Root Bound

Root Bound (Emma and the Elementals #1)

(Middle Grade)


By Tanya Karen Gough 




Moving to yet another new house, Emma encounters many strange things beyond just the pretty girls at school. She eventually meets and accompanies the strange creatures called Brownies into the Under—a world that exist just below ours that ties everything together.


Here, like many independent books, the writer has a fairly decent skill with description. In parts, I saw the world quite vividly and with a creative flair; however, as usual, this well-worded sense of description is in sacrifice of other skills that need the honing, namely, dialog.

For a majority of the story, the characters say the same thing over and over. I believe this is so that we can identify who they are, but this always leads to boredom. Most of the time, I skipped over large parts because the scenes dabbled in more of Emma’s inner thoughts—which weren’t very original—only to get to these lackluster areas of dialog, rehashing the same old rigmarole I’d seen before.

I can’t tell you how many times the Brownies call her monster, only to have Emma yell back that she isn’t; and then when being introduced as the Wanderer, everyone mentions how pale she is. Of course, the whole time, super old-time talk is used to give it…an I-don’t-know-what kind of feel. Why do so many authors believe giving characters dated speech makes their characters interesting or unique? I don’t understand.


No character particularly stands out in this story mainly because—as I said above—all of them regurgitate the same language over and over. In this way, they all appear flat, except for Emma, who we see through inner dialog. And again, like above, her inner thoughts are so bare bone normal, that I never grew close to her or felt she was special somehow. A character needs to have a distinct voice to draw us in. Even though they may then appear different, we find a little bit of ourselves in them. Here, though, half the time, her thoughts felt too childish or simplistic, as if she couldn’t form complex thoughts on her own. I wasn’t sure what was going on.


In the end, the above faults hinder the plot greatly. Because so many paragraphs were dashed to indulge in description or to meander mundane thoughts, little in plot ever happened. Whole chapters would pass with little more than small repetitions in character and scene shifts. Frankly, the book could be summarized into three short chapters instead of the sixteen lengthy-sized ones the author used. On top of this all insight into this world she’s created was presented in info dump blocks of dialog—the only dialog that wasn’t repetitive. Sadly, it didn’t help because it didn’t feel real.

Added to this, elements from the real world and the under world were supposed to match up, but these parts—the Gorgeous Gang and the principal—barely felt important and seemed like odd pieces placed inside the story to elongate the page count. Frankly, a lot of the description seemed like someone saying to themselves, I want to make this chapter longer—not, I want to make this story better. And here in lies the common fault.


In the end, it wasn’t the worst story I’ve read. The fact is that most of the time nowadays, the stories I read have these specific fundamental flaws: weak dialog, the lack of plot for such a large page count, and overdone descriptions. These unfortunately are—as I’ve now learned—earmarks of this kind of work. So I don’t mean to sound negative. This author is probably learning the ropes and figuring everything out, but as always, I hope she sees these flaws, addresses them, and does better the next time around. I say this because I already know she’s published the next in the series, and I dread taking a peek at it if all I can expect is the same. There’s a reason I don’t read the second part in any of these series—usually the writing hasn’t grown at all.


To check out the book, click here.

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