The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One
by Jess Lourey

Toadhouse Books, 2012. ISBN 978-0-615-64457-8.
Reviewed by Laura Strathman Hulka
Posted on 09/25/2012

Teen/Girls; Fiction: Paranormal/Science Fiction/Fantasy

There is an elegant simplicity in a well-written story. Whether it is a children's fairytale, or Jane Austen, the reader is drawn into the story, and their lives are enriched by the reading. Jess Lourey's The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One is such a story.

Lourey is already an accomplished mystery writer (The Murder-by-the-Month Mysteries). But The Toadhouse Trilogy is a new path for her, and it is one of the most unusual novels I have ever read. A "young adult" novel, it has richness in writing and an enlightening approach that "actual" adults will also enjoy. The basic premise is that a young teen, Aine, and her little brother, Spencer (who is blind), live with their grandmother in 1930s Alabama. They live a pretty isolated life, in the country, going to town only for school. Fantasy, literature, history and Americana are all entwined in this book, which makes it hugely readable from start to finish. The characters are believable, and Aine is so real that she could be the strange, sad girl that lives down the road... or she could be you! Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, talk for a while with Sinbad, touch Narayan's The Ramayana, and, of course, become intimately acquainted with H.G. Wells concept of a time machine.

Meanwhile, as you savor the books within the book, you will follow the mysterious other-worldly paths with Aine and Spencer. Who is their grandmother, really? What gives the toadhouse its power, both through time and space? How does Aine's knowledge of books further the journey? And what is going to happen between Aine and the enigmatic wanderer, and toadhouse pilot, Gilgamesh?

The way Lourey uses words is both graceful and memorable. "Aine knows it's exactly time to worry when an adult tells you not to." And, "She cleans the wound on his elbow, and tries to wash the fright off his face." (Just a sampling of the skill Lourey demonstrates in threading words together!) Time is literally of the essence during the journey of Aine and her fellow travelers, and each wrong step or hesitation could very well mean the end of the world they left behind, or worse, a dramatic change for the worse in the world that lies ahead. The pace (for the reader, AND for the protagonists) is fast, to keep the interest of young adults, but also profound and challenging enough to keep full-fledged adults turning the pages.

Young adult novels are incredibly popular these days—from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games. But this series looks to be the beginning of a young adult classic that appeals to readers of all ages. The best praise I can give is that I can't wait for book Two!

Read an excerpt from this book.

Jess Lourey is the author of The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One, the first in a young adult series that celebrates the danger and excitement of reading. She also writes the critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month Mysteries for adults with a sense of humor. She's been teaching writing and sociology at the college level since 1998. When not gardening, writing, or hanging out with her wonderful kids and dorky dog, you can find her reading, watching SyFy-channel original movies, and dreaming big. You can read more on Jess' mystery site or on the The Toadhouse Series website.

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