Release date: January 29, 2016
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Chewy Noh should be happy. He has a best friend like no other and by using his secret abilities, has found a way to connect Korea and America forever to keep him.
Unfortunately, none of this matters after Death’s messenger comes to tell him that he has one week left to live!
Knowing his death is coming soon, Chewy scrambles to figure out a way to avoid it, but every direction he turns seems to lead him further and further away from his goal—a dead body, a missing person, and at the heart of it, the secret that started that it all.
In the end, if Chewy doesn’t learn how to change, Death might just come out on top.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Chewy Noh and the March of Death is the third book in Tim Learn‘s middle grade series. I have reviews for the first two books, Chewy Noh and the Fall of the Mu-Dang and Chewy Noh and the Phantasm of Winter.
While it is possible to read the second book without reading the first, I don’t think it’s possible to read The March of Death without reading book 2, The Phantasm of Winter. It’s been a couple of months since I read the first two books and I couldn’t remember all of the details, which was one reason why I struggled a little with this third book. I’m usually a series marathoner but on occasions when I do read instalments as they come out, I rely on the short recaps and reminders that are weaved into the story, in order to remind myself of things that had happened in previous books. I thought The March of Death was slightly lacking in that aspect and it took me a while to get into the story and remember who some of the characters were, especially because they had foreign names. Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue if you read the books back-to-back, but I think a good sequel should sprinkle in enough information about the previous book (but not too much that it’s repetitive) that readers aren’t lost if they haven’t read it recently.
I really enjoyed the plot of this book and it was a lot of fun to read. I think younger readers would definitely enjoy the adventure and thrill of everything that happened in this book. In The March of Death, we follow Chewy as he tries to escape death, which involves outsmarting Death and his servants. We also get a story arc about Chewy’s grandfather and his time as a soldier in the Korean war. This side story is linked to what is happening to Chewy in the present and I liked how they were connected and how everything was revealed. As with the previous books, this instalment incorporated some Korean mythology. While I cannot attest to the accuracy of what was written, I really enjoyed learning about things like the So-chon garden where flowers that possess different abilities and effects grow.
What I had issues with in terms of the plot was the flow of the book. The first third of the book, for me, seemed to lack clear direction and I just felt a bit lost and had no idea where the story was going. This was definitely the kind of book that presented lots of little puzzle pieces and connected them at the end, but the reading experience wasn’t very enjoyable for me because I felt like I was being pushed and pulled in different directions. I also felt like there was too much happening but not enough description and explanation of each scene to fill the gaps. It just lacked a bit of clarity and there were times when I wasn’t sure what was actually happening. There were some things that weren’t really resolved before we had moved on, and I was left wondering what the point of it actually was. I enjoyed Chewy’s grandfather’s storyline a lot more than what was happening to Chewy in the present because his story flowed well and made more sense to me.
In addition to the issues of flow that I had, I thought there were far too many perspectives, which made the book even more busy and choppy. I’m not sure that all of the perspectives were necessary in this book because some added very little to the story. I also had a minor problem with the narration changing from third person in present chapters to first person in the grandfather’s chapters. I can see why the author decided to do that but it was a little bit jarring for me.
What I probably struggled with the most was how unrealistic some of the events were, which made me think that I was probably a little bit too old for this. I definitely had to suspend my disbelief while reading The March of Death. The casualness of death (a phrase that I picked up from Jeann @ Happy Indulgence’s recent discussion about character deaths) was a bit of a problem for me. There were multiple instances of characters dying out of the blue and being brought back to life, and it was honestly a bit hard for me to digest because it was so unrealistic even for a mythological fantasy read. Maybe I just haven’t read enough of these types of books… Because of this, I had to just go along with what was happening, without being fully immersed in the story. I also wasn’t a fan of the absence of parents and the role that the grandmother played in the book. She’s very much the only adult figure in Chewy’s life throughout the whole book and she came across as very irresponsible and flighty. She did things without any clear explanations, and the characters, as well as myself as the reader, were just left guessing a lot of the time.
This was by no means a terrible read. I really enjoyed a lot of the plot and how everything came together in the end, as well as all the Korean culture and mythology. I loved the little bit of historical fiction that we got and reading about the Korean War was super interesting to me. However, I thought the book needed a bit more development and better flow. I struggled a little while reading it and thought it needed a bit more polish.