Review originally posted at Views From the Tesseract: https://shanshad1.wordpress.com/2015/... Folks, there are books, that even if you can't judge theReview originally posted at Views From the Tesseract: https://shanshad1.wordpress.com/2015/... Folks, there are books, that even if you can't judge them by their cover, they give you some huge smacking clues about what's in the book. Like steampunk? Like dragons? Like steampunk dragons? Then by golly, I think this may well be your thing! Methinks the cool cover is bound to interest a lot of readers all on its own, but now let's take a look at the story.
Welcome to Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. Trenton Coleman is a kid living in this city, where invention is forbidden and creativity discouraged. But he can't help but want to tinker with things, to think of improvements that would make machines work better or faster or safer. He curious and gifted with a knack for invention. . . and that can lead to trouble. When Trenton discovers an unapproved item in the mines--something unlike anything he's ever seen, rather than turn it in or destroy it immediately, he keeps it. He's not sure what it does, but he's curious enough to want to figure it out. Kallista Babbage is the daughter of one of the most infamous men in Cove. Her father, Leo Babbage was a mechanic and an inventor who died in an explosion that the City blamed him for. But he left behind a set of clues for his daughter to follow--only Trenton has the very first piece. To solve her father's riddles and discover the answers he left behind, she'll need Trenton's help. Together, the two of them will explore the levels of Cove and find out what secrets Cove is guarding, and what her father ultimately built.
I admit, the cover is a bit of a spoiler straight out. Because the entire first few chapters, you're thinking "when is the dragon going to come into this?" Readers will quickly figure out that the cylinders Kallista and Trenton are assembling into a claw must be part of the dragon from the cover. Our heroes don't know this yet, of course. (They speculate Leo Babbage was building a giant chicken). However, this is hardly the kind of spoiler that ruins the enjoyment of reading the story. I found the dystopian setting combined with a scavenger hunt for clues and pieces really worked well. The author doesn't simply create an oppressive city for a background setting, but as a real interactive character in the whole book. The propaganda and control that the central government has over the populace is pretty firm, so that Trenton's flouting of the rules to hunt for pieces and clues puts him always at risk of being found out and in trouble for it. Still, the overall world is not one of grim oppression and unhappiness--there's room here for fun and hope that is in no way sinister. I found the story felt "old-school" to me, but in a good way. I read any number of stories back as a kid where youngsters are pushing against rules in their home place, seeking to discover the truths that have been hidden. This is lively, interesting and makes you want to keep turning pages to see how things will play out. What the characters ultimately discover about Cove and the truth behind it's founding threw me a little. My mind had been treating this as a rather strictly science fiction story, but the final discoveries in the book led me to reconsider that. I won't give things away here, but I did not predict what our protagonists discovered.
The author's strength's are in creating engaging characters that the reader wants to follow and root for. Trenton is an easily sympathetic fellow, even if he can be less than considerate much of the time. At thirteen, what kid is an angel? His frustration at his skills for mechanical things being stymied when he's assigned to farming is palpable. The fact that his mother doesn't want him working with machines and that at times Trenton doesn't realize how smart his father really is makes his parents seem real--not just cut out stereotypes. The tension between Trenton and his mother is quite possibly one of the things that is most significant in this story. So often parents are one dimensional, but here we see Trenton's mom as someone who has been traumatized, and it's colored her view of the world. She cares about her son, but can't accept his ambitions when they mean he will be at risk.
Kallista is a strong, smart and capable girl who is equally likable despite her temper and distrust. She's lonely, and though she rebuffs Trenton at times, she ultimately realizes she enjoys spending time with him. Both of our protagonists are gifted mechanics who know their way around tools--this is delightful to see, especially for Kallista. My only real complaint in the character area may be that I found the romantic interactions and motivations a little too cliched for my taste. Trenton's looking to impress a girl at the opening of the story. Later on, after he meets Kallista he becomes so involved in their project that he is literally clueless to every hint dropped by the same girl that she likes him. She practically has to hit him over the head to clue him in. Meanwhile, he's becoming wrapped up in feelings for Kallista--creating a love triangle situation that ultimately leads to trouble. Of all the types of relationships, falling back on this one felt out of place in such a fresh and exciting story.
I think this is an excellent steampunk urban fantasy/science fiction tale. It's a marvelous mix of the genres without apology for jumping between them. It's an ideal middle grade read that should appeal to a wide range of readers, and likely introduce them to some genre concepts they haven't encountered before. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment in the Mysteries of Cove series.
Note: An advanced copy was provided by the publisher. ...more
” . . . you must journey. You must experience. Or you must die.”
Most of us know the fairy tale of the girl in the tower with the super long hair. The main stories tell of a girl baby who is stolen from her parents as payment/punishment for her father stealing rampion from the witch’s garden. The witch raises the baby girl in a tower where the girl’s hair grows preposterously long and acts as the mechanism for the witch to come and go from the tower. Then a prince spies the tower, climbs the hair and meets the girl . . . and of course they fall in love. The witch takes her revenge on the pair, but ultimately they find a happy ending.
It’s a story that begs for more to the telling. And many writers and movie makers have sought to do just that. Now debut author Megan Morrison provides us her own take on the Rapunzel tale . . . and a new world of fairy tales in the bargain. In Ms. Morrison’s story, we start right in the thick of things, with Rapunzel confronting an uninvited guest who has come to her tower. This Rapunzel fears the outside world and all the terrible things and people in it who might harm her. Safer and better to stay with her Witch where she is happy and loved and well protected. But then her interloper says he’s not a prince and he tells her things that don’t make sense. That a prince visited and cut her hair. That she is responsible for hurting a fairy. The boy, called Jack, seems to know things that she can’t remember. Despite not being able to remember, Rapunzel follows Jack down out of her tower, certain he means to harm her Witch. But once on the ground, she finds that everything is not as she expected. Rapunzel strikes a bargain to go on a quest in order to protect her Witch from harm. She’s going to leave that tower and journey far across Tyme with Jack as her companion. That journey will be filled with all sorts of new adventures, new discoveries, and new skills. Ultimately Rapunzel will come into her own . . . and make her own decisions about who she will be and how she will act.
Oh the cynic in me was skeptical at first with this story–Rapunzel has never been my favorite fairy tale heroine and despite Disney’s Tangled and Shannon Hale’s graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge, I was skeptical as to whether an entire novel about this long-haired girl who lives in a tower would keep my interest. And there are echoes of Disney’s Tangled at first here–because we see a girl addressing a stranger whose come to her tower, certain that her Witch is good and tries to keep her safe. But get a few pages in and the similarities fall away. This Rapunzel has a lot less knowledge about the world at large and no desire to leave the safety of her tower. It takes an intervention from Jack and a fairy visitor to begin to change that. And I will confess I still wasn’t certain I’d like this Rapunzel very much. She was being pushed and pulled by others in the plot out of her tower and into her quest. But then . . . that’s the essence of Rapunzel at the beginning of the story. She is a pawn rather than an active participant. She hasn’t been given the agency to make choices for herself. This is a coming of age journey of dramatic proportions for Rapunzel. She’ll discover her own bravery and kindness. She’ll discover truths about the world–both good and bad. She’ll encounter the true story of her past, the tragedy of the bargain that led her to be in the tower in the first place. And she’ll discover who her wonderful Witch really is. By the end of this story, Rapunzel is the one taking the actions and making the choices. And what she chooses will likely surprise some readers.
Megan Morrison’s debut novel tackles tried and true fairy tales and reinvents them once again. Her world of Tyme, which her bio says she’s been developing since 2003 is richly detailed, with plenty of world building touches that make it clear how well she knows the land her protagonists are traversing. Despite her attention to the setting and elements of of Tyme, this story is character driven, with Rapunzel crafted as a complex, and very human girl who must struggle with the fact that most of the life she’s known has been a lie. Facing not only this tragedy, but the discovering the strong young woman underneath who can make friends, go on adventures and even regain part of her family, gives us a solid and substantial Rapunzel. One who ultimately makes some startling decisions that impact us precisely because of what Rapunzel has gained in her journey.
That all said, this will likely not be a good starting place for younger readers just getting into longer chapter books. The plotting is involved, the characters complex and the narrative is meaty fare. This is a book that sophisticated younger readers and older tween and teen fans of fantasy will devour happily. (I’ve already several of my hungry readers love this book) Great for fractured fairy tale readers who enjoyed to see these stories fleshed out and sometimes turned inside out. Ms. Morrison has a deft hand for combining the profound with lighter moments of frivolity and humor and it creates a tremendously satisfying ride. I’m also glad to know that this is only the first story we’ll see about the world of Tyme and its inhabitants. The author plans to bring us more stories from this world, and I’ll look forward to seeing them!...more