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Imaginalis by J. M. Dematteis
Review by Drew Bittner
Katherine Tegen Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061732867
Date: 01 July 2010 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Mehera Crosby faces the worst possible thing in the world: her much-loved fantasy series is being canceled! What will happen to Prince Imagos, the elephant-like Uncle Nossis, Prognostica the Seer, and the characters of Imaginalis, who are more real to her than her own friends?

Such is the story of Imaginalis by J.M. DeMatteis. Written partly as a reaction to the cancellation of his incredible Abadazad series, this novel explores the emotional connection we readers have to stories and characters--and how that connection might just be a two-way street.

The Imaginalians know that their world is dying; they can feel it. One by one, they are being dragged into the limbo called Nolandia, where they will dissipate and vanish into oblivion. But they aren't going down without a fight. Mehera starts getting strange text messages and emails, all of them saying that she is Imaginalis' only hope.

Although her obsession worries her father and alienates her friends Celeste and Andrew, Mehera cannot let it go--and one night, she dreams into existence the Unbelievable Bridge and crosses to where the last few Imaginalians are holding out.

Now it will take all of Mehera's belief to help them, for she must seek out the creator of the Imaginalis stories and persuade her to help. But her journey will not be without its own dangers, for Imaginalis has villains as well as heroes.

DeMatteis writes a heartfelt tale about those of us who love books perhaps a bit too much, sustaining characters (and maybe writers too) with the power of belief. It's a knowing pat on the back to everyone who lost a beloved series or said goodbye to characters too soon.

Told in Mehera's spunky, middle-school voice, the narrative is fast-paced and full of action. The wording conveys her juvenile sense of wonder and frustration with "CNN reality" (as her father calls it), and her need for something more, something greater, than what lies around her. She looks at old pictures of her now-gone mother, filling the hole in her heart with fantasy.

Her friends in Imaginalis begin as almost stock characters--the noble prince, the wise old advisor, the goofy seer, the cruel villain--but they gain depth and complexity as Mehera interacts with them. She is the one who makes a key realization, based on her knowledge of the stories, and though the characters are all worthy heroes, it is always Mehera's story.

The resolution is inventive, relying on Mehera's wits and her belief, as well as the stubborn and contrary Mrs. Morice-Gilland (writer of Imaginalis inside the story). It's a delightful ending to an epic tale, one that will thrill readers of works like The Never-Ending Story and Inkheart.

By the end, readers might even want to read tales of Imaginalis for themselves...

Strongly recommended.

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