Book Review: The White Oak by Kim White

The White Oak by Kim White is the first book in the new young adult series, Imperfect Darkness. The story opens with Cora Alexander and her twin brother falling into their fathers grave during the funeral, but it does not end there. The ground gives way sending Cora into the network of caves that lies under the hill, and ultimately to the Underworld. There she is faced with untrustworthy guides and challenges she could never have anticipated. Minotaur is her official guide, sent by a mysterious authority figure, who is a creature of artificial intelligence on a mission. Sybil is the underworld librarian and keeper of the books of life, who's gift to Cora should give her the ability to write her own future. The only ones Cora can fully trust are herself and the shade of her brother Lucas. However, something is happening to Lucas that even his computer skills leave him unable to fully understand. Will Cora be able to get out of the Underworld at all, and if she does will it be with her life intact.

The White Oak holds a lot of promise. Cora and Lucas have a family that is believed to carry a curse, which centers on bullying and being mean to those closest to them. They have struggled to overcome the family legacy, only to literally succumb to their father's less than loving influence as thy are buried with him. The twins are very close, and have spent time examining the caves in order to spend less time under their father's thumb. The background is woven into the story well, and important.

The world building in the Underworld itself, and those that reside there, is extremely complicated and well executed. Now, there were also some things that seemed so well layered, that I felt like I might be missing something or waiting for something that had not yet been uncovered. I felt like there were important things hinted at due to names or references to mythology that never came to the forefront. There are switches of perspective through out the story, and it sometimes got a little confusing, but for the most part that was handled well.  Then there was the huge cliffhanger at the end, that left nothing resolved for me, if felt like there should be another chapter or that the book had gotten too long when being written, so it was decided to stretch it into a series. I did enjoy the book while I was reading, but was disappointed when I put it away.

I recommend The White Oak to readers that enjoy young adult novels with a technical, and mystical, twist. The story is very involving, but I felt like there was potential for it to be even better. I think that most of my disappoint with it came from how excited the idea of the book had me, and how much potential I saw in it rather than any actual fault in the story itself. I do think that this book was a good read, and do recommend it.  However, you might want to wait until the sequel, Sword of Souls, is released in August of 2012 so that you do not become frustrated with the ending of The White Oak.
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