Monday, July 8, 2024

The Lost Story

The Lost Story by Meg Shaffer
7/16/24; 352 pages
Ballantine Books 

The Lost Story by Meg Shaffer is a recommended fairy tale for grown-ups.

As fourteen-year-old friends Jeremy Cox and Rafe Howell went missing in the Red Crow State Forest in West Virginia. The two returned six months later with no explanation of where they were or how they survived. Now, fifteen years later, Rafe is a reclusive artist who still bears scars from that time but has no memory of what happened during those months. Jeremy is an investigator who specializes in finding missing girls. Emilie Wendell approaches Jeremy to find her older sister, Shannon, who went missing in the Red Crow Forest five years before he and Rafe. Jeremy remembers what happened when they were gone, but knows he must talk Rafe into joining them in entering the forest and the secret portal again.

The Lost Story is really a love story between Rafe and Jeremy set in an imaginary fairy tale world. The description saying C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia inspired The Lost Story threw me for a loop on this one. Yes, it applies as far as people enter a portal into an imaginary land, but the allegorical aspects are absent as are the charming details which make the series a classic. The setting is a fairy tale but none of the animals talk and are developed as characters. Sure, there are herds of unicorns but characters are simply seeing mythical creatures not talking to them. 

While I loved Shaffer's The Wishing Game, her current novel, The Lost Story, is entertaining but I'll admit to some disappointment as the plot progressed. I didn't want a love story, I wanted the promised magical adventure. (Or at least Fritz talking.) The narrative also has a Storyteller who jumps in and inserts comments as the plot unfolds. I'm not a fan of this choice. It is explained in the end, but still I was not a fan of it while reading the novel.

Jeremy and Rafe are fully realized characters but Emilie never reaches the same level of development. Her character was a favorite of mine and I would have appreciated a deeper dive into her development. Admittedly, I was also totally expecting Emilie's Fritz the rat to transform into a magical talking animal or at least a talking rat. Thanks to Ballantine Books for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

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