Wednesday, May 31, 2017

REVIEW: The Kingdom of Oceana by Mitchell Charles

Author: Mitchell Charles
Publisher: Butterhouse Publishing
Genre: Fantasy
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author and Book Publicity Services in exchange for an honest review.

3/5 stars
PG for some violence
Recommend to anyone interested in a magic + Hawaii team up (hello, Moana!) and advanced middle grade readers looking for a fun summer read.

[I am not including the full summary due to what I consider spoilers. You can read it in full here, otherwise here's the excerpt that caught my eye.]

Five Centuries Ago, On the Island Now Called Hawaii, There was a Kingdom Filled with Adventure, Beauty, and Magic.

The Review:
As I tumbled through the sky there was one thing I knew. I didn't want to die. Not then, not that way, and surely not at my brother's hands.
The opening line was fantastic. It immediately caught my attention, and (bonus!) it doesn't backtrack days or weeks to lead us back to this intriguing moment. It takes us back only a few hours, to explain why Ailani and his brother Nahoa are there -to see if they can catch a glimpse of the rumored ghost haunting an ancient temple, no less- and we've read the resolution to this moment and moved on before the chapter was through, which was a relief for me. I get rather annoyed with the stories that start at the climax, then haul you back to the beginning.

From the fantastic hook, it leads into a great description of the ancient Hawaiian-like culture and its magic elements, introducing a little at a time and strategically dispersing it between events and dialogue, which made learning about the world interesting and enjoyable. Unfortunately, while there's some interesting stuff going on, the punch from the awesome opening doesn't last long and the story moved pretty slowly from this point on.

By far my favorite part of this book were the descriptions. From me, that's saying a lot, because I'm generally impatient with descriptions, but Charles has a beautiful way of describing the tropical islands and the sea -and I couldn't get enough of it! The worldbuilding, too, is fascinating, because it takes Hawaiian myth and mixes it with magic and it's GORGEOUS. Spirit animals, sorcerers, and zombie eels. Tell me you're not intrigued by that!

But let's talk characters. My favorite is the Kahuna -which, I learned, is a Hawaiian word that actually means 'wise man or shaman'. Charles uses a lot of Hawaiian words throughout, but in addition to the glossary in back, he tags initial uses with handy footnote translations so there's no need to flip back and forth. This Kahuna is a straight-up awesome magician who catches lightning bolts, communicates telepathically, and understands the structure of the universe. He is wise and acts as mentor for our main character, Prince Ailani, who gets seriously annoyed with his telepathy.

I liked Ailani, too; he's an unlikely hero, dealing with some relatable teen issues like where he fits into the world, sibling rivalry with his arrogant and short-tempered brother Nahoa, and parental favoritism, as well as the weighty responsibilities that come with being a Prince. One thing that bugged me about Ailani -and let me preface this by saying I'm really, really picky about characters- is that he is a very reactionary character. He rarely acts on his own, instead prompted by events to react or is instructed by the Kahuna on what to do. I don't feel like Ailani came into his own or had a successful arc, which is something for which I'm always on the lookout. Of course, Charles may very well be saving this for his next book.

Like Ailani, most of the characters have decent characterization, but they lacked great depth.

The plot itself had a lot of really interesting facets; it deals with politics, the rocky relationship of the royal brothers, and the looming presence of impending technology threatening to change the magic of their world. However, it feels a little unfocused, because it keeps switching primary villains, building one up with its story line, only to replace it with another, and then alternating between the various established antagonists. There was just a lot going on. There was a really good twist at the end that caught me off-guard and I really enjoyed, but most of the climax was fairly predictable.

I hope Charles continues to explore his fascinating magic system and characters in more depth as the series continues, because this has some amazing potential.

About the Author

Mitchell Charles’ love of the ocean and its miraculous creatures began at the age of 12 when his father taught him to SCUBA dive. From his first adventure 50 feet (15 meters) beneath the Caribbean Sea he was hooked. He has been involved in the Oceanic Society, America’s first non-profit organization dedicated to ocean conservation, established in 1969.

These days, Mitchell divides his time between Southern California and Hawaii. He has two teenage children and a dog named Magic.

He is currently working on the second book in the Kingdom of Oceana series, The Legend of the Nine Sacred Pearls.

For more information, visit


  1. Nice to read your detailed review. I really enjoyed the setting of Oceana and the Hawaiian mythology too. Excited to hear that Charles is planning a second book.

    1. Ah, the setting really was gorgeous, wasn't it? ^_^

  2. ohhh I love anything Hawaiian SO MUCH! Especially mythology!

    1. This one's got some pretty cool stuff; I want to brush up on Hawaiian mythology on my own now!