules: each brother -and his two companions- must check in at post offices along their route. At these waypoints, they stamp in with their personal seal and report their progress by postcard.  

Book #1 in the Byways series introduces the Johns family and sees the brothers to the starting line. Ewan is dependable but shy. Zane has a rebel's reputation and a lone friend. Ganix has a gift for getting into mischief and enough luck to get back out of it. All three boys have inherited their father's magic  and a re Changers with an animal form. But they'll need more than a magical quirk to reach the finish line. A coming-of-age story times three with an educational twist. The storyline includes a state-based geography quest.

My Thoughts:
Mr. Ian Johns, Postmaster and shapeshifter, wants his three sons to get along so he suggests a long excursion to bring them together. The boys, who are all half-siblings meaning they have different mothers, have other ideas. They don't want to work together so instead they devise a race from the East Coast to the West Coast. 

This is the start to what I believe will be a fun, magical, and adventurous series of really short books. The mix of historical fiction with bits of fantasy and a cross-country adventure make this really appealing. 

Because this series starter is so short - less than 50 pages - we don't really get a good feel for the characters but the idea that they can shapeshift into their own separate animal form really sucks me into wanting to continue this series. I'm eager to see what adventures await them. 

I think one of the best things about this series is that each book takes place in a different state - this one in Delaware - and at the end of the book there is a 'game' that urges you to find things within the story that coincide with the state that the book is set in. There are also plenty of facts about the state. So not only is this a fun little story, but it can also be used as a learning tool. I can see this being the perfect curriculum for homeschoolers to learn the states and information about them in an exciting and unique way. 

I must also add that the cover art and illustrations for all of C.J. Milbrandt's books are illustrated by the very talented Hannah Christenson. Each and every cover is absolutely gorgeous. Even if I didn't like this book I would want this series for the covers. Luckily both cover and story are equally wonderful but I am a little extra happy that my copy of this book came with three postcard sized prints of the cover art! 

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