Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review: The Flute Player by Shawn Mihalik

Rating: 3.5 of 5 genies
Published: March 12, 2013
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Pages: 67
Publisher: Asymmetrical Press
Source: Review Copy
Format: eBook
Purchase At: Amazon.com 

Goodreads Summary 
For nearly ten years, young Oliver has begrudgingly accepted his position as the flute player of the peaceful village of Drommar—a responsibility thrust upon him after the previous flute player, and Oliver's best friend, drowned in a tragic childhood accident. Now on the cusp of adulthood, a mysterious young woman enters Oliver's life, and he begins to question the nature of his world and the importance of his place in it.

The Review

Shawn Mihalik’s The Flute Player has all the makings of a fairy tale classic. His protagonist, Oliver, instantly brings to mind The Pied Piper from days of old and I couldn’t help casting similarities between the two. It was almost as if Oliver was a less grounded Piper before he eventually finds himself and matures; Oliver’s journey could very well have been that ancient flute player’s story. If he lived in Drommar, that is, and this point is exactly where everything alters. In bringing to life the little town, Mihalik does an excellent job of making this story unique and completely engaging. If anything, my linking Oliver to the Piper is further proof of how stunning this little tale truly is. The Flute Player is fast-paced and wonderful, and readers will be happy to know that a great fantasy belies the book’s modest packaging.

To be sure, Oliver was the perfect protagonist for this book. His character is crafted in such a way that the growth and self-discovery he experiences are occurrences celebrated by those invested. By the time the conclusion came, I found myself caring a great deal more for the characters than I initially thought I would. Truthfully I didn’t know what to expect at first. I knew the story centered on a young man being burdened with the task of playing the flute for his village. Having very little choice in the matter, the position was thrust upon him following his childhood friend’s demise. There was mention of a mysterious girl and…a Volkswagen Beetle? Crossing my fingers, I hoped for the best and ended up getting so much more than expected!

For instance, the prologue prose at the beginning provides a whimsically fitting prelude to the story. There are vague instructions of how to get to Drommar and the writing is just so well done, it sucks the reader right in! The actual text reads as if it were extracted from an anthology of Hans Christian Anderson’s collection and the likes. The story itself is not specifically targeted at juvenile readers, yet it appeals to and will attract a wide range of audiences. All that is necessary to appreciate The Flute Player is a respect for honest fiction; this book is poignant and more than meets the eye.

For a book of its length, The Flute Player is rich in story, and Drommar provides a dream-like setting for all that unfolds. The mystery girl, Alexandria, is only visible to Oliver and while he alone can see her, the other characters are at a loss. There is a reason she lands in the village and this by far is one of my favorite aspects of the short novel. She comes seemingly out of nowhere, drawing the recluse Flute Player into the forest, a truly magical place, and you simply have to read the book to learn more; the secret behind her sudden appearance is well worth it.

Moreover, there exists a dualism between Oliver’s world and Alexandria’s; she completely alters the way he sees himself as well as his responsibilities to the rest of Drommar. Due to her influence, Oliver comes to an acceptance of his given role. Their relationship is sweet and tender, romantic, and both characters care deeply about each other. Seeing the depth of their friendship, what they were willing to sacrifice to see the other happy, was touching and you can bet that I was rooting for them. A longer epilogue would have answered many of my longstanding questions and tied everything up in a better way, but the nature of the story is fantasy and not everything has a definite conclusion in such cases. Keeping this in mind, it makes sense why the conclusion was not precise or clear-cut; in this case, some things are left to the imagination.

As a whole, this book struck me as being carefully thought out. I’m not saying it was perfect, there were certain flaws, but the author took care in developing the concept. Mihalik knew where he wanted his story and characters to go, and for the most part, he delivered.

The world building could have been more fleshed out; I would have enjoyed learning more about Drommar. Since Oliver is the main source of information, he is limited in his appraisal of the world and isn’t allowed the freedom to explore or live his life independently. For fear of him perishing like the previous Player, he appears twice daily before the villagers in the morning and evening, and remains for the most part locked away. As you can imagine, with him being so distanced from them, what is learnt of the village from Oliver’s perspective is fairly sparse information. Even though Alexandria helps him break out from his sheltered existence, the town people relying on one individual to get them through the day, their moods and attitudes being interconnected with his and the songs he chose to play, were still a mystery by the end. Ultimately, I found the dynamic between Oliver and the village folk to be quite interesting and not nearly explored enough.

Still, The Flute Player is an engaging, thoughtful piece. At the request of the author and his representative, I was happy to review this book. The read was quick, enjoyable and well worth my time. I liked it, and the minor issues mentioned aside, an opportunity to read The Flute Player should not be missed. A fantasy tale that adds to its genre, this book is recommended!

Will you be reading The Flute Player? What do you think of the book based on the review? Let me know in the comments below!


*A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.*

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