Word Spelunking

The Ocean and the Hourglass - Dan  O'Brien Actual Rating: 2.5/5This is a hard review to write because I’m quite conflicted when it comes to this book. There are things about Dan O’Brien’s The Ocean and the Hourglass that I liked, but as a whole I just don't think this book was for me. The Ocean and the Hourglass tells the story of Nicholas, a young boy who is desperate to escape his less than ideal world. He is bullied at school and has a difficult relationship with his alcoholic mother. With the help of a strange librarian and a mysterious book and hourglass, Nicholas is transported to another world- a world whose kingdom is broken and is plagued by a dark evil. Nicholas, with an eclectic group of new friends, finds himself on a journey to save this world.This book started off with so much potential. O’Brien immediately and efficiently places readers into Nicholas’ bleak life, creating an immediate connection with readers and the main character. I really liked that I didn’t have to wait very long for the real adventure to begin, as Nicholas is transported early on in the book. And the chapter leading up to the actual transportation is perfectly paced and exciting. You know in movies when certain music starts to play and you just know that something magical or spectacular is about to happen?! Well, I could almost imagine music like that playing while reading this chapter and I got that awesome spine-tingling feeling and knew something cool was going to happen…(Shouldn’t books totally come with a soundtrack?! Like those little kid books that have sound effect buttons and the book tells you when to push them. All books really should come with these buttons and the appropriate music for certain scenes…right?!?!)…And something cool did happen-Nicholas was transported to a faraway world! Now, Nicholas is not the first book character to be magically transported to another world, but O’Brien does infuse this idea with his own originality and creativity. However, even with a fair amount of refreshing originality, the rest of the book failed to excite and thrill me.Unfortunately, once Nicholas was transported into this new world the book started to lose me and my attention…and for several reasons. First, this new world never feels fully developed. While O’Brien does offer some very vivid descriptions and imagery, the world itself never felt “real” or concrete. There were just too many missing details. Secondly, there’s the character of Nicholas. In the first couple of chapters Nicholas comes across as very realistic and relatable, yet once he is sucked into this other world he becomes a little inconsistent as a character. I believe he is supposed to be 16 years old, but at times he comes across either much younger or much older. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t like him as a character, I just felt like my earlier connection with him lessened as the book progressed.Then there’s the “adventure” itself, which never really felt all that adventurous. I think the story lacked action and conflict; there just wasn’t enough suspense or excitement. But what it doesn’t lack is some interesting philosophical discussion…but I wish it did. I love a rousing philosophical discussion, but some of the discussions in this book made my head spin. I can fully appreciate what the author was trying to convey and express, and he does convey some really intelligent, insightful and meaningful things, but I think these parts of the book were too overwhelming and too drawn out, especially for a YA book. The writing is solid, but the book could use some tight editing. There were quite a few grammatical issues and the dialogue often reads stiff and awkward. I was pleasantly surprised by the ending and think O’Brien does offer a thought-provoking and satisfying conclusion.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: The Ocean and the Hourglass is built on an intriguing premise, but the execution is lacking. O'Brien's talent and creativity is apparent throughout the book, but the overall story simply falls short of greatness.

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