Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
Now, this is how you start a novel! Throw your characters right into the fire, right into the heat of the action, and allow the audience to see the curtains progressively fold back, revealing more and more context.
Magic, Mystery, and the Multiverse kicks off with one of the tensest and great opening chapters that we've read since Justifiable Deceit. We're introduced to Ana, an actress-turned-adventurer, as she finds herself in quite a predicament: caught in a time and place where she is considered a “witch” and sentenced to be burned at the stake, all the while harassed by giant spiders in her cell. So, the discomfort level is up to 11.
We gathered a lot of vibes from this book. It definitely has shades of Peter Pan and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In fact, Aunt Wendy may be a direct reference to Wendy from Peter Pan, and the naming convention of this novel matches the style of C.S. Lewis. There's even a wardrobe that acts as a portal at one point.
Like these aforementioned works, the novel blends and contrasts the real world—our universe—with an alternate, fantastical world(s): parallel universes, different timelines, alternate realities. This is all made possible by the Marvelous Multiverse app. That's right, an app that sucks you down a rabbit hole and pulls you into a TARDIS (both literally and figuratively). Also, this book pretty much has Weeping Angels in it (from Doctor Who).
There might be some social commentary there as apps and A.I. have become almost scary in their usefulness—replacing utilities and people in various regards. They've become a huge part of just about everyone's life in the 21st Century.
Furthermore, this book kinda plays with the idea that virtual reality and video games have become so realistic, they might even overlap with our reality in the future. Think about how you “become” Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid or “become” Joel in The Last of Us. You experience some of what they experience—the frustration, the pain, the fear, the sadness, etc. What if you truly BECAME the person in those games and had to experience everything in their universe. That would be both cool and very scary!
Ana (often humorous called by her nickname, “Ana Banana”) is a really fun character to follow. She really leaps out of the pages and excites the reader with her youthful pep and spunk. She distinctly has violet eyes, perhaps a homage to actress Elizabeth Taylor. Ana is often accompanied by her little brother, Zachary, who gives Ana someone to fight for and look after. She is constantly trying to feed him and make sure he's safe and healthy while still keeping him involved in her adventures.
Ana kinda reminded us of Wendy Darling while Zachary reminded us of Wendy's eldest brother, John Darling. Zachary is not just a little inept twerp on an escort mission. He's actually quite capable in his own right, and actually tries to talk some sense into Ana when she's being irrational or impulsive. He's also rather heroic and has at least one major moment of self sacrifice. He deeply cares about his sister and her safety just as much as she cares about him. He also has the misfortune of battling cancer, something which quite cleverly comes into play.
The bond between the siblings might be the most powerful, beautiful thing about this book. It's a great book about siblings cooperating and working together for a common purpose.
The world-building is also quite notable. Opus Dei, an enigmatic king, is viewed as the “god” of this particular universe. His main enforcers, Sensors, ensure that his word is law and that any deviation is punishable by death and/or corporal punishment. There are some references to 1984 in here with the Sensors working with the “Thought Police” and the oppression of this government (a sort of theocracy in this case) being ever-present. They even persecute “Word Crimes.”
Among the leaders of the Sensors is the very hot and very sexy Crimson Sensor, who is basically your ex-wife if she were given a personal army and inquisition equipment. She might be a candidate for “Hottest Character” anyway based on how she's physically described.
Also in this world is an equally-enigmatic wizard named Snapdragon, a legendary magic-user who is said to possess the ability to heal people. Snapdragon is sort of like the Gandalf of this book.
This book is legitimately inspired, and actually gave us “the feels” a few times.
Check it out on Amazon!