In Spinwatch, book three of the Gates of Aurona series, Tonya Macalino returns to the mythical land of Hillsboro, Oregon, where contemporary reality and folktale blend together to make the lives of one suburban family very interesting.
Hannah’s father, Antonio, has returned home, and while everyone is happy to have him back, no one knows how to tell him about the weird happenings centered around Hannah. While this is a classic trope of magical realism, Macalino handles this plot point well, showing the tension and guilt of having to lie to Antonio, and Antonio’s unwitting hindrance as Hannah, her mom, and her brother Cam try to track down a dragon and its treasure. She follows the situation to its inevitable and logical confrontation, thankfully not giving the characters an easy escape at any point. Macalino’s dialogue really shines in Spinwatch as she creates character personality with a few well-chosen words or turns of phrase, including Antonio’s familiarity with English as a second language.
“Then what is these footprints? Are,” he corrected before mom could catch him. “What are these footprints?”
A few new characters enter the story, including a boy-next-door for Hannah. While characterization has been a strong suit for Macalino in this series, it’s a little hit or miss in Spinwatch, some, like Hannah’s friend, Clark, spring to page fully alive and immersed in the world, while others remaining as little more than typed names. The narrative is not quite as smooth as in the first two books either, the skipping timeline leaving the reader with a bit of a bouncy ride.
What really stands out most, though, is a deep yearning in the book for personal history, the need to connect with heritage and history, both in the place a person currently lives in, and in the lands in which their family comes from. It mourns the traditions and stories lost to time and indifference, a feeling with which many adults in today’s society may be familiar. For young readers, this story may well kindle an interest in family folktale and local legend, and many may hope they, too, are secret royalty and inheritors of magic.
Brandon Sanford graduated with an MA in book publishing from Portland State University. He spends a lot of time writing and editing, both for work and for fun. In his spare time, of which he has none, he plays board games—because he is geeky like that. He should get out of his apartment more. He has a very loving and lovely partner, who also writes and arts.
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