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Book Review: Chronicles of the Secret Prince

Book 1: Before the Full Moon Rises


Book – Before the Full Moon Rises

Author – MJ Bell

Star rating – ★★★★

Plot – good kid’s story

Characters – interesting and relateable

Movie Potential – ★★★☆☆ (not sure how they’d do it. It would be very intricate)

Ease of reading – very easy to read

Cover –

Suitable Title –

Would I read it again – Not sure.



I’m on the fence about this one and I can’t explain why. I’m somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4 star, but I’ve rounded up to the 4 because I think kids (between 10 and 15) will love it.

My main issue is that there are a lot of formatting issues with my copy. I’m not sure if every copy will be this way or if I’ve got an Arc, but every so often there is a chapter that is mis-formatted. Each paragraph (even when only one line) takes up an entire page so that one chapter takes forever to get through. It also broke up the ease of reading somewhat, but I do understand this isn’t the author’s fault. It could easily be a glitch that went unnoticed because it didn’t appear until a few chapters in. But once it happened, it was probably that case in about 4 or 5 chapters.

There were a few spelling and grammar issues in the very beginning, but after the first three chapters, these fizzled out.

The fantasy aspect of the plot was good. There were a lot of creatures – Fae, bats, wolves, ogres – that kids will look for and love in a fantasy novel. They all play their part and some of them will be important in the following books.

There is a very small romance aspect to the book, but it’s enough for kids of 14 and enough to sprinkle on top of the action/adventure aspect that dominates the book.

Another issue I have, that risked dropping this to a 3.5 star, is that the story takes forever to get into the good stuff. It took 50% of the book to build up to the big reveal and it was kind of anti-climactic for me. I don’t think most of the first half of the book was really necessary, unless it becomes important to the next two books. At the moment, it feels like the first half is filler to make the book a novel. I would have been happy without about two quarters of this book, and I would probably just have made it one novel.


I really like Deston; he’s such a real character, nosy, inquisitive and a typical 14-year-old boy. He’d hell bent, during the entire book, on going home and finding his mother. The way he fights and trusts his instincts is rare, but makes for good reading.

I liked the sense of connection that Deston had with his best friend, at the start of the book. I wish the best friend would have had a bigger part in the story, like Margaux’s part, but I hope he comes in during the next two books.

I have to admit though that Margaux is one of the reasons I was on the fence about this book. Yes, she’s a strong female character, but she often comes across as rude, sarcastic and very vain. I find her very self-involved and self-opinionated. She often loses track of the bigger picture – saving Joliet – and focuses more on herself and how she’s feeling and what she wants.

She takes offence to every little thing Deston says, in the beginning, though he always apologises and it’s clear that he didn’t mean it maliciously. She doubts him all the time, fights him at every turn, yet she cries at a lot of the things they go through. I find her a very confused character. It feels like the author couldn’t decide whether to make her the ‘strong’ female and stick with it, or whether to make her the weak and fragile female so often in books. Only so much can be blamed on her age. I would have liked to see her more like Hermione from HP, which she started out as, but that didn’t happen.

Sadly, Joliet, Deston’s mother was the same. The whole book she sounds like this adventurous, kick-butt woman, who knows what she wants and goes after it. But when we finally get to see her, she’s like Margaux


I noticed a lot of influences from other fantasy books/movies in this one, though again it could just be me. There were hints of Stargate, Avatar, LOTR, Labyrinth and Harry Potter. They’re small links, but I see them quite clearly.

All the females in the book are the same – when they’re not in the book they’re spoken about as if they’re strong, powerful women, but they cry easily and fall apart at the smallest thing. It just doesn’t feel right. The boys, however, are well balanced. They’re not too macho, they make mistakes and accept it, they’re open to emotion. It feels like more attention went into the male characters than the females, but that might just be how I read it.

There are two more books to go, but I’m not sure what is going to happen, because I don’t really see the need for more. The story is done, except for an epilogue that will no doubt lead into book 2. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as big of a plot twist as it should have been, because I saw it coming. That, unfortunately, is true of most of the book. The really big stuff wasn’t a surprise to me, because I’d already anticipated it. Not sure if I was supposed to, or if they were supposed to be a shock, but I think they probably would be a surprise for a lot of kids.

Book 2: Once Upon A Darker Time


Book – Once Upon A Darker Time

Author – MJ Bell

Star rating – ★★★★

Plot – good kid’s story

Characters – interesting and relateable

Movie Potential – ★★★☆☆ (same as 1)

Ease of reading – very easy to read

Cover –

Suitable Title –

Would I read it again – Not sure.



This book moves at a much faster pace than book 1, because there’s no need to introduce the characters or their circumstances. However, I do think that there are far too many ‘incidences’ and ‘close calls’ in this book. It feels like something dramatic is happening every chapter and it’s a little exhausting for me – I can’t imagine how exhausted the characters must be. To be realistic – Fae or not – they need a rest every once in a while.

I also think there are most spelling/grammar mistakes in this one, which I can overlook. I can’t, however, overlook the continuity issues at the beginning of the book. Example:

Four months had passed in the lower realm since the battle” – Yet, just later in the same paragraph it says “He’d performed this same task every day for months”. But as I understood it from book 1, “Each day here is equivalent to approximately four months in our realm, give or take a few weeks.” As I calculate it, it should be either 9 years or 9 months, depending on how the author uses the calculation.

Then again, later on, it says “Three weeks’ time in the high realm that is, but in the lower realm it had been over seven years since his arrival.” That doesn’t fit the time line either. Unless I’m misunderstanding the equation here. And I got really confused by this point. Why is Deston claiming he’s only been in Tir-na-nÓg for 3 weeks, when Grossard has been in it for 4 months? That makes no sense.

Then, we find out that it’s even more confusing.

Deston kept talking about why NiNi left Tir-na-nÓg. Yet, as far as we know, she’d never left. It’s only LATER….and I mean about a chapter and a half later, that we discover this –

When Oseron and Joliet came to her shortly thereafter to take her to Tir-na-nÓg, she confessed what she’d done and told them her fears.” This would have been nice to know before the whole confusion of not knowing where she’d gone, why or how we didn’t know about it.

Also, a niggle I noticed and overlooked in book 1 has cropped up again so I feel it’s worth mentioning. There is a constant shift between present and future tense, outside of the dialogue that really jars the reading. Example:

the day he’d been waiting for his entire life will finally be within his grasp.” It may seem small, but when it’s constant, it becomes frustrating and confusing.


The characters are mostly the same. There’s an addition of Tiff, which is kind of comical but a little pathetic at times. Deston has grown stronger, but progressing nicely through all the right stages of grief, disbelief and doubt, that are typical of a 14-year-old. Zumwald is as quirky and interesting as ever.

Again, all the ‘big reveal’ moments and surprises were a little predictable, so I didn’t see many surprises in the book at all.

I don’t like the weird feud story between Lilika and Keir. It doesn’t feel relevant, it has no bearing on Deston’s journey and feels like a filler for time and an attempt to garner a connection with the characters. It didn’t happen. I liked both characters in book 1, UNTIL they became a couple. Lilika became a little like Margaux – pathetic, sappy and scatter-brained because of a man, while Keir got kind of crazy, dominant and overbearing, which wasn’t nice to read, because he’d been such a nice guy, before. Again, I feel this was an attempt at romance that didn’t quite come through for me. But maybe I’m alone in that, who knows.

The romance between Deston and Margaux picked up and did work. The hesitations, the realistic uncertainties, the way we see into both their minds and see that they each doubt themselves and think the worst – they’re all great additions to the tension.

I don’t, however, like how Margaux has never once spared a thought for the parents she left behind in the Lower Realm. She doesn’t mention them, she doesn’t think about them and it’s like Mark from book 1 – he disappeared off the planet. Yet they raised her and took care of her, but still no mention.

The inclusion of Mark – for a whole five seconds – also didn’t sit well with me. I get that it was weird and awkward when Deston met him again, never having aged a day, while Mark was seven years older (apparently). But he was his best friend and it’s only been a few months since Deston saw him. I expected a hug or a fist bump at least.


This one was a definite 4 for me. I had no hesitations over giving it that mark, but there are some issues that I’d like to see dealt with, if this were ever to be re-edited. I think you can still enjoy the story as it is, but it would be a lot better without these niggles. Personally, I think all these books need are a few beta readers to go through them, before publication. They, as readers, would notice things the author might have missed during the editing stage.

My biggest problem with this book is that it’s not a book. To me, a book – even when it’s part of a series – has a beginning, middle and end. Not here. Book 1 was well rounded, in that it had a really solid ending, while leading you into another book. This doesn’t have that. There is no nice clean ending, while knowing there’s more to come. It stops abruptly, with a lot of questions unanswered – also something book 1 didn’t do.

There is no mention of when book 3 will be available, at the end of the book. There is also no hint of it on Amazon, which is kind of annoying. If this had ended like book 1, I wouldn’t see a problem. But because we’re left in limbo, the wait is going to be frustrating and I’m probably going to lose touch with what happened at the end of this book, by the time it comes out. I hate that.

Overall, the story was good, but could be better. The plot was full to the brim with too much information and too many action scenes, though I guess kids might love that aspect. Mainly, I read this book most looking forward to Deston’s journey. He’s all I care about in this series, though I have a fondness for Rellick and Oseron. I did have a fondness for Keir and Lilika until they became snot-nosed kids, trying to battle everything out, that could easily have been talked over with some sense.

Saying that, I think teens will eat this series up and overlook the small problems I’ve pointed out. A good fantasy story with lots of action, a little romance and lots of confusion…


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