Title: Briar Coats and the Tunnel of Styx // Author: K.J. Long
Date of publication: October 6th 2020 // Print length: ebook, 144 pages
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Briar is a wild boy. Living in a mangrove-tree city, he has been assigned the job of builder, but he is desperate to become an explorer.
At least he can swim in the lake for solace—that is, until he realizes that he can breathe underwater!
There he meets Verity, a person who looks like him, but she has a long flowing tail and a green glow. Verity helps Briar learn the truth about his father’s disappearance, and helps him change the underwater world of Naraka for the better.
Writing Quality 5/5, Character Development 4/5, ‘Couldn’t put it down’ – ness 3/5, Intellectual Depth 4/5, Diversity 5/5, Originality 5/5, Overall 4.3/5.
When I received the request to review this book, I was very excited. It had been a long time since I last read a middle-grade fantasy, and I was down for Briar Coats. The book was less than 200 pages long, and I devoured it in a matter of hours.
Briar is a 13-year-old son of River Rum (as they call him in the book). The boy grew up without a father, and since he can remember, he wished to be an explorer. Briar Coats is a wonderful tale about being perseverant and never forgetting your goals.
The book was one of the sweetest novels I have ever encountered in my life. The characters were quite likeable and easy to remember (for the most part).
There were many of them, and I have to admit, it was challenging for me to get used to the names in the beginning. Rose is Briar’s mother, and I liked her from the very beginning. She’s very protective of her son because she’s afraid she might lose him. She was present throughout the first quarter of the book, but I wish we had more of her in the end. Briar is the main character, and he’s the sweetest! He has his goals, but he does his best not to hurt others for his benefit. He would be a great example for kids! Verity along with Coral, Teton and others are the characters who help Briar throughout this journey.
What I liked most about this book was the fact that the authors didn’t put the accent on the colour of skin. You can see that Briar is a person of colour, and yet in the book, nobody mentions the colour of skin. They tried to normalise non-white characters, and they did a great job.
The only thing I didn’t enjoy, or rather found missing, was the presence of a map. The action starts in River Rum, then moves to Naraka. It would have been a blast if we had a map we could go back to whenever the place of the action changed. Also, as Briar Coats and the Tunnel of Styx is a middle-grade book, some small illustrations would be more than appreciated.
The reason why I gave this book four stars out of five is that the climax wasn’t as powerful as it should have been. When I got near the end, I wasn’t as invested in the story as I should have been. I think that the authors need to work a bit more on this, but other than that, the book was marvellous!
Overall, Briar Coats and the Tunnel of Styx is a valid middle grade. It is perfect for kids and a great choice for adults who want to go back in time. Also, by choosing this book, you can diversify your shelf.
MEET THE AUTHORS
The K.J. Long author name is a reflection of spouses Kelly Long and Jay Long.
Dr. Kelly Long has been writing novels since 2010, alongside non-fiction research articles that appear in peer-reviewed journals. Kelly works by day as a college administrator and professor, writing fiction novels by night.
Jay Long is an attorney and professor by day, has long had a passion for writing fiction, and has non-fiction scholarly publications as well.
When they first met, the pair spent the days they couldn’t see each other co-authoring a romance novel, ironically while they lived their own romance story. Now they spend nights weaving fantasy fiction in the middle-grade genre. As an interracial LGBTQ+ couple, Kelly and Jay know what it’s like to be on the outside of the mainstream, and they have a passion for serving black and LGBTQ+ communities. They live in Michigan with their hound dog, Smuggler.