Review: The Incredible Adventures of Chana in Judea by Emil Buchman

Rating: 2/5 stars – not for me

Chana Buchman is an average thirteen-year-old girl. She loves her family, but they also get on her nerves, which is why she’s less than thrilled when she finds herself on a “trip of a lifetime” to Israel with her parents and four siblings. But when Chana peeks through an old carriage at a dig site and falls into the middle of a bloodthirsty battle, everything changes. She finds herself in ancient Judea where she meets people like Herod the Great, Antigonus II, King Hyrcanus II, and Miriam, Herod’s future wife. She quickly becomes embroiled in the struggle between Antigonus and Hyrcanus for the Judean throne and must learn what it takes to be brave. 

Emil Buchman describes a wild sequence of events in The Incredible Adventures of Chana in Judea. Young readers will find themselves awed by the idea of being transported to a different time and excited by Chana’s daring bravery in the middle of fierce battles and tense debates, all while learning about important historical figures and events in Jewish history. Buchman does a fairly good job of condensing and watering down true historical events to make them easier for middle-grade readers to understand while still, for the most part, maintaining the integrity of what really happened. 

However, while the story is a wonderful and fascinating idea, it’s frequently bogged down by lengthy tactical plans, political speeches, and other such things that would instantly confuse and/or bore the target audience. The exciting parts of the book are thrilling to read, but the in-between parts are very slow and were difficult to get through even as an adult. In addition, a few aspects of the book seem inappropriate for the intended age group, such as a few instances of swearing, a mention of rape, and detailed depictions of a bloody battle. 

In addition, the story itself has some issues that prevented me from really connecting with the plot and characters. The dialogue sounds very forced; jokes don’t come off as funny, and everyone seems to switch back and forth between sounding overly formal or overly casual. Several editing errors are peppered throughout the book, including misspellings and inconsistencies. There isn’t much depth to the story, either in the characters or the plot, and the theme isn’t clear. 

This book has a great concept and some shining moments. Overall, though, it doesn’t seem like it would capture the attention of a middle-grade audience, since I struggled to finish it myself. Because of these shortcomings, I’m afraid I can’t recommend it to adults or kids. 

Original review posted on Reedsy Discovery, where I was given an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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