Normally, I’m not a big fan of children’s literature. It feels too…tame. But described as similar to The Chronicles of Narnia, I decided to give Countryside: The Book of the Wise a chance. And I’m actually glad I did!
Luke Rayborn, an eleven year old outcast, is about to have his life turned upside down…
When Luke begins seeing people that no one else can see, stalked by men with black eyes, his parents know it’s time. Luke and his family move to their grandparents’ house in Countryside, a place that few know of, and is more magical than you can imagine. Filled with centaurs, dryads, and creatures far more menacing, Luke finds himself at the center of the quest for an old and dangerous book, one that could control the fate of the world as we know it. Facing the normal struggles of a preteen while controlling his abilities and saving the world? No easy feat. Can he do it?
This book felt really nostalgic for me. It reminded me not only of The Chronicles of Narnia, but also of Harry Potter! A lot of the overall plot and a lot of the settings gave me some serious Potter vibes, and while I loved it, I felt certain parts were a little too much. There were some instances where the similarities were too strong for me. It began to feel like I had read it before, and not in the good way. Cope definitely brought some originality to the story, no question, but there was room for more.
I’ll be honest, I was a little worried about reading a children’s book. In a writing class I took, we had an entire unit on them and I was sure it had turned me off of them forever. But Countryside, while written from the perspective of an eleven year old boy, rarely feels immature. In fact, it features a lot of darkness. And I loved that more than anything else. Cope pushed some boundaries with a few of his monsters. The soulless in particular really gave me the creeps. Cope set the scene and created the monsters so well that at multiple points I found myself looking over my shoulder. It was such a nice surprise, and one that I need to applaud him for.
Cope provided a lot of build up and background for the plot, and while this was nice and added to the nostalgia, I would say he almost spent too much time building to the climax. It wasn’t until about 3/4 of the way through that we really get to the main plot. Most of the book felt more character intensive than plot intensive, and while I didn’t mind this, I think Cope could have either added more, or built up to the plot a little less.
Cope had a tendency to focus on things that didn’t need to be focused on. The middle section of the book is quite heavy on school sports and the teams Luke are on. It brings me back to Harry Potter. As awesome as quidditch is, we didn’t read the books for it. And football (sorry, folks) just isn’t as cool as quidditch. If Cope had taken time away from this and put it into the main plot, the Book of the Wise itself, it wouldn’t have felt slow in the least.
Other than that, I found very few errors, which I was happy to see, and finished feeling rather satisfied! It wasn’t perfect, but I did enjoy myself. However, I don’t think I’m invested enough to read the sequel, so I’m giving this book a rating of 3/5 stars. A fun, easy read that unfortunately took too long to progress.
Thanks to the author for a copy! And as always, thanks for reading!