For generations, the fantasy genre has enchanted people young and old. Some people think the reason for this is that stories of might and magic help us escape day-to-day routines. Others believe that fantasies invoke our natural sense of wonder.
Whatever the reason behind our attraction to all things magical, today I’d like to introduce you to a new fantasy tale that recently caught my attention. It’s called The Incredible Tales of Weirdwood Manor, and it follows the adventures of three gifted children as they try to uncover the secrets of a mystical manor.
Described as a “fantasy tale in the tradition of Harry Potter and The Golden Compass”, Weirdwood Manor is told in five parts. Each part consists of a stunning picture book that contains a series of games and puzzles. This review will cover all the books released so far, namely Book 1 and Book 2.
Welcome to the Manor
In The Incredible Tales of Weirdwood Manor, three misfit children win a trip to Weirdwood Manor to meet the reclusive writer and inventor, Arthur Weirdwood. But their excitement soon turns to a realization that there is more to the manor and its eccentric master than meets the eye.
Book 1 introduces us to Oliver, an orphan who loves to draw. From a young age, Oliver is plagued by strange and mischievous creatures. One of his recurring visions is of a monstrous dragon, which seems to follow him to the Weirdwood Manor.
Book 2 begins with Oliver entering the magical Weirdwood Manor. Magic seems to flow in this manor as Oliver catches sight of many curious things, including ghosts and otherworldly artifacts. He meets the other two winners: Celia, an incredibly persuasive and award-winning writer, and Eugene, a self-proclaimed world expert on all things sci-fi and fantasy. The three finally meet Arthur Weirdwood and are given a tour around the house, just as Oliver receives an eerie omen.
In each of the Weirdwood Manor book, you’ll discover a series of games and puzzles to solve. For example, in one scene you’ll be asked to unlock a hidden compartment by arranging tetrominoes into a square. In another scene, you try to follow a melodic sequence to make fairies dance. These puzzles are fairly straightforward; some do require a bit of brainwork, but they are by no means difficult.
You’ll also find annotated sketches, letters, and other objects that provide additional information about the curious world of Arthur Weirdwood. These sketches will be collected in your journal, which can be accessed anytime by tapping the book icon on the top right.
The first curiosity you’ll find is the Findling, a friendly sprite that will assist you throughout the books. When you tap and hold its picture, it will invoke a magical glow that hovers over curious items. The Findling will also let you know how many discoveries and puzzles that you still need to find. Note that you’re not obligated to complete any of the games, but tackling them really allows you to discover more of the story and adds to the enjoyment of reading.
When you start each book, you can choose whether you want to read on your own or have the narrator read the story to you. The narrated reading mode includes highlighting words, which makes it suitable for emerging readers.
Length-wise, you’ll find that each book varies. Book 1, for example, can be finished in about 30 minutes. Book 2 is twice as long; it will take about 60 minutes to complete.
Parents Need to Know
Weirdwood Manor is currently available only for iPad. The initial download includes Book 1 and Book 2; you can unlock the other books via in-app purchases once they’re available. The next book in the series, Book 3, is scheduled to come out in November, while Book 4 and Book 5 will available early next year.
Do note that when you open the app for the first time, the app will prompt you to download the contents of each book before you can read them. This process might take several minutes depending on your Internet connection.
If you’d like to check out the story before downloading the app, you can download the free companion PDF e-books on the developer’s website. The developer recommends Weirdwood Manor for ages 8-12. Younger children might also enjoy the story, but do note that some elements might scare them, for example, monstrous dragons that try to eat people, ghosts, et cetera.
Things I Like
What I love about Weirdwood Manor is that, like all good stories, it’s set up in a world that’s much bigger than what you see in the books. Yes, the main plot is thrilling and the characters are interesting, but what really fascinates me is the magical creatures and realms that appear only in glimpses. I’m not sure if they’ll be explained in the rest of the books, but I hope the developers will leave some things to the reader’s imagination.
Visually, I have nothing but praises for the app. I find the 3D graphics beautiful and the use of parallax effect quite effective. Some scenes that are especially memorable are the ones that allow you to zoom and pan to get a 360-degree view of your surroundings. The narration and background music are also excellent.
My only complaint is that the process of downloading each book a bit tedious, especially on a slower connection like mine. Although, I suppose it helps minimize the wait time for the initial download/installation. I think it would help a lot if the download size wasn’t as large, but I appreciate that you can leave the app and resume downloading anytime.
Weirdwood Manor is an original book-app series that will stir the reader’s imagination. Combining elements of magic and fantasy with interactivity, these beautifully illustrated books encourage readers to discover fun puzzles and fascinating artifacts. All in all, this is an interesting series with great production value that you wouldn’t want to miss out. Recommended for ages 8-12.
Get it on the App Store: iPad
App was purchased by us.