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Toby

Title & Author:  The Amazing Adventures of Toby the Trilby (The Toby the Trilby Series Book 1), Angela Castillo

Genre & Publication Date: Middle-Grade Christian/Dystopian, January 18, 2014

Book Description: “He was born underground, at the edge of the world’s destruction. Twelve years old, Toby has never seen the sun. Created by six scientists who accidentally gave him cat ears (and a tail), Toby decides to leave the safety of his cavern world to seek answers. Did anyone survive the Great Destruction? Why has he been hearing a mysterious Voice? And, most important of all, does he have a soul?”

First Line: One inch farther…

My Take: This book was provided to me by the author for review.

Toby, a creation of science, lives far below ground in an elaborate bunker originally made to house a great many people…only, they are not there. His family, the scientists who created him, have cared for him and loved him his whole life, yet he knows he is different. Since he was not “born” in the traditional sense, he questions whether he has a soul and leaves the safety of his home to seek an answer to this question. Once outside, he embarks on a journey that is at turns wondrous and exciting but also full of danger and tragedy.

There’s a lot to love here, especially for the young reader. It ponders big questions for curious minds such as “Why am I?” and “What am I born to do?” which is great to see since I feel so much of today’s entertainments ask the shallower things like “How do I look?” or “What can I get?”. In that sense, I was quite pleased with the underlying theme though there was one snag along the way that needs mentioning:

I was a little bummed that the first action sequence above ground seemed an all too familiar parody of the cruel tribal people encountered by the unsuspecting adventurer, complete with pagan beliefs that required a ritual sacrifice. And of course the sacrificial lamb was an innocent girl in a white dress. All that was missing to tie her to a post and wait for King Kong to come gobble her up. Are we not yet beyond the ole depiction of native peoples as savages that hurl the nearest blond girl into a volcano to appease the Gods? It seemed this bit of tension could have been included without leaning toward the dreaded stereotype.

I don’t feel this was intentional on the author’s part. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world of the future, not the past, but the parallel was noticeable. Much of the Western world’s stories and movies make us internalize these views of the “Other” but as writers it’s important to continually question them, lest we fall into the trap of reconfirming them in our own art.

The Magical: The hero, Toby, is a great character. Sweet-natured and kind with a lovable adventurous streak, he’s a joy to follow. The story is highly imaginative and full of action to keep the reader turning the pages.

The Mundane: I wish the answer to his questions hadn’t been so forthrightly given. But for a few saintly exceptions, most of us are not told what our purpose in life is from the Big Guy Himself. It’s something we must journey, sometimes life-long, to find while trying watch for signs of God’s guidance on the path. Such is the “mystery of faith” and the joy as well. In the book, the inspiration of the journey feels a little deflated when we’re just handed the answer.

Summary of Thoughts: Currently it’s FREE on the Kindle and though there were a couple of things that lessened my enjoyment, I am still curious to see what happens next in Toby’s world. This is a safe book to read to kids as it’s swear-free and full of action and adventure while still encouraging them to think on the bigger themes of life.

3 Star Rating

Many thanks to author Angela Castillo for providing a copy of the book to review!

Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews here

Want to know more about the author and her work? Explore her website here

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