Saturday, May 7, 2022

Review: The Maker-Man of Merryville by Pete Mesling

Today's read comes to me through Blackberry Book Tours, and I agree to take a look because or the interesting cover...because you know how I love my covers. Actually, the blurb caught my attention, too, and reminded me a bit of a older, popular cartoon series I saw bits and pieces of while living in Germany. Plus, who doesn't love magical toy stores?

Anyway, let's take a peek and maybe get swept away into an alternate dimension or world or something like that. 

by Pete Mesling
Other Kingdoms Publishing
Middle Grade Fantasy
269 pages
ages 8 to 12

Young Gilbert Sullivan, hoping that a new toy store will bring joy to the dreary town of Merryville, finds instead that it leads him to another world, where a fearsome queen named Mixie is hard at work sealing the shared fate of both worlds.

The owner of the toy store—known to the people of Merryville only as the Maker-Man—convinces Gilbert to purchase a magical substance, which he uses to open a portal to a place called Skaaten Dowe. He and his friend Sarah step through and quickly find that the portal, on the Skaaten Dowe side, is inaccessible for an immediate return trip. They have no choice but to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Only with the help of many strange and wonderful new friends can they hope to make it back to Merryville and restore happiness there.



Adventure and fantasy mix with a dash of growing up to create a interesting and fun read.

Gilbert has lived in Merryville his entire life, but it doesn't fit its name. No one is merry, nor do they smile, joke around, or seem to have any fun, and he's beginning to wonder why. When Gilbert learns that a toy store is opening in town, he counts down the days. The store is run by the Maker-Man, and he convinces Gilbert to purchase a special putty, which opens a portal to another world. Together with his friend Sarah, Gilbert enters the new world to discover that they can't return home through the same portal. He finds himself forced into an adventure, where there are not only new friends but secrets, which explain why Merryville is the way it is. And if he can't find a way to fix things, more than his path to return home is at stake.

The first pages start in a fairly familiar, real world. That is, except for the strange attitude of everyone in the town, including Gilbert's family. The reader meets Gilbert, who is already wondering why everyone is always so serious and never laughs or smiles. Gilbert is a kind and curious individual, who just wishes for a little more fun in life and this desire is understandable. The beginning allows the fantasy to slowly sink in, and the reader knows something is wrong before the tale really begins. Once the first steps are laid and Gilbert gets his hands on the putty, the story takes flight and dives into adventure and fantasy pure.

Friendship is key in these pages, not only in Gilbert's relationship to Sarah, but also with the various characters he meets in the other world. He not only needs to figure out how to help his family and friends back in Merryville but is forced into a larger arena, where even more is at stake. Together with others, he needs to figure out what is going on and how to solve the problem. Some of the twists were easy to see coming, while others were more unpredictable, but from beginning to end, it's an entertaining read.

While adventure drives the tale forward, there is still enough depth to make the characters and plot interesting. Not only is this about the fight to save a town, but Gilbert also goes through a clear maturing process and gains a broader perspective on life in the process. So, there is depth along with the fun. Upper middle grade fantasy fans are sure to enjoy the story and root for Gilbert until the very end. 

And here he is...

Pete Mesling has published poetry and fiction widely, including a horror collection, a book of poetry, a collection of crime stories, an assassination novel, and a children’s fantasy novel. Other publishing highlights include having stories in All-American Horror of the 21st Century, the First Decade: 2000 – 2010 (Independent Legions Publishing) and Shallow Waters, Vol. 3 (Crystal Lake Publishing). Mesling also had the pleasure of working directly with the late Richard Matheson on an online retrospective of his career in film and television and is the official Clive Barker proofreader for Gauntlet Press. Learn more at


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Portal stories are always fun.

Kristy [Blackberry Book Tours] said...

Love it! Thank you so much.

Heather N. Quinn said...

What an interesting premise. Toy stores are so much fun!