Not What Meets the Eye

Fiction - Adventure
566 Pages
Reviewed on 05/26/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

In the fantasy Not What Meets the Eye, author Matrika Hay presents a captivating narrative that interweaves adventure, magic, and mystery. The story follows Antosha Scarlett, an intrepid archaeologist who finds herself embroiled in a dangerous chain of events following an attack after her return from an exhibition. Despite the dangers and tragedies associated with The Lost City, Scarlett accepts an invitation to join a dig there from the renowned archaeologist, Tombask Wilshire, who had extended a similar invitation to her parents years before. The journey to The Lost City is fraught with danger, as Scarlett is relentlessly pursued by unknown assailants, necessitating her reliance on the assistance of Nathious Swanson, who has his own brand of skeletons in the closet. Hay adroitly combines elements of fantasy and suspense in a riveting narrative as Scarlett discovers that her magical abilities may not suffice to safeguard her from those who seek to do her harm.

I love a well-grounded fantasy novel, and that is exactly what Matrika Hay has delivered in Not What Meets the Eye. I read a lot of mainstream work in the genre and Hay's is unique in both its pacing and its construction. I guess the best way to describe it is as literary fantasy. It's elegant and mature and well-suited for readers who are more inclined toward classic, sophisticated storytelling. I joked with my husband that this is what Jane Austen would have written if she had been a fantasy author, especially since Antosha has the maturity of Fanny Price and the ultra-clever precociousness of Catherine Morland. Some of the scenes are beautifully haunting and have a gothic feel to them. One of the more surprising character twists in the novel is when looking at a photo of Antosha's parents, one in which he is present, and their presence at that moment and the consuming vision after is the type of scene that makes the hair stand up on a reader's neck. Hay has made a brilliant debut in the literary world and I look forward to seeing where she takes us next. Very highly recommended.

K.C. Finn

Not What Meets the Eye is a work of fiction in the adventure, suspense, and fantasy subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience and mature YA readers owing to the use of some explicit language and moderate fantasy violence. Penned by author Matrika Hay, this full-throttle adventure follows Antosha Scarlett, an archaeologist fascinated by the mystical and magical properties of the ancient historical worlds she uncovers through her adventures. But when she’s invited to work at the site of The Lost City, the place where a terrible tragedy took away her parents many years before, Antosha begins to suspect that something dangerous is brewing in the magical secrets that this ancient city holds.

Author Matrika Hay has crafted a superb adventure novel with plenty of mythology, mystery, and magic to flavor its historical atmosphere. One of the things that I really enjoyed about this novel was the suspense created by mistrust and not knowing who was suddenly going to expound yet more secrets and scandals to complicate the plot. This keeps readers on their toes, and we get really invested in Antosha’s safety when she’s trying to make connections or rely on other people, deepening our bond with our hero. I also really liked the way that the plot was exposed by dialogue and discovery without the need for huge chunks of prose or backstory, which gave the tale a better flow and made it feel like a quick-paced yet fully immersive read. Overall, Not What Meets the Eye is certainly a recommended read for fans of historical and mythological adventure, great characterization, and tons of suspense.

Grant Leishman

Not What Meets the Eye by Matrika Hay is a fantasy adventure novel that takes place in a world similar to Earth. Antosha Scarlett, like her parents before her, is an archaeologist traveling the world, unearthing treasures and knowledge from previous civilizations. After returning to the museum that employs her from a faraway dig, with a barge-load of artifacts to study and research, Antosha is attacked by a mysterious assassin and barely escapes with her life. She has discovered something that someone else wants very badly but as this is an occupational hazard in her field, she shrugs it off and gets on with her work. When Antosha receives an invitation to join the most famous and celebrated of all archaeologists, the legendary Tombask Wilshire, discoverer of the Lost City, on his dig, she is beyond excited. The excitement was tempered by sadness, though, as it was Wilshire who had originally invited Antosha’s parents to the Lost City when she was just a little girl and it was there they were tragically killed in a terrible accident. As she sets out on her journey to the dig, she realizes the assassins have not given up their hunt for whatever it is they seek and that she must constantly be on her guard against attack. She finds a friend in Nathious Swanson on the voyage but although Nathious has some deep secrets of his own, together they will try to survive. The Lost City holds magic, mystery, and myths that will test Antosha, Nathious, and all their comrades to their very limits.

Not What Meets the Eye is a fast-moving, fascinating dive into a world of mystery, magic, rituals, and supernatural beings that will keep readers riveted and constantly turning pages. Matrika Hay has created a fascinating ensemble to navigate these tricky and deceptive waters. Antosha, as the lead, is a wonderful combination of Lara Croft and Indiana Jones. In a field dominated by men, she is strong, resourceful, intelligent, and more than capable of holding her own in a pitched battle, whether with a sword, dagger, or when circumstances demand, her arms, feet, and head. I enjoyed the mystical and magical connotations of all that occurred within the Lost City and the overarching theme that the quest for power and immortality can turn even the most moral of players into something evil. What I particularly appreciated about this story was the author’s ability to make the field of archaeology vibrant, alive, and vitally important to society. This is a solid, meaty read but the author’s use of multiple perspectives throughout the narrative, the clever plot twists, and the appealing characters will ensure the reader is constantly turning pages to discover what happens next. For the adrenaline junkie, there are plenty of well-described and frantic battles between many of the characters but these are interspersed with thought-provoking and contemplative periods, which all give the story excellent balance. I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure and look forward to seeing more work from this author. I can highly recommend this read.