Cover Image: Spellbinders: The Not-So-Chosen One

Spellbinders: The Not-So-Chosen One

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I tried reading this one multiple times and in different formats but I couldn't get over the narrator. i was just frustrated with how he kept explaining his understanding of being the chosen one and how he felt all mighty because of it. I couldn't connect with the main character and didn't really care to hear more from him. It took too long for the world building to make sense to me and for a middle grade novel that wasn't the best. I do think that people who are interested in fantasy would enjoy this and who don't mind a male narrator who is self centered.
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Spellbinders: The Not-So-Chosen One by Andrew Auseon was such an incredible read! For my full review and even an interview with Andrew, click on the link below to listen to the podcast episode I got to do with him. 
Thank you Netgalley for allowing me to read and review this book.
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I made it just over halfway in this book. I really wanted to like it. It was just not moving fast enough to keep me captivated. There was a lot of world building and I’m sure it is a very good story. I just couldn’t keep going.
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Fun read for anyone who loves adventures and fantasy. Really like thar the main character was an ordinary person who had special power..'
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Ben has moved from his friends due to his parents divorce.  He hardly ever sees his mom as she is rarely home.  He spends most of his time writing planned adventure games in his playing-game notebook.  When he goes to a con his friends (before he moved away) ignore him.  He feels very alone when Niara in a fantastic costume who seems to come out from one of the role playing games that he has played.  She tells him he is the chosen one and is the one who will save her realm.  Ben d I’d to play   The chosen one.  He is tired of being alone.  One interdimensional portal later, Ben is in full hero mode. At first, adventuring in Lux seems like a dream come true, but pretending to be the Chosen One isn't quite what he imagined it to be. The more he learns about Lux and his quest.   He realizes this is beyond a game--and the rules seem to be changing.  Why?  In fact, it might be time for him to write some new ones in his notebook.  I think the ending needs a sequel.  Will there be one?

I liked when Ben finds that what he writes comes true in his notebook.  This is a novel about “escapism and writing one’ own destiny.”  It’s a fascinating novel with humor.
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Thanks to NetGalley & Random House Children's for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

I'd like to rate it higher but it's just...such a weirdly written book. I know the protagonist is supposed to be a kid but he was absolutely insufferable and annoying. I also didn't like how the main girl was completely ignorant of everything and the protagonist had such a lovely time correcting and explaining everything to left a bad taste in my mouth.

The worst part was how the protagonist's D&D group was painted as VILLAINS for "leaving" him. Then you find out that they were trying to talk to him about things and he just refused to acknowledge them and sent stupid cat gifs instead of talking like a human being. This never gets resolved and the lesson takeaway is "Things change and people grow apart from each other." Well, yes, but, in this case, Ben was stubborn and refusing to communicate his feelings with the rest of the group and was being really petty about the new member of the group. Things literally did NOT have to change if he just listened and talked with them. 

It's a shame because the story concept is pretty fun but I just...have a lot of questions about some of the awful ideas presented as good in here.
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Author Interview:

What made you want to write a story that combines gaming and fantasy and the real-life struggles of being an out of place kid in the world?

I love this question because it’s easy. 😀 Historically, gaming and fantasy fandom communities have been largely populated by people searching for others that share their specific interests; coincidentally, these were often the same people who felt alienated from mainstream culture. Combining fantasy role-playing with a story of outsiders and belonging feels very organic, which I suppose is why that trope is used so frequently in fiction. Everybody’s looking for the place where they fit in. When it comes to my own kids, we refer to these sought-after groups as “your people.”

Ben, the main character of Spellbinders: The Not-So-Chosen One, loses “his people” very early in the story. A move to another town upends his life, and he loses his best friends, his neighborhood community, and his family unit. In response, Ben retreats into the imaginary world of role-playing games that he often builds around himself as a refuge from the outside world. Except this time the world is real, full of real people and real stakes. Even in a realm of high fantasy, people experience real-life struggles that mirror his own. Every fantasy is a reality for somebody.    

Gaming is something that “outsiders” don’t understand. How does this book make the insider language feel accessible?

One of the very first conversations I had with my editor involved the gaming aspects of the book. Being an illustrated series, Spellbinders includes incredible drawings by artist Lisa K. Weber, as well as a series of design elements that are directly inspired by instruction manuals for role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. We decided early on that the book couldn’t be “played” and that any game references needed to be vague and silly, not only to fit the tone and voice of the writing, but because gaming is just a metaphor for how Ben approaches his life. It gives him a sense of agency in a time when he feels there is little he can control. Everything in the book is built to this end, to create the recognizable illusion of a game without actually having any substance to it. The hope is that I can reach gamers and non-gamers alike with a balancing act that feels both plausible and ridiculous at the same time. That’s kind of how I approach everything. How can I make it both plausible and ridiculous? Lol.

And to briefly comment on accessibility, I think gaming, like any form of popular entertainment, isn’t nearly as monolithic as it appears. The culture suffers from a perception and marketing problem. Games have become  a bigger, more diverse, and more complex influence on mainstream culture than ever before, and that’s tough to get your head around. Think about it. According to a 2018 survey by Common Sense Media, 6 in 10 kids have played Fortnite. Critical Role has become a cross-media IP empire. And at this very moment, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the #1 movie of 2023, and it’s not even close.

What would you do if someone told you that you were a chosen one, but totally didn’t feel like it?

That is, quite literally, the inspiration for Spellbinders. I was that kid who hoped for a magical door to open in mid-air during algebra class, or for a messenger from beyond to walk up to me in a crowded room and say, “Finally! I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Let’s get out of here.” Call it escapism. Call it an overactive imagination. Call it a short attention span. I don’t really know why this happens. But to answer your question, I’ll never feel like a Chosen One, no matter how much I’d love to experience that level of confidence and certainty about anything in my life. Most of the time I feel like the Who-Let-This-Guy-In? One. They have a great name for that these days: Impostor Syndrome. But like a lot of kids, I felt overlooked and invisible when I was young, so the idea of any interesting, important person like Niara noticing me and wanting to recruit me for something epic and consequential, that’s the dream. It’s still the dream.

And yes, I would totally go with them if they asked me. 🙂      

Middle school is hard! What inspires you to write stories for this age group?

Is it hard! That’s why stories are so crucial to the creative and emotional survival of our kids. Some find them in games or theater, others in fan fiction and physical books. I’m by no means a reading educator, but I recognize that there’s something special about the middle-grade age when it comes to childhood development. Books in this genre seem to retain the innocence and charm of chapter books while introducing greater sophistication and thematic daring, creating an alchemy that makes for timeless stories. Even now, in my [AGE REDACTED], I return to middle grade books when I want to experience a certain feeling. It’s a conflicting, contradictory sensation of realism (i.e. negativity) with a prevailing sense of hope. I don’t know where that strange brew comes from? Maybe another realm, one with unicorns. Also, too many books surrender to seriousness as the intended readership ages. Silly is good! It is pure! Off-the-wall weirdness often gets sacrificed at the altar of maturity and relevance. I don’t think that needs to be true. Did I answer your question? 😉 

What is the most unexpected thing you’ve learned about writing and telling stories with the publication of Spellbinders? 

That I still have so much to learn—about my writing, my process, my strengths and weaknesses, and how to take what I see working for others and applying it to my own work. For me, writing needs to be an endless series of construction and demolition, of trying techniques only to toss them aside later in favor of something smarter, fresher, and more exciting or effective. Sure, I may be a better writer than I was when I started, but I’m so far from where I’d like to be. When I read a friend’s novel or a WIP, I’m astounded anew by the ingenuity and heart in people’s stories. It’s unexpected only in that every day brings something different to savor and learn from.

On a personal level, I’ve been staggered by the warmth and kindness of the children’s literature community, which includes the whole range of authors, illustrators, educators, librarians, booksellers, parents, and plenty of other people I’m no doubt forgetting. It’s an extraordinary and welcoming group. Spellbinders and I have been embraced in a way I never expected, so thank you to everyone who’s supported me.
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Andrew Auseon’s middle-grade fantasy release, Spellbinders: The Not-So-Chosen One, is a ridiculously entertaining read complete with imaginative creatures, unique characters, and an engaging storyline. Pete Cross did a great job bringing the story to life with his performance in the audiobook narration. 

Ben is lonelier than ever after being moved away from his friends following his parents divorce. His friends have abandoned him, and his Mom is distant and barely has any time for him. When he mourns his current circumstances on the bench of a convention, a young girl comes up to him claiming that Ben is the chosen one and requesting his help to save his home. Eager for something to do (and thinking it some elaborate interactive convention experience), Ben agrees. However, once they arrive and Ben starts seeing things like flying Narwhals and knights riding giant guinea pigs, he realizes he’s no longer on Earth, that this is very much a real quest and he might not be the chosen one from the prophecy. 

The worldbuilding in this book is zany and innovative, sometimes bordering on ridiculous (see the above mention of knights riding giant guinea pigs), and I am happy to report that I was fully entertained from start to finish. Of course there are the classic elements of a good fantasy book and a tale featuring an archetypal ‘hero’s quest’ - for instance, the call to adventure, many moments of self doubt, the ever present helper, and the major moment of transformation. I really enjoyed getting to see Ben’s journey from start to finish. The story is structured such that it’s easy to understand for the target audience of middle-grade readers, but I think adult readers would be able to find something enjoyable in the read as I did. 

The characters were another highlight of the book. Ben and Niara’s interactions were fun to witness; it was also fun to see how pieces of Earth’s culture influenced that of Lux. I admittedly snorted out loud when Niara said that ‘spaghetti squash’ was considered a curse word. For those who try to read books with LGBTQ+ representation, there is a cool shape changing character that makes an appearance. It’s a casual reference that the author doesn’t make a big deal out of, but I did appreciate seeing it. 

Overall, this was a highly entertaining and humorous read. If you’re a fan of middle-grade fantasy novels or games like Dungeons and Dragons, I really think this book will resonate. I can personally attest to feeling seen, and relating to most of Ben’s struggles. As this is the first book in a series, I’m excited to read about more adventures set in this world in the future!

Thank you to the author, the publisher, the team at TBR and Beyond Tours, and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary review copy of Spellbinders: The Not-So-Chosen One. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review the book immensely. Please note - I voluntarily read and reviewed the book. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and not influenced in any way.
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Thanks for the copy! This was a charming, personality-filled middle-grade novel.  The main character, Ben, is a young boy struggling with loneliness after a big move/his parents' divorce and he pours all his energy into world-building. There are good themes here - finding your own magic, flipping prophecy over its heads and coming of age. I think this novel would be a favorite for 9- to 13-year-olds who love DnD, fantasy, fandom culture, and more.  However,  it would probably be less enjoyable for an older kid!

I did love how Ben's writing and prose/character cards were informative and fun! It was my favorite part of the book. The emotional core of the novel is strong and very relatable. Four stars because I enjoyed it very much!
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This book is great for imaginative preteens, those who love magic, or gamers. The characters are well rounded and we never know what is coming next. I love me some puns and word plays and this book has that too!

The first hint of this becoming a series is on the listing as book one – I’m somewhat of a genius, right? Everything about this book is a setup for a long running series sure to delight readers. 5 stars from me.
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Okay so I love me an story about a chosen one and there have been many so when I saw the Blog Tour for Spellbinders The Not-So Chose One I was so intrigued.

I'm pleased to say that my intrigument was kept throughout the book and that was due to Andrew's skills as a writer.  The world building and character building was off the scale and having information cards about the characters was pure genius.   Yet the best thing was how Andrew threw the chosen one on it's head and questioned whether or not a prophecy was airtight and by following the story we all find out.

I also liked that the magic was not the usual wand but instead Andrew showed how words can be powerful if used in the right way.

I was loving it so much I purchased the Kindle and Audiobook which I listened to and I wanted to say that the Narrator was brilliant.   I will be most certainly be carrying on with the series and can't wait to see what happens next.

For all the above reasons I am giving Spellbinders The Not So Chosen One 4 stars
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I read an ARC copy of this book.

Whether or not you like the book is going to largely depend on how you feel about D&D type games and wackiness. Both abound and if you're a fan, you'll dig this book. Ben is very genre savvy which is nice to see in a book like this, but he still makes decisions that'll have you thinking, "Come on, man!" from time to time. The illustrations are very cool and I think the emotional core involving his homelife was very strong. There's also a very strong sequel hook that I was very curious about. Very solid and fun read!
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This is such a lovely book dealing with life changes, finding your place, and the magic within you.  Readers are going to be swept away on a great adventure.  It is the perfect book for those who love mystical worlds, or love role play games.  Ben is super relatable, and the humor found in the Prophets’ world they built rings just the perfect tone throughout this story.  I quite enjoyed all the artwork as well.  It really tied into the building a world within a game idea.  
	Thank you so very much to Random House Childrens, Labyrinth Road, and Netgalley for allowing me to read an advance copy of this title.
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DRC provided by Random House Children's, Labyrinth Road via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I did not particularly enjoy this book.
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This book had me at the first page. That, to me, is a good, GOOD read. The entire time I am reading it I am thinking my grandkids would love this book. The author has such a wonderful grasp of voices and characters. Even the ones that are seen as the enemy have been created in such a way that kids want to see what will happen to them without being afraid. The imagination in the scenes is great also. 

This book will captivate many middle grade readers. I recommend this one highly.
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Excellent middle grade read for any kid (or grown up) who has felt lost and confused by change or not knowing what to do when someone you trust shouldn’t be trusted. Love the character card descriptions and feeling like I was Ben and also in Bens notebook. Favorite character was Merv and hope to see more of them some day. #wearethechangingpeople
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This is such a fun read. And even though it's marketed for Middle-Grade readers, I feel like any reader at any age can read this and enjoy it.
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Spellbinders: The Not-So-Chosen One by Andrew Auseon 5/5

This was a fun read.  Spellbinders is a great middle grade book that is filled with adventure, plots turning, and great characters.  I needed a change of reading and this one hit the spot.  It was light and fun, easy to read and I found myself not wanting to put it down. I love that the book has silliness and some real relatable issues that we have all been through. 

Spellbinders: The Not-So-Chosen One by Andrew Auseon is available for purchase July 2023.
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This story was so creative. A fantasy world where the kings guard do patrol on flying narwhals and have weapons that harness the power of lightning? The power of spellbinders that write in notebooks? Teenage Assassins that don’t want to kill? Magical people with the power to mimic? Magical realms? Old abandoned mansions that are secretly portals? Count. Me. In.
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I recieved a free eARC of this book, Thank you for the opportunity to read it. 

Ben used to have a great life, with a regular group of gaming friends, As the GM, he's able to control, the world. He writes his games, his stories, his notes in a special notebook. . 

But after his parents divorce, and a move to a new place, his life spins out of control and his friens slip away, untjl he's left, sitting on a bench, alone, after being ditched before the biggest con of the year. 

When Niara, an assassin approaches and tells him he is the chosen one and needed, he goes along assuming it's a game. Except that it turns out to be all too real. And so are the stories he writes. See, Ben is a with the gift of putting magic into words and turning words into magic. And he's the only hope of a world which seems both familiar and strange. 

Kids who love magic will love this book. Introverted gamers will love this book. The characters both manage to fall into RPG standard parties (assassin (who is a girl) , wily shape shifting non-binary thief, handsome fighter, and, of course, our main character the mage) and be new and interesting. This is undoubtedly the set up for a series-and one which will be well recieved.
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