Cora is attending her father’s funeral when the ground caves in and she is plunged underground. Instead of being buried alive, she finds herself in a world of ash devoid of anything living. She has fallen into the realm of the dead yet she is still alive.

There’s something about the writing style that reminds me of the text based RPGs of old. The world around Cora is described neatly but never inferred. Cora walks through the Underworld with no real aim but dealing with whatever she happens to find on the way. Minotaur is an artificial intelligence and Cora’s brother talks of creating a game that is similar to the world they now find themselves in. It makes me think that it is perhaps all a virtual world, in which case the style works well but it doesn’t give much room for character development.

Whilst the world of The White Oak is mostly based on the Greek Underworld, there are elements of Persian mythology woven in too. Unfortunately the significance of the white oak isn’t elaborated on in this first instalment. The fact that the Simurgh live within its branches suggests it is the Tree of Life and that the seeds in Cora’s dress are going to be important to the story…but really it doesn’t go anywhere.

It feels too much like an introduction and not a finished work. The characters aren’t fully fleshed out like the world is. It is the first of four books and fairly short so it may be one of those series that is best read in one go, there is certainly a lot of potential in it.

The White Oak is published by Story Machine Studio and will be available in ebook formats from 9th April 2012. The second book, Sword of Souls, will be available in July. Thanks go to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review via NetGalley.