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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.