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Reviewed by Carine Engelbrecht for Readers' Favorite
How much do layers of reality make up our experience of life? In Not Where I Wanna Be, the singer Sarantos travels to the magical land of Yarrowtopia, where he learns magic from a wise and ancient wizard called Wallis, who happens to have a weakness for pizza. Here he forms another band, with an elf on keyboards and a sword hero on drums - which has certain advantages for the band, as you shall see as the story progresses. He falls in love, battles vampires, and meets an interesting cast of magical characters along the way. On another level, though, the story's quest runs parallel with that of the author, who challenges his muse to weave a cohesive narrative across multiple medias of expression.
With the creation of Not Where I Wanna Be, Sarantos undertakes the daunting task of writing a chapter and producing a song with an accompanying music video for each monthly installment. If you love music, you may find it interesting to track down each musical interpretation as you begin a new chapter, to grasp the nuances of its emotional dimensions. To realize an experimental project of this nature through seat-of-your-pants improvisation can be a courageous undertaking and that deserves merit points for innovation, regardless of the outcome.
While Sarantos is by no means a Pratchett or a Tolkien, he puts himself on the line with this book. Here and there, the work shows the beginnings of some great world building skills, although I was a little disappointed that Charity the Octopus and the dreaded Captain Fear never showed again after the first chapter. A rematch between Sarantos and the evil pirate might have been fun. Expect a lightly romantic mash-up of pop music and sword and sorcery style high fantasy. The accompanying illustrations enhance the reading experience and, if you get lost, there is a very useful index of characters towards the back of the book.