Eurich is fairly content with his life. Sure, he may fantasize about something really exciting happening one day, but overall, he has great parents, good friends, and a bright future. All of that changes when his teacher gives him a book filled with stories and creatures not of this world. Eurich doesn't really believe the book could be real at first, not until people around him start changing, until he finds himself in a strange world with an otherworldly guide. Soon, Eurich realizes fantasies aren't all fun and games. The power he is beginning to recognize brings with it a destiny he may not be able to fulfill, let alone survive.
Mana gets off to an interesting start when Eurich witnesses, or seems to witness, his entire neighborhood being destroyed by fire. He is shocked when he realizes the fire was not real, but the strange creature he met while trying to stop the fire is real. The overall idea behind this book was very interesting. Tensei sets up a well developed storyline and backstory that drives the plot forward. At one point the reader even gets to jump back in time to experience some of the backstory through the eyes of Eurich's adoptive parents. This flashback was a bit lengthy, but interesting. I felt there were no big gaps in the plot, and I was interested throughout the book to see what would happen next. I did, however, think some of the plot points were more obvious that the characters seemed to think, which was a little frustrating at times, but overall it was interesting.
The characters showed promise in this book. Each one had an element of uniqueness to them that made them memorable. I enjoyed the conflict Tensei created between characters at different times that kept the relationships from feeling flat. I didn't see as much depth to the characters as I would have liked, but I feel fairly confident that this will develop more as the series continues. The dialog was also a bit stilted throughout the book, but I've found that this is common among new writers and the flow of the dialog often improves with each book. At times some of the characters had a very "young" feel to them because of their occasionally simplistic reactions and lack of deep emotional connection. I saw this particularly with Euirch and Raine mainly because they did not seem to take things as seriously as I would have expected and brushed off things that should have been more emotional of thought provoking at times. One time where this happened was regarding the hooded man. Raine and Jason both discuss him, and it seemed pretty clear that this was a bad guy, someone to be concerned about, yet Eurich and Raine brush it off like it is nothing.
The magic system was a little bit of a struggle for me. I didn't feel like it was ever explained well enough that I could get a good handle on it. When the magic was being used, especially in combat, I was often a little unsure of what was going on. I was also not a huge fan of the system being word based. This also contributed to giving the book a younger feel than what I think Tensei was going for. I did, however enjoy the progression Eurich went through to develop his skills, and the interesting abilities Raine developed along the way. I think there is potential here with the magic system, but it needed a little more explanation and I hope the use gets more complex throughout the series.
Overall, this was an intriguing idea for a book. I think it has potential as a series, but there is room for improvement and growth in the writing. The emotion was often lacking where it should have been impactful, the characters seemed unaware mainly to benefit the plot, the editing could have been much better, and the magic system needs to be a little more developed. I think the concept will compel readers to want to know what will happen next, but the weaknesses may be a struggle for some readers. The young feeling may also make this more suitable for younger teen readers than the 17-18 age group.
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Mana is available now from Amazon US, Amazon UK, and Paramance.