Title: The Land of Roar |Author: Jenny McLachlan |Series: Roar #1 |Publisher: Egmont UK |Genre: Middlegrade |304 pages
I have to admit, what attracted my attention first was the cover. It’s wonderfully imaginative and even spreads out over the flaps front and back. That the story is great too, made the book even better. Or maybe it’s the other way around?
When Arthur and Rose were little, they were heroes in the Land of Roar, an imaginary world that they found by climbing through the folding bed in their grandad’s attic. Roar was filled with things they loved – dragons, mermaids, ninja wizards and adventure – as well as things that scared them (including a very creepy scarecrow. . .) Now the twins are eleven, Roar is just a memory. But when they help Grandad clean out the attic, Arthur is horrified as Grandad is pulled into the folding bed and vanishes. Is he playing a joke? Or is Roar . . . real?
This book gave me so many feelings. I feel like there is so much to tell about this story that I don’t really know where to start.
Arthur and Rose are twins and eleven years old and while they used to be best friends and did everything together, everything seems to have changed. Where Arthur is unsure of himself and his abilities, a little lanky and awkward, his sister Rose is self-assured, confident and cool. While Rose has new friends and new hobbies and looks forward to going to a new school, Arthur seems to have been left behind. They are just not like they used to be and that bothers Arthur, who is the main protagonist and narrator of the story. Arthur has a lot of imagination and insecurities and that made him extremely likable. It was also very obvious that Rose was more the hero of the story than Arthur was. At least that’s how I saw it. Rose was the one that came to the rescue, who came up with the plans, who had all the skills that they needed to get through that adventure. It was kinda interesting because I felt like this dissonance showed mostly how Arthur saw Rose and how he saw himself. Even though we as the readers are aware that Rose cannot be totally without flaws and fears, that’s something Arthur still has to learn during the course of the story.
Other characters include the children’s grandpa who was full of mischief and imagination and just so fun and lovable that I could easily say that he was my favourite character. (I also really wanna see that place behind the jam cupboard.) The other important character is Win, a character Arthur created years ago and who’s character annoyed me with time because of his immaturity until I realized that he was a character a much younger Arthur made up who would have loved all those character traits. Since Arthur matured emotionally over the years and Win didn’t, at least not really, the difference was very palpable and interesting. The scarecrow Crowkey was the creepy villain of a children’s story and a worthy adversary.
The whole atmosphere in the book was great. Roar gave off the feeling of a imaginative fantasy world that had been abandoned. A little bit like a closed down amusement park that still had broken booths and attractions around with broken toys and faded colors. There was just something about it that made even a sunny day feel creepy and uneasy. Still there was so much a young reader (and also a grown-up like me) will enjoy. The mermaids, the wizards, the DRAGONS, the jungle, the starry skies, the endless sea and mighty castle – everything is so full of imagination and there is so much to discover.
The story is as much about Arthur and Rose finding their way back to Roar as it is about their relationship with each other. It’s about change and growing up and about differences and common ground. It kinda made me reflect about how the relationship between me and my own siblings has changed over the years and made me wanna sit down and have meaningful conversations with them.
To praise the artwork again, it’s not only the cover that is mindboggelingly beautiful but the book also has wonderful art inside. Kudos for that, it made the book even more amazing (if that’s even possible).
All in all, “The land of Roar” as an immensely enjoyable Middlegrade story with a lot of fantastic elements, amazing world-building, great characters and great relationships. It’s full of adventure and creepiness, daring and magic. I will definitely read the second book and hope and root for Arthur to become more self-assured and brave.