September 22, 2012
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl, a millionaire and a child prodigy, has been mostly left on his own since the dissappearance of his father, and by his depressed and bedridden mother. He uses this freedom to develop a diabolical plan to manipulate fairies for their gold by kidnapping Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. (Lower Elements Police) Little does he know, that he’s not exactly dealing with Tinkerbell. This fairies are well-armed with both ancient magic and advanced technology and they do not take kindly to human meddling.
Describing the inner thoughts of the characters gave them a lot of depth, as well as explaining details of the fairy underworld without overloading the reader. My favorite characters were the gruff, cigar-chomping Commander Root, Foaly the techie centaur and Artemis Fowl himself. As he reacts to events, adjusting his plans, he sometimes has moral doubts and wonders at what point he is going too far. We can see that for all his precociousness and power, he is still a vulnerable and lonely boy.
This was a fun, page-turning adventure, kind of a parody of James Bond-type novels that take themselves too seriously. While there is a lot of comical zaniness in here, Colfer has created a sophisticated and well-thought out plot. This is a good “cross-over” book that would appeal to adventure, science fiction and fantasy readers alike.
Read in September 2012
September 14, 2012
The Dream-Maker’s Magic by Sharon Shinn
Safekeeper’s Trilogy: Bk 3
Another beautifully told coming-of-age fantasy from Sharon Shinn! Dream-Maker’s Magic focuses on the evolving friendship of two misfits- Kellen, whose mother insists she was born a boy, has been raised as such. She presents herself as either gender depending on her mood or the situation. Gryffin is a physically handicapped boy who is very smart and determined to succeed. The two go to school and then work together in an inn/restaurant. I like how the author depicts the change of the seasons and the seemingly simple yet multi-layered life of a small town. The plot ended up moving in ways I did not expect- so you may be in for some interesting surprises.
The exploration of both gender identity and disability was also very intelligently and sensitively done- it makes you think without being politically preachy.
This the 3rd in a trilogy of loosely connected books set in the same unnamed kingdom- the others being the Safe-keeper’s Secret and the Truth-Teller’s Tale. I thought this was the best of the three- I still recommend reading them in order though.
Read in March 2009
Child of the May by Theresa Tomlinson, Sequel to Forestwife
Magda, the daughter of Little John and Emma (deceased) has grown up in Barnsdale Forest under the care of Marian, the Forestwife. At 15, she grows restless and longs to experience life outside the forest. She gets her chance when John & Marian allow her to accompany Robin & the Merry Men on a quest to rescue the noblewoman Matilda and her daughter Isabel. They have both been imprisoned by the sheriff until Matilda agrees to allow Isabel to marry FitzRanulf, the sheriff’s bloodthirsty mercenary chief. At first stubborn and petulant, Magda grows a lot as a character as the book progresses. She learns that life outside the forest isn’t as fun and glamorous as she thought. This was a short and easy to read book- about the level of 10-13 year olds or so. But I enjoyed it as a fun adventure, as well as a story with depth and historical realism. I think older teens and adults who like Robin Hood legends and stories set in the Middle Ages would like it.
Read March 2011
Falcondance by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
The next book in the Kiesha’ra saga focuses on Nicias Silvermead, son of the falcons Kel & Andreios (the prince Sebastian) As both a falcon & a guard to the princess Oliza he is both an outsider and and a privileged member of the court. When his magic begins to emerge, Nicias must journey to Ahnmik, the island kingdom and ask his grandmother Araceli to bind his magic. However, when he arrives he realizes that things are much more complicated than they seem. Readers will finally get to learn more about the mysterious falcons and their magic. I have to agree with another reader that I’d like to see Oliza developed more as a character, she seemed more interesting than Nicias, but maybe we’ll see more of her in the next book, Wolfcry.
All together, I found it to be an engrossing read, but later on it was hard to follow the complex magic & politics of the falcons.
Read November 2009
Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt
In a time of poverty and famine, stories abound of Jackaroo, a highwayman who helps the poor. Gwyn, an innkeeper’s daughter thinks this is all nonsense. Yet her life begins to change after a Lord and his son ask her to accompany them on a map-making expedition. As Gwyn learns more about the world around her, she starts to wonder if Jackaroo is in fact a real person.
This book has a slow pace, but I enjoy the poetic descriptions.It’s refreshing to have a focus on ordinary peasant characters when so much of fantasy is focused on the upper class.
It seems rather light on magical elements, and the world, simply called “the Kingdom” is fairly generic. I liked seeing a different take on the Robin Hood concept, and Voigt challenges us to wonder about the origin of legends.
Read March 2010
January 29, 2009
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
I had planned on reading this book for a while but when I heard a film version was coming out soon, I decided to go ahead and read it.
Wouldn’t it be fun if characters from books could come to life into our world? Sure, but it turns out it’s not all fun and games as the protagonists of Inkheart discover.
Young Meggie enjoys travelling with her father, a bookbinder and listening to the stories he tells her. But her father has a secret, and when a mysterious fellow called Dustfinger appears one day, this begins to be revealed. Inkheart had a charming and whimsical flavor to it. It took a while for things to be set up for the plot to get going, but for those with patience, there are some treats in store. I also liked that there was psychological exploration of the villain, he wasn’t just a stereotypical bad guy.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyers (Book 1 of the Twilight Saga)
I hadn’t gotten to reading this before seeing the movie, but after we saw it together, my friend lent me the book.
I liked some aspects of Twilight, like the vivid descriptions that I found quite poetic. I thought how she tied a Native American legend into it was unique and interesting. (I wonder if it is a real legend- I looked it up and did find that it is a real tribe that lives in Washington). I sort of like Bella, as I tend to identify with underdog, nerdy characters but think she needs to be a stronger character. Edward I suppose has a certain appeal, but there’s something about him that’s creepy. He seems to be written to fulfill the fantasy of an old-fashioned chivalrous guy that protects you. Is there is a message being sent about how girls should play a passive role- or are human-vampire romances just inherently unequal? Maybe I’m over-analyzing…I really like Alice and some of the other Cullens and would like to see more of their stories.
I am still going to read the next book in hopes that Bella develops more as a character, and her relationship with Edward matures. Plus I’m just plain curious to see what happens and it will be more fun since I won’t already know the plot from the film.
April 28, 2008
Street Magic: Book 2 of the Circle Opens Quartet by Tamora Pierce
In the next book in the Circle Opens, Briar and Rosethorn have travelled to the east, to the Near Eastern-style city of Chammur in Sotat. Rosethorn is helping the local farmers, while Briar cultivates plants to sell.
Briar discovers in a chance encounter that Evvy, a street child has a magical gift with stones. As he begins teaching her the basics of meditation and magic, they get caught up in the conflict between street gangs that struggle for control of Chammur. Each of them wants Evvy for their own, to use her to find precious stones.
As with Magic Steps, Street Magic was suspenseful, intrigue-filled adventure.
January 16, 2008
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
When I reviewed Ms. Levine’s previous novel, Ella Enchanted I said that it was a nice story but that the writer hadn’t quite found her voice yet. Well, she definitely did in Fairest. It seems to be better developed- the characters and the story are more complex, and while the Kingdom of Khyrria in Ella is a rather generic fairy-tale realm, the reader gets to explore the neighboring land of Ayortha in this book. Ayortha is a fascinating culture, where singing plays a role in all aspects of life- ceremonies, communication, magic.
The protagonist of this story is Aza, the daughter of an innkeeper. While Aza is not seen as attractive by Ayorthaian standards, she has a gorgeous singing voice. Aza goes about her rather ordinary life until by chance, a Duchess stops by the inn. Her companion has become sick, and so she chooses Aza to replace her. This path leads her eventually to become the lady-in-waiting to Queen Ivy, after she discovers Aza’s ability to throw her voice. Ivy, a native of Kyrrhia, is not much of a singer and finds herself rather out of place in a country so focussed on the art.
It’s hard to tell until one is pretty far into the book, that it is based on another classic fairy tale. Can you tell which one? Snow White. Queen Ivy seizes power when her king falls sick, and Aza is caught between her and the dangers of a magic mirror. The tale of Fairest is a deftly woven fabric, with many surprising plot twists. It’ll definitely be worth a re-read at some point.