Dixie: World in the Well by Glendon Ewalt

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Dixie offers a unique approach to both young adult coming of age stories and portal fantasy. Rather than telling the story of a child finding themselves transported into a magical world and becoming a hero, Dixie is from the perspective of that hero’s—or rather, heroine’s—clueless friend.

Chance is a 12-year-old boy living in small-town America. One day in school, his life is upended when shy, wallflower Dixie uses magic to make everyone in the class forget about her. Except for some reason, Chance doesn’t forget.

He follows her after school into the nearby woods, only to come across an abandoned well. Minutes later, Dixie comes hurtling out of the well in a blast of fire. Dragons can be rather annoying like that.

This is Chance’s first introduction to Vahn, a magical world that can only be reached through the titular well. It’s full of dragons, wizards, lizard-men, and friendly chipmunk people.

And Dixie is its greatest warrior.

The decision to have Chance be the main character instead of Dixie was an interesting one. Instead of acting like a chosen warrior (a la Dixie), Chance reacts to the perils of Vahn the same way many of us would. He hides behind trees, runs away, and fumbles his way through actual fights. In contrast, Dixie is an amazing fighter and has a magical trick up her sleeve for just about everything.

Even when things get tough and Chance is forced to act more heroically, he stays true to his character. He still hesitates and runs, and those decisions have real consequences.

The book did suffer a bit from “debut syndrome.” The dialogue was slightly wooden, the plot was simplistic and a little cliché, and the main character sometimes flip-flopped drastically in his actions. Some of this was likely by design with the book’s young target audience, but it kept me from sitting back and letting the story pull me along.

Slight disclaimer: While the book is explicitly stated to be targeted towards a younger audience, there are occasional moments of graphic violence, including multiple beheadings.

All thing considered, Dixie was an enjoyable read. Where the writing fell short, the originality more than made up for it. I’m excited to see the direction the series takes now that the world has been established and future storylines hinted at.

SPFBO Rating: 5.0

Character (25 points) 14.5
Worldbuilding (20 points) 11.5
Plot (15 points) 6
Pacing (10 points) 7
Prose (5 points) 2
Dialogue (5 points) 2.5
Editing (5 points) 4
Presentation (5 points) 2.5
Personal Enjoyment (10 points) 3
Commas -1
Total Score 52 (3 stars)

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