Starchild, Book 1: The Age of Akra

by Vacen Taylor

(Publisher: Odyssey Books, 2013, reprinted 2015)

The Age of Akra is an excellent introduction to epic fantasy for middle grade readers (8-12yo).
The book opens with Mai and others from her village being tested by various elemental masters to see which of them will undertake a pilgrimage to the Valley of a Thousand Thoughts in order to train with Master SahDobha.  Mai is chosen, for this great honour.  Mai acquires companions on her journey and together they experience an adventure battling forces of evil and beginning to repair the balance in their world.
This is a journey about children who discover their inner strengths, who have to learn to work together despite their disagreements and who learn never to give up in the face of adversity.
The story has been very well crafted for its age bracket.  While it is fast paced, the characters are engaging and the world Taylor has created is really fascinating.  The violence is not graphic, nor is the language inappropriate – even the most fastidious parent will find nothing to object to here.
I tutor English and often work with children who don’t really like reading.  What I like about Taylor’s book is that I feel it would engage these children because:
  1. The cover is awesome – kids will love it and want to know what’s in the book.
  2. It’s not long. They are not going to pick it up, roll their eyes and groan about the length. 
  3. It’s fast paced – but I think I said that already 😉
This would be a great stepping stone for children to transition to larger books.
I would have loved to have seen a map with this book. 
As an adult reader I would have liked some more detail in world building.  Having read the book, I can see that there is a huge depth and complexity to the world of this novel, but the pace means we just skim the surface of it. This is probably NOT going to worry young readers at all – they may be bored with the kind of detail I would like! Though I did find that this, combined with the pacing, meant that, early on, there were some details and jumps in plot that I think could be confusing for some readers. They do, however resolve themselves as you read and it is well worth reading.  
I recommend reading the appendix on page 125 which explains the powers of the seven nations before starting the book. 
4 Stars!