This is the third of three YA novels I’m reviewing for the Red Adept Publishing book tour, “Young at Heart.” Disclaimer: Review copy provided by Red Adept Publishing.
Olivia “Libby” Tanner is a young painter with problems. Two fellow students at her English art academy are attracted to her, but the one she’s attracted to the most already has a girlfriend. The headmistress at the school seems to have an unusual interest in her. Strangest of all, her paintings come to life. When she goes in search of a “mystery boy” who shows up in her paintings, she uncovers tragic and dangerous secrets about her family. Her quest leads her to the world inside her paintings — a world from which she might not be able to escape.
Canvas Bound (Captive Art Book 1) by Laura M. Kolar takes the staples of YA fiction, fantasy and romance, and elevates them to a story that is fresh and entertaining. Libby’s first-person narrative works well here. We see the mystery unfold from her point of view, which adds to the shock as we discover the twists.
Kolar also uses the first-person narrative to develop Libby’s character. The use of painting terms and awareness of fine visual details show us as readers that Libby is an artist. Even her physical and emotional descriptions demonstrate her artistic temperament. These help build our connection with Libby and make her more fascinating than other YA heroes.
Canvas Bound provides an excellent example of worldbuilding. Kolar establishes the rules of the world inside of the paintings and follows them consistently. The fun and suspense of the story is how characters try to figure out the rules of this world and use them to survive. Small details add to the realism of the world, such as an apple from a painting that doesn’t rot, the ripples that appear when characters move in and out of the world of the painting, and the difference between time in the real world versus time inside the paintings. She shows the perils of the world as well, especially the fear of being trapped in the paintings forever.
This careful worldbuilding pays off in the final battle as characters move in and out of paintings, rushing to keep from being trapped while stopping the antagonist and saving a friend in danger.
Although this book is the first of a planned trilogy, Kolar does a great job in resolving the primary story question as she sets up the next book. Libby and her friends are engaging enough, but the things she learns about her past and the new relationships she established keep us going on to book two.
The only places where Canvas Bound seems to lag are sections when someone sits Libby down and gives her an info dump about what is happening. She seems to accept those passively until she gets overwhelmed. Instead of using exposition, those scenes would have been better if Libby discovered those facts on her own — as she does elsewhere in the book to great effect.
Canvas Bound is an enjoyable adventure with fascinating, well-developed characters. The book shows a young woman discovering herself as she learns about her abilities and comes to terms with her past. It is an excellent book on its own and a great start to a trilogy.