Chewy Noh has many problems. Besides his mom becoming a mu-dang—a Korean fortune-teller possessed by his dead grandmother who can read minds—the school bully, Kent, is still on the warpath to get Chewy kicked out of school. With his secret ability to win at everything, none of this bothers him until he starts disappearing for no reason while a mysterious force attacks his fellow students, and he must scramble to figure out what’s going on before he becomes its next and final victim.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Chewy Noh and the Phantasm of Winter is the second book in a middle-grade series by Tim Learn. I have written a review of the first book: Chewy Noh and the Fall of the Mu-Dang. You don’t need to read the first book in order to enjoy this second one, but it would give you a better background on the characters and the family history of Chewy.
Chewy is an 11 year old Korean boy who has a strange superpower. He has the ability to perform perfectly on all tests, in any format. This includes games like basketball and chess. But behind his superpower are some family secrets that are starting to cause some chaos in his life. He begins to disappear and reappear with no conscious memory of what happened. His classmates and friends become unconscious and are trapped in a coma. Chewy suspects that there are magical beings or spirits involved and he must get to the bottom of the situation before anybody else is harmed.
This second book in the series has a great plot! It was action-packed and extremely unique. It weaves together Korean mythology with everyday troubles that Chewy faces at school. As Chewy fends off attacks from his bully (who we met in Book 1) and his new teacher who is suspicious of his perfect test scores, he is also burdened by the fact that his family history might have something to do with the spirit that seems to be out to get him.
I thought the Korean mythology in this book was the most interesting aspect. I’m familiar with a little bit of Chinese and Japanese mythology, which shares similar aspects with Korean mythology, but it was fascinating to learn more about it and the names of different mythological creatures. I also really liked that it wasn’t an info-dump and that we learnt about the mythology through an original story arc that was incorporated into the book. The Phantasm of Winter definitely includes a lot of Korean culture and I really enjoyed it.
I really liked how well the different story arcs were integrated. The events of the past and the Korean mythology really come into play throughout the whole book. It was a well-developed story and everything made sense together. There were a couple of awkward chapter transitions between the chapters of the past and the chapters of the present, which made me feel like I was jumping around all over the place. But ultimately, everything that happened made sense together. There were a couple of things that were left unresolved but I expect that they’ll be resolved in the next book.
I liked the characters in this book a lot more than I did when I read The Fall of the Mu-Dang. I still thought that their dialogue was too mature for their age but they didn’t do anything that I wouldn’t expect a fifth-grader to do. The bullies were also mostly absent in this book, which made it a much more pleasant reading experience for me, because those kids are nasty. We also have the addition of Chewy’s cousin, Su-Bin, in this book and she very much acts like an ally to Chewy. I really liked that we had our very own awesome threesome, just like Harry, Ron and Hermione, and I wish we had seen more of this threesome.
I thought that the book was the perfect length. I finished it in about 2-3 hours and the ending left me wanting to know more about Korean mythology, as well as where Chewy’s story is heading. Chewy Noh is a really fun middle-grade series and I recommend it if you’re looking for a fast-paced middle-grade book that you can finish in one afternoon.