Good premise, but prose and structure needs an overhaul
Current position: Chapter 4
Read the story now
Usually I would read until the latest updated chapter before reviewing, but in this case I didn't, because I just couldn't finish it.
Here are my reasons:
1) The prose is terribly difficult. And weird at times.
Please remember that you are writing a contemporary Young Adult novel. Your main characters are teenagers who act like normal teenagers, and your target readers are teenagers, who might not even be native English speakers.
I've never seen vocabulary this difficult even in an encyclopedia or thesis, let alone in YA fiction, before, and I assure you I've read my fair share of YA. Even adult natives would find it taxing.
I actually just saw a comment from a non-native reader who said they have to consult a dictionary while reading because your vocabulary is so difficult and flowery.
This is not good!
Since it is a novel, readers should be able to focus and immerse themselves in your plot and characters, instead of being sidetracked by rifling through a dictionary every two sentences.
Simple vocabulary, simple descriptions, witty comparisons and similes invoke a clear picture in the readers' minds, much better than vague, flowery, sky-high words.
Also, some descriptions are flat-out spooky.
"Rotate one's neck/face/body", for instance, could be replaced with "turn" "whirl" "spin" "pirouette", take your pick! There are many simpler verbs that give a better picture.
I suggest selecting a YA Fantasy title set in a contemporary world (Harry Potter, for instance.) that you like for reference, and revising your prose to better resemble a book for young adults.
There is no continuity of scenes, events and character development. Characters frequently announce they would do something (explore the Manor, do some sleuthing, etc.), then simply return to their rooms and roll about eating chips, or dress up for dinner.
Valuable page space that should be spent unraveling the mystery of the Apions are wasted on banter between the children, making the story incredibly slow and confusing.
Consider the horse-riding scene, in which nothing happens at all, except for some back-and-forth between Lele and Atticus, and Atticus being protective of Lele from Hunter. What about exploring the Forest? You seemed like you wanted a look? You're going back to the Manor just like that? Aw nooooo! Come on!
Don't get me wrong; it's not that character development and dialogue isn't good, but when done well, plot progression AND banter could go together in one scene.
Much of my critique is because I actually see potential and freshness in the premise of the story, that's why I would hate such a great, intriguing plot to be bogged down by clunky prose and confusing structure, and for the ceiling-high vocab to spook readers away. I would understand if this review is scathing, angering and frustrating for you, but I really wish to see this story shine. Please keep up the good work.