Review: James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra by Colm McElwain

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra is a wonderful addition to the young adult fantasy adventure genre. The story is entertaining, fast-paced, and imaginative. James Clyde, an orphan, along with his two friends, Ben and Mary Forester, must safeguard a magical diamond from an evil man dressed in black. In order to protect the diamond, the children need to travel to Orchestra, an alternative world. Each step of the way, the trio encounters trials and tribulations and the army hunting them is merciless. Will the children be able to overcome all obstacles and keep the diamond out of the hands of evil?

The action moves along quickly in this story and most of the short chapters end with a cliffhanger, which will delight and keep young readers involved. Colm McElwain’s world buidling is effortless and Orchestra and all the magical creatures and events come alive. The alternative world is vast and like an onion, there are many layers and once the reader peels away there’s much more to discover. While McElwain includes backstory, he deftly avoids the pitfall of having it take over the entire story. Instead he adds depth to James Clyde and his connection to Orchestra.

James, Ben, and Mary are all delightful characters who are individuals in their own right. Each has something to offer and none of them are cardboard cutouts. It’s easy to cheer for them and to admire their bravery. The evil characters are wickedly evil, adding to the tension and fun of the story.  Queen Abigail is a mysterious character and many readers may want to know more about her. Why is she intent on acquiring the diamond and how did she end up wicked? If there is a sequel, hopefully her character will be explored more.

It’s almost impossible to write a story of this type without including violence, including a murder in the beginning. Parents will like that the gory scenes are handled in such a way that all the gruesome details are vague and only hint about what actually happened. Instead, McElwain focuses on the events surrounding the violence, which keeps the reader engaged but won’t leave young readers traumatized.

A few details about the story are unclear and it’s hard to determine if the author did this intentionally. For example, Simon is friends with James and it’s hinted that he has a larger role in the story, and yet he isn’t included in the story much. Will he play a bigger part in a sequel?

In addition, some of the magical aspects were hard to believe, such as James’s ability with a sword. Imagining that an eleven-year-old boy can pick up this ability quickly is a bit of a stretch, let alone be muscular enough to fight men who are larger and stronger. However, I doubt many children will find this difficult to believe.

This is the type of book that will engage young readers and will hopefully encourage them to read more. The action, the adventure, and the likable characters made it hard to set this book down until the final page. The cliffhanger at the end will leave readers wanting more and hopefully there will be a sequel soon.

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