I remember reading books like Lord of the Rings, Eragon, and most of the popular nineteenth century English literature when I was a child, simply because I could not find anything that was “meant” for my age group that actually grabbed me. Now that I am a book reviewer, I get a chance to read more middle-grade and YA fantasy and I am so glad that books have evolved since then. Katharine Wibell’s The Twelve Tasks is one of the books I probably would have enjoyed quite a lot as a younger me, had it existed then.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book follows Katie, a girl just turned thirteen who wakes on an unfamiliar planet habited by animal-like creatures who walk and talk as humans would. She does not know how she got there or who these people are, but she is told that she may be a djed, a saviour of twelve worlds. To prove this, she must complete twelve tasks and gather twelve items. If she fails? Her life, and the fate of the universe, may be at stake.
The plot started out as a fairly standard portal fantasy, with the main character pulled into a new world and told they may be the key to saving everything. Where this book differed from standard was in the way it approached the saviour of the world piece; instead of a foregone conclusion, Katie had to prove herself, and in doing so learned more about her tasks, about herself, and about the worlds she was meant to save. The tasks were unique and interesting, each focusing on different abilities that Katie might need.
2. Thoughts on the characters
I liked Katie; she’s vivacious and eager. Sometimes, this eagerness gets her into trouble, but I think it works very well for the sort of story that she finds herself in. I also like the other characters taht end up helping Katie on her journey. Ike is very interesting to read, and the three monarchs who guide Katie to her tasks present a stable base for her to lean on in her journey. The only character I do not like is Sa’ra, who seems keen on arguing or dictating how things go. She helps some of the time, but mostly feels like an obvious foil to Katie’s journey.
3. Favourite part
The richness and variety of the worlds to which Katie travels was absolutely fascinating to read. I like all the different things and peoples found there and commend the author on the worldbuilding.
The ending of this book felt very abrupt. Rege, one of the monarchs, offers Katie a choice that could easily have been mentioned earlier in the story to make for deeper character development or better plot, and Katie takes it without second thought. It just feels very forced, and while I know that it is setting up a plot point for the second novel, the artificial feeling of the ending just pulled me out of the story almost entirely.
Overall, I would say that The Twelve Tasks was an entertaining middle-grade fantasy novel with characters that were enjoyable and a world that was fascinating to read. It was a good book.