Title: Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith
Author: Shaun Hume
Publisher: Popcorn & Rice Publishing
Date: first published 2012
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
*I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review*
Figuring out where to start this review was difficult so I’m going to just jump right into it.
This book has been compared to Harry Potter quite a bit and it’s obvious why- orphan boy ostracized by everyone because he sees things no one else can. Eleven year old Ewan goes from home to home, family to family, and never fits in anywhere until he ends up on a train to a school for Lenitnes, people like him who see the creatures that walk among us. Once there, he starts investigating some shady things alongside his new friends and they try to piece together a mystery.
Now, I had some serious difficulty looking past the grammar, vocabulary and spelling for the first half of the book and I couldn’t focus on the story because of it. Both past and present tenses are used in this book but never in a way to look back on something that had happened previously. There were a LOT of unnecessary details and it rarely left anything for the reader to imagine themselves.
The story really picked up for me in Ewan’s classwork, surprisingly. “In these sessions you will learn who to call when you have a vomiting Piksi on your hands; what to look for when you are trying to determine the difference between a Woodland Dragon and a Highland Dragon; when a Nanka can enter your soul through your nostrils; where an Ollipheist can take down an ocean liner in less than three minutes; and why a Welsh Goblin is the last opponent you would want to challenge to a game of backgammon.” If the whole book read like that, I’d have really enjoyed it. Alas, this was not the case.
Ewan and his friends Mathilde and Enid are a quirky bunch. They share a cute friendship that truly feels genuine and I enjoyed their conversations. However, Enid’s backstory of being a pirate seemed a little bit ‘out there’ for me. It just wasn’t the right direction to go in, to bring a new world into a world that hasn’t really been properly developed yet. I want to know more about Enid and her people, but I wish that would have come in a later book, instead of being thrown into this one.
That brings me to my next point: there are way too many plot lines going on and none of them were given the time they needed, one of those being Enid’s backstory. Another being the attacks on the Queen (Ewan and his friends are trying to figure out who the attacker is and why). Readers also aren’t presented with any information as to why Professor Moham hates Ewan so much. That is a point that could really help this first book grow, in my opinion.
Also, Ewan’s dreams are super interesting and yet we don’t ever find out why he has them or what they’re really about! It’s like Harry Potter and his dreams being connected to Voldemort but because there’s no Voldemort character in this book, Ewan just has premonition-type dreams and we never learn anything more. There is also a game mentioned briefly in here called ‘Bones and Stones’ and like, I want to play! Tell me how to play this! But I’m left in the dark again on this one.
The world building was also a bit of a let down for me, excluding the White Wraith. “It’s sickly white eyes gazed at them endlessly, weeping blood and making up the only features on its pale but severely scarred head.” That sounds like a truly terrifying creature to me! Why, oh why, was nothing else described so wonderfully well?
From the very beginning of this book, I knew that it had potential to be a big hit with middle grade readers. But before that can happen, I think there needs to be a lot of refining done. This book could probably be chopped in half and every page could be eventful, instead of the last 100 or so. The White Wraith is such an interesting creature and I would have loved to have seen more of it. There was just too much description and yet not enough focus on the truly intriguing factors of this book. I think Hume is onto something with this story but I don’t think it’s complete quite yet.