The following book was kindly sent to me by the author, Michael W. Garza, who requested a review. This book is out now and you can get a paperback or ebook copy by visiting Amazon. :-)
The Last Shadow Gate is the first book in The Shadow Gate Chronicles and begins the story of Gavin and Naomi who are agnate siblings (i.e. they have the same father). On the face of things, there is nothing truly remarkable or strange about these two kids...and then they are sent to spend the summer with their great-grandmother. This is when they start to become interested in the mystery revolving around their great-grandfather, Papa Walker. As they delve deeper into what really happened to him they get closer and closer to a danger that will change their lives irrevocably. Without giving too much away, there is a swashbuckling, coming of age adventure mixed with fantastical creatures, political intrigue, and magic wielding. Garza has clearly spent a lot of time on world building and it shows. If you're a fan of books that consist of character names each more wild sounding than the last then you have stumbled onto the right book. I will offer one criticism which is that after the midway point I felt that the writing quality diminished significantly. It felt rushed and not as well thought out as the first half which is a shame as I had started to really get into the narrative by that point. I know that Garza is hard at work on the second installment of the series so I hope that the books continue to show improvement. (Note: I don't want to sound like this was horrifically written because it wasn't. It just became markedly more muddy and repetitive towards the second half.) For middle grade fantasy lovers, this would be a fun book to sink their teeth into this winter (especially if they're into series books which everyone seems to be these days).