On further thought: “Babilar was starting to grow on me,” David comments in Firefight, a book that is growiFirst impression: Well, that was unexpected!
On further thought: “Babilar was starting to grow on me,” David comments in Firefight, a book that is growing on me. Babilar, short for Babylon Restored, is what they call Manhattan after it has been flooded by They Might Be Giants an Epic called Regalia. Only the tops of the skyscrapers now stick up above the waterline, and the denizens of Babilar live on the rooftops. They survive at the whim of Regalia, but they are sustained by the strange glowing fruit that inexplicably grows inside the upper floors of the buildings, courtesy of a mysterious force known as Dawnslight. A former judge, Regalia rules Babylon Restored with her own brand of law and order, just as Steelheart ruled Newcago. Now that Steelheart has been deposed, Regalia sends other Epics to draw the Reckoners out of Newcago. The Reckoners are accustomed to moving from one base of operations to the next, but David isn’t. He’s never been out of Newcago, and Babilar is completely outside his comfort zone. But Firefight is there, and she and David have unfinished business.
I was excited to find out how David and Firefight would resolve their differences; I was not expecting the introduction of Newton, Obliteration, and Regalia as the main threats (although I did manage to collect all three character cards). Brandon Sanderson is a world builder at heart, so he takes us on a little journey to see another transfigured city, how another Epic despot does things, and how the residents react differently. The change of scenery is effective as progression for the characters, and introduces a new cell of Reckoners. Firefight is the titular character, but she’s not front and center in the story. She is deserving of the marquee, though. When she is Firefight she is spectacular, and, when she is content to be Megan around David, the interaction is authentic. My expectations were met in that regard, but Sanderson didn’t stop there! All of his foreshadowing was brought out by the eerie neon glow of Babilar as he continues to build toward Calamity, the conclusion to the Reckoners series....more
Triangles within circles within squares – it’s an indecipherable puzzle. But these aren’t crop circles; they’re chalk circles. The magic system in TheTriangles within circles within squares – it’s an indecipherable puzzle. But these aren’t crop circles; they’re chalk circles. The magic system in The Rithmatist is based on geometric lines written in chalk. It comes as no surprise that Brandon Sanderson is a whiz at inventing magic systems, but it’s refreshing to see a protagonist who’s a whiz at that system without any magical ability. Joel is a 16-year-old student at Armedius Academy, a school that instructs both traditional and magical students. Joel is neither a Rithmatist nor a traditional prep school student; as the son of a humble chalkmaker and a cleaning woman, he’s an aberration at a place like Armedius. He doesn’t fit in with either group, although he longs to be a Rithmatist. He’s memorized all the complicated variations of the defensive chalk circles they use in duels, as well as the history of the duelists who used them successfully. He’s a student of the game without the specialized skill set needed to participate. But when a mysterious attacker begins abducting the most skilled Rithmatists at Armedius, it’s up to Joel’s understanding of the magic, not his innate ability to use it, that unravels the secret plot.
I’m an unabashed fan of Sanderson, and there is a lot to love about this book. It’s a fantastic reworking of the magic school concept, with academics applying the magic to their advantage. Joel is an outsider who finds his way into the inner circle. The alternate history is great, with the United Isles of America bearing new names. Armedius is one of eight academies that teach Rithmatics, and it’s located in Jamestown on the Isle of New Britannia. Europe was conquered by the JoSeun Empire, and the exiled monarch of England is the one who discovered Rithmatics. That ties magic to the Monarchical Church, building another layer to the clockwork culture that developed in America. Joel is surrounded by a colorful cast of characters, and his interactions with them are perfect. The illustrations of the chalkings – chalk creatures drawn to assist in the duels – are delightful, and the diagrams of the different defenses are highly detailed. The Rithmatist is also Sanderson’s most personal book to date, with a main character who shares a name with the book’s dedicatee, and a dark menace located in Nebrask, the state based on Sanderson’s home state of Nebraska. The Rithmatist is a sheer delight for Sanderson fans like me, and would serve as an excellent introduction to a younger generation of new fans....more
There’s only one way to overthrow the evil emperor Maldor, and it’s not the secret word – it is Chasing the Prophecy. The word with the power to unmakThere’s only one way to overthrow the evil emperor Maldor, and it’s not the secret word – it is Chasing the Prophecy. The word with the power to unmake Maldor was a hoax he propagated; what if the prophecy is more of the same? That is a question the embattled characters must settle as they undertake the diverging quests set out by the prophetess. It’s one thing to decipher clues and follow maps that have been left for you, but the ultimate question is what do you believe?
Brandon Mull has sown seeds of doubt as well as seeds of rebellion. This is imperative to increase the tension of the plot against Maldor. The rebellion wouldn’t know how to proceed without the prophecy, but a surefire means of success removes the anxiety from the attempt and the meaning from the requisite sacrifices. The prophecy promises no certain victory, proclaiming that this is only one possible path to the desired outcome. “Only one” is a recurring mantra in this book, as it tends to be whenever a prophecy is involved. The characters may doubt the veracity of the prophecy, but the reader knows it will be fulfilled. As a result there was only one surprise that really floored me. That shocking sacrifice didn’t save anyone, but it saved the book in my displaced eyes!...more
Seeds of Rebellion builds upon the first Beyonders book, A World Without Heroes. It goes well beyond comparisons to the Chronicles of Narnia: this booSeeds of Rebellion builds upon the first Beyonders book, A World Without Heroes. It goes well beyond comparisons to the Chronicles of Narnia: this book reminds me of Fellowship of the Ring (not The Two Towers, mind you), Star Trek (of the never-beam-down-in-a-red-shirt variety), A Wise Man’s Fear (second book in the Kingkiller Chronicle), Eragon (Brandon Mull and Christopher Paolini will be appearing together in Bozeman on Thursday), and other popular graphic novels/tv series that I’d rather not spoil. In Mull’s fertile imagination these seeds grow into a new breed of story, with unique flora, fauna, and phobia!...more
I've given this a lot of thought, resulting in the loss of a star in my rating. It was disappointing on many levels. Somehow the professional writingI've given this a lot of thought, resulting in the loss of a star in my rating. It was disappointing on many levels. Somehow the professional writing that was so evident in the beginning went missing at the end. It tainted my view of the entire series, frankly....more
I liked the story development better than the first installment (the foment of the rebellion in particular), although the cliffhanger endings could beI liked the story development better than the first installment (the foment of the rebellion in particular), although the cliffhanger endings could be scaled back....more
Finished my summer reading back where I started it: with Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series. The departure of the Leviathan in this finale is, well,Finished my summer reading back where I started it: with Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series. The departure of the Leviathan in this finale is, well, a departure from the first two books. I did get a few glimpses of the great Russian Bear, although not in the setting I anticipated. The title creature was neither a Russian Bear nor the mythological Ziz; the Goliath wasn’t a creature at all, but a creation of the inventor Nikola Tesla. The eccentric inventor has a role in the conclusion, as does the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and the revolutionary general Pancho Villa. Colorful characters, to be sure, but this is a case of strange facts making fiction a bit too strange. I would have preferred to see the Leviathan remain involved with events in the European theater rather than deviate into motion picture theaters. The prince-in-hiding gets the girl-disguised-as-a-boy in the end though, so there is a satisfactory resolution for the principle characters....more
The Hunger Games is the second-most read book on this site, after Twilight and before The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo. I tend to be prejudiced against sThe Hunger Games is the second-most read book on this site, after Twilight and before The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo. I tend to be prejudiced against such POPular fiction, so it took a recommendation from a friend to get me to read it. I'm going to pass the recommendation along to my friends who haven't read it (however few they may be).
This is a can't-put-downer in every sense; you can't put it down until you're done or after you're done. Even the few predictable elements - Katniss taking her sister's place, Katniss watching another girl get killed, the love triangle - are not cheapened. Suzanne Collins handles it like the pro she is....more
Calling this series inventive would be an understatement. The creations of both factions, Clankers and Darwinists, are fascinating, as is the alternatCalling this series inventive would be an understatement. The creations of both factions, Clankers and Darwinists, are fascinating, as is the alternate history. The illustrations are a great addition and ought to hook those boys who resist reading....more
A World Without Heroes, the first book in a highly anticipated new series by Brandon Mull, came out this spring, but I wasn’t able to get to it untilA World Without Heroes, the first book in a highly anticipated new series by Brandon Mull, came out this spring, but I wasn’t able to get to it until the end of the year. Which puts me that much closer to Seeds of Rebellion, the next book in the Beyonders series, I suppose! This series is more like The Chronicles of Narnia than the Fablehaven series, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent for fans of Mull’s fanciful imagination. Taking two regular kids into an irregular world opens all kinds of new doors to explore – the doors alone are unusual – as Jason arrives in Lyrian by way of falling into a hippo’s gaping maw. Once there he meets Rachel, a Beyonder like himself, who traveled a different route to the same destination. When they are unable to reverse course and return home, the only path left is to seek out the word of power that will undo Maldor, the evil emperor. Maldor has crippled or corrupted any would-be-hero who opposed him, but Jason and Rachel don’t want to be heroes; they just want to get home. The setting and abilities may be fantastic, but the characters are driven by realistic goals, and that is what gives Mull’s words power over his readers....more
The wisecracking djinn Bartimaeus is back, this time to match wits with the wisest of the wise, King Solomon! It may be more precise to say the readerThe wisecracking djinn Bartimaeus is back, this time to match wits with the wisest of the wise, King Solomon! It may be more precise to say the readers are back in time, witnessing one of the litany of exploits of the irrepressible Bartimaeus of Uruk. Not even the epic conclusion of the Bartimaeus Trilogy could keep him in the Other Place for long! It’s understandable that Jonathan Stroud would find it almost impossible to retire such a sensational character as Bartimaeus. The question is what novel tales can yet be told? The illustrious past of this distinguished djinn has already been lauded in the footnotes of the trilogy; which events were significant enough to be told in full, yet not noteworthy enough to be mentioned in an aside, thus giving away the ending?
Personally I’d like to read more about Gilgamesh and Uruk, but that may be played out already. Instead Stroud transports us to Jerusalem in 950 BCE. It is the height of Solomon’s reign, a height achieved and maintained (Stroud would have us believe) through magical might. By selecting a historical character and a common object of power Stroud also selected some time-honored tropes. Admittedly I’m not a member of the targeted audience for these books, but most young adult readers should be able to associate Solomon with at least two words: wise and wives. That does not make Solomon less interesting as a character, but he does lose some of the mutability that has been the hallmark of the characters in Stroud’s previous books. Because this book precedes the trilogy there is an inherent loss of tension as well; ultimately Bartimaeus will live to crack wise another day.
Even with these self-imposed limitations the book is still a success. Bartimaeus is always entertaining, the drastic change of scenery is revitalizing, and the story is spellbinding. Earlier today it was announced as a 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist in the Young Adult Literature category. That is one measure of its success, but the true measure will be how well it is embraced by the legions of Bartimaeus fans clamoring for another book....more
The third book in this fun series comes out in paperback today, yet it seems it hasn't been discovered by many goodreaders. Like F. Becker Drane, I'mThe third book in this fun series comes out in paperback today, yet it seems it hasn't been discovered by many goodreaders. Like F. Becker Drane, I'm on a mission to fix that!...more