Written By: Justine Manzano
Review By Melissa Minners
So, I get this message from my sister – she’s about to be published and her book comes out…smack dab in the middle of the pandemic. No worries, right? Amazon to the rescue. I pre-order The Order of the Key by Justine Manzano and sit back and wait…and wait…and wait. Hmm. What was happening here? It was now months later and I still hadn’t received the book. It apparently shipped out, but never got to its destination. I decided to order a replacement. One day later, the original book I ordered comes in the mail and the new one I ordered arrived the day after that. Such was my introduction to The Order of the Key.
The fact that this is a book written by my sister may have folks wondering why I’m writing a review. After all, how impartial can I be, right? Well, those who know me know I’m one of those folks who are brutally honest about things…brutally honest. Cringeworthy at times. So, I just sat down with The Order of the Key and forced myself to forget that it was written by Justine Manzano.
The book starts with an introduction to the quirky teenage heroine named Jacklyn Madison. She thought her biggest problem was surviving high school. Right about now, surviving high school as a normal teenager would be the best Jacklyn could hope for. Instead, on her eighteenth birthday, she finds herself embroiled in a fight against monsters from another plane. She discovers powers that she never imagined and learns some unbelievable truths about her family and the life they escaped many years ago. She finds herself returning as a long-lost member of the Order of the Key, a group of individuals who fight to prevent the inter-dimensional creatures that arrive here through a rift from taking over and destroying humanity.
Sounds exciting, right? It probably would be if Jacklyn didn’t realize that the leader of the Order was corrupt and may have been plotting her death long before she returned. It would seem that her father had known this before he disappeared and Jacklyn’s mother took them away from it all. Now that she has returned to the Order, Jacklyn believes that she and those she holds dear are in danger, but how do you fight someone who can get inside your head…and summon up the kind of creatures you never wanted to face…including the monsters in your own mind?
As a young adult fiction, I have to say, The Order of the Key is not bad. It contains a snarky, likeable character, quite a bit of action, a mystery to solve and a bit of suspense. There’s even a bit of romance in there (where my impartiality was incredibly challenged…reading a love scene created by your little sister…yikes). The story flows well, but at certain points, feels a bit rushed. I hear that this is mostly due to a need to shorten the length for the publisher. That being said, there are some characters that deserved a little more fleshing out and an uptick in the storyline that felt like something was missing toward the “final battle.” I say that in quotes because the story ends with an obvious inference of a sequel in the works.
Overall, I found The Order of the Key to be a decent young adult read, though I would hope that, for the sequel, the powers that be will let the author take a little more liberty in telling the story instead of cramming it quickly into two hundred plus pages.