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Book Review of "Secrets of the Sealed Forest" by J.T. Tenera

Today I'm reviewing a self-published book that was released several years ago. It is called Secrets of the Sealed Forest and written by J.T. Tenera.

Overview of points discussed in this review:

Strengths of the book

  • distinguishable, fun characters

  • description of magic and the magical forest (really immerses the reader into this magical world)

  • comic relief

Weaknesses of the book

  • characters, although fun, are 2-dimensional/flat—they have no desire, no point/why

  • after a while, the jokes feel forced

  • too many choices of dialogue tags

  • show vs tell (the descriptors mentioned in the video)

  • lack of motivation in the characters

  • inconsistencies and contradictions

  • unbelievable actions/reactions, no clear character arc

  • unsatisfying end

More on dialogue tags: While dialogue tags can add a bit of flavor to your writing, littering your story with too many different tags can become distracting.

For a very comprehensive article about dialogue tags go here and here. A powerful excerpt from the latter link that describes exactly what I’m talking about in the review video:

“Tags are not intended to be used as a way to describe the manner in which dialogue is spoken. They show who, not how. Use the dialogue itself and the surrounding text to convey character emotions, to show how a character is speaking or feeling or behaving.

Think of dialogue tags as signposts, not as the message of the sign. They are aids that support the message; they are not the message itself.”

Some additional points, not discussed in the review:

Age of characters: In my opinion the characters acted their age (16 & 17). Maybe Eric was a bit childish every now and then. But they both acted like teenagers their age would behave when it comes to breaking rules and going behind their parents’ back. They’ll be in a lot of trouble when they get home!

The dialogue was not always realistic.

The fun magical experiences happen far too late in the story, towards the end of the book. The gaming part of the story fell by the wayside, even though the magic doesn’t happen early on. I expected to see more parallels between their enjoyment of gaming and the magic they discover. The dream sequences, while super fun and some of the very few parallels to gaming, seemed underdeveloped and are never really explained.

In all, this book is not what I expected it to be.

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