The prologue is set in the present, where Patty Gayle’s granddaughter, Callie, is asking about the contents of Patty’s memory chest. When she asks her Mamaw Patty about an old key in the box, Callie is shooed out of the room and Patty drifts back in time to 1960 and ’61, the time of her great adventure in the world of Kingsley.
Patty, then a girl becoming a teenager, inherited a key from her grandmother, who had told her it would unlock a world of secrets. Her grandmother died before getting the chance to explain, and Patty had to discover the truth for herself. What she discovered took her on a journey into a world of fantasy, myth and magic, a world that needed her help to survive.
There were a few elements that distracted me in the beginning, but once I locked my inner editor in a closet in the back of my mind, I was able to get into the story. I don’t read much fiction geared toward younger audiences, but I enjoyed this adventure fantasy. Patty is a spunky young woman with whom I could identify. Her feelings of not fitting in with her classmates, her desire to do something important and to find out the truth about things, are traits I had at that age.
The world of Kingsley Lake, Florida, is described in enough detail for the reader to be able to imagine it without being distracted from the tale. Cynthia’s pacing is good, keeping the story moving forward while giving a picture of Patty’s life and circumstances. For those of us who were born and grew up in that era, the small details recall life in the South and the nostalgia of childhood.
The section set in the realm of Kingsley is also well done. There’s enough information to be able to picture the place, its residents and perils, but not so much that you want to skip paragraphs.
One detail I found interesting was the frequent mention of God and how faith in Him would carry Patty through the trials she would face in her quest to save Kingsley. It wasn’t Patty saying this; it was the creatures that populated Kingsley. The fairies, mermaids and talking animals all urged her to lean on her faith when facing her enemy and his magic-based trickery. Such straightforward references to God are refreshing and unusual in fantasy, even when it’s written by a Christian.
All in all, I found Patty Gayle to be a book that appeals to readers of all ages. Anyone old enough to read a chapter book will find something in this tale to intrigue and delight them.