Jexter Bladebrace and the Exalted Kingdom

Jamie Smartkins
Olympia Publishers (2022)
ISBN: 978-1788304047
Reviewed by Rachel Deeming and Terri Stepek for Reader Views (12/22)

Review by Rachel Deeming:

Jexter Bladebrace is a great name for a hero and in this fantasy novel, we follow Jexter as he battles against alien foes who are attempting to take the Earth for themselves. He has some people who are accompanying him on this journey, Shelly and Mac, as they resist a terrible foe and they further encounter beings along the way who offer help and assistance.

There is no doubt that Jamie Smartkins has a vivid imagination as we are transported to many worlds as Jexter works out how to defeat his enemy. There is a quest element, typical of fantasy as well as magical creatures which, despite the premise of aliens invading, blends well and cohesively throughout the novel.

I think that as an introduction for a younger middle grade reader to fantasy, that this book performs well in providing an easy-to-read and accessible short novel which has appeal. However, for a more experienced reader, I felt like the main characters could have been developed further through their dialogue or maybe, if more of an insight into their internal monologue had been provided, this, for me, would have added more depth to my reading of the book. I didn’t get a true sense of them as people except knowing that they were brave and that they would face up to the dangers with which they were presented. Similarly, some of the problems that Jexter encounters in the book could have been more threatening and realised in more depth: I felt like the potential for more to be made of them was there and tangible but was just not maximised. That being said, a ten- or eleven-year-old may view the book differently and would race through, excited to see where Jexter would be taken next.

In terms of the structure of the book, the plot is well thought through, leading us through a sequence of events that propels the action to an apt conclusion. This is done smoothly and without stutter throughout. In terms of the action of the book, it is never boring and younger readers will enjoy the constant challenges that Jexter is faced with at every turn.

Review by Terri Stepek

Earth is in serious trouble. In fact, Earth, as we know it, is doomed. As catastrophe hits, the few remaining humans on Earth are approached by alien beings who wish to save them. But can that be true? Can they be trusted? Why would aliens from another galaxy care about saving the remnants of the human race, anyway?

So begins the adventure of Jexter Bladebrace and his fellow humans. It’s an unusual tale, told in an unconventional streaming-consciousness style that required serious adjustment for me. Traditional grammar has no place here, as sentence structure, verb tenses, and even standard spelling show extreme fluidity. Readers who tend to be OCD about such things will most likely struggle with this book. The storyline indicates non-linear thinking in a style more often present in video games than YA novels. The chapters are short, fast-moving, and represent sharp direction changes in the plot. This book is better suited for those who require a constant change of pace.

There’s not much depth to the characters involved. Jexter himself shows some leadership abilities and a sense of loyalty. But the majority of personalities display only those qualities necessary for a given time in the storyline. Reading this book, I had the sense that I was trying to read something that was created as an oral bedtime story. I could see someone like Robin Williams creating this tale for his children in a nightly spontaneous series told with great gusto. In that sense, I could visualize it as exciting, fun, and entertaining. However, if that was, indeed, the genesis of the tale, I feel that it lost something in translation to a literary work.

For me, this book did not work as either a children’s or young adult’s read. Its non-traditional style was not to my taste. But more to the point, I feel it’s important that children’s, and YA books demonstrate reasonable rules of grammar, plot pacing, and character development to set an example for young readers.

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