“Ato’s art allowed people to see things in a way that only she could see and in a way that she could never explain with words, as she was hardly a poet.”
The World of Ato by Patrick Borosky centers on a 15-year-old artist named Ato. With the help of her miniature dragon friend, Iro, her art brings life to worlds that she thought can only be seen in her dreams. The unexpected adventure leads her to meet interesting characters like Ferrin, the short valiant Iron Knight, Violet, the good-hearted witch, and Finnick, the lonely young king of Myr. Along the way, she discovers the sinister truth behind the monster called the Scarred, the power struggle behind a kingdom, and what some people would do to change their status and rule.
The first half of the book is a slow-burn. It talks about what Ato’s everyday life is and what she does to survive. Her parents went missing two years ago while on a journey. Her best friend, Reed, and his mother, Lyra, were the ones who look out for her since that happened. The world-building could be a bit better. Borosky tells more information than showing what the setting actually looks and feels like. Some readers might find it hard to be engaged in the story. The World of Ato fell short in delivering vivid descriptions.
However, the book makes up for that with the character’s interactions and relationships. Iro and Ato’s dynamic as a team is solid. The dragon is overconfident but he’s very likable. There are times when their personalities clash yet readers might find it endearing. As the book progresses, Iro became a mentor to the teenage girl. He gives compelling advice such as this one:
“Misfortune only awaits those that truly do nothing to change it.”
Ato exudes altruism, loyalty, creativity, and a strong sense of adventure. She’s not a perfect yet flat character. Rather, she is a bit impulsive, vulnerable, and immature in some cases. Her pure heart is her most striking characteristic. No matter how evil the person is, she wishes no one harm. Her bond with Finnick is also great. They both shared the longing for family. Instead of going cold and sullen after her parents did not return, Ato still turned kind and compassionate. That’s why she assured Finnick that she and her friends won’t abandon him.
“That is the best age for children. They still don’t understand the concept of lying, and they remained so pure.”
Of course, this will not be a Young Adult book without a side romance arc. Although most YA fantasy books are formulaic when it comes to insta-love, this book shies away from that. The love story takes a while to build up and it can still flourish on the book’s sequel. There were still questions left unanswered. How is the story of Babel tie up with all of this? Are Ato’s parents really dead? Where does the Scarred come from and what is the backstory of their master?
It takes a while before the book revealed who is the real villain in the ‘story within the story.’ The book effectively misdirects the attention of its readers. The book shows that evil lurks everywhere, no matter how happy the kingdom may seem. Moreover, the last part shows how menacing the villain is. We may see a major conflict between Ato and one of her friends in the follow-up.
“Two people who look at the same painting will never see the same thing, and if they do they are liars or they just haven’t given it the proper thought.”
The book is philosophical, exploring the themes such as the importance of having dreams, bravery, friendship, and how the real world actually looks compared to a fantasy world. The World of Ato is a nice first book in this series. The author introduced the readers to fascinating and lovable heroes. On the other hand, the villains are mysterious and conniving. The yin and yang is still balance. The series needs to tip the scale to one side so the audience will have a more enthralling experience.
The series lacks depth. The villains can do more ominous stuff not only to the heroes but also to the unsuspecting citizens of Myr. The story needs to mature a bit. A darker storyline or subplot might improve this series.With the book's epilogue, the stakes become higher for the protagonist as she has to deal a potential betrayal from a very close friend.
All in all, this book has a great potential that may propel the next book to greater heights. Like Harry Potter or Inkheart that are targeted to children demographic, the story needs to grow along with its main readers. The World of Ato is a journey that takes its time to build up but it keeps the characters’ rapport organic. It stays true to the message of escapism but it still grounds the whole idea by showing how ugly the real world can be.