So, this is a strange little creature of a book. It is marketed as a YA, but I don't know that it is quite written as a YA. Of course, given that it wSo, this is a strange little creature of a book. It is marketed as a YA, but I don't know that it is quite written as a YA. Of course, given that it was written in the 80s originally, when there was no such thing as a YA market, this also makes a little more sense. It seems to dwell somewhere in that nether region between YA and straight up adult fantasy, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. There is one thing that will eternally bug me about YA that is dumbed down for kids, and this is certainly not that. Martin gives us an intelligent and emotional tale of a young girl and her coming of age story as she watches her family and home being torn away from her and she learns the meaning of sacrifice.
Adara, born during one of the harshest freezes that anyone could remember, was as cold and hard as the winter that she was brought into. Her family tried to no avail to get her to melt her cold heart. Her only constant companion was the ice dragon, a rare and terrible creature of power. The only person to ever befriend an ice dragon let alone ride one, Adara looked forward to winter and to every year on her birthday to see the dragon again.
However, when the war in the North finally made its way to her small village and fire-breathing dragons threatened her family and home, Adara's heart finally melts and with the help of the ice dragon, she learns the true meaning of love and sacrifice. While typing this out makes it sound a little on the sentimental side, there really isn't much sentimentality in the telling. Like all of Martin's stories, he is not shy telling about the ravages of war here. There is violence and darkness in this story to be sure, but it is tempered just as equally by the love of Adara and her ice dragon.
The design of the book is beautiful. The illustrations are gorgeous, and the entire book is printed in a blueish tone, giving it a uniquely winter-ish feel. However put this book together did a grand job.
I know there are people out there that are going to be shocked by this story, given at first glance it looks to be a charming tale about a girl and her dragon. It is, but there is so much more to it than that, and really, you should be familiar with Martin's Song Ice and Fire series, and if you are familiar with his writing, you know he can be dark, even when telling a tale such as this, so be warned. This book probably won't be for everyone, but I found it to be a wonderful addition to the Song of Fire and Ice saga....more
Somehow over the years, Roger Zelazny has slipped by me. I've been aware of him as an author, I've just never found occasion to read any of his books.Somehow over the years, Roger Zelazny has slipped by me. I've been aware of him as an author, I've just never found occasion to read any of his books. When I heard that A Night in the Lonesome October was being released, and knowing that a dear friend is a diehard Zelazny fan, I picked up a copy and suggested that she and I read the book, one chapter a night, through the month of October.
Well, I'll tell you what, I had a lot of trouble sticking to my one chapter a night. I loved this book! Seriously, at the end of my nightly chapter, I wanted so desperately to keep reading, but I restrained myself. I found the whole idea, that numerous literary figures from across the horror spectrum have come together to play the Game, fantastic. Told from the point of view of Jack's familiar, a dog named Snuff, we are lead through the month of October as he tracks down clues as to which side of the Game each of the players are on. I loved this bit, as you try to figure out, along with Snuff, who is going to be pitted against who at the end of the Game. It was also fun seeing how so many literary (and in some cases, historical) characters were woven into this book. The entire story becomes a guessing game as you try to figure out who each of the characters are (some are obvious, some not quite so)and what role they'll play in the Game. I'm not saying what the Game is, as that's half the mystery as it is played out in the book.
Some might consider the next bit a little spoilerish.
If I had one quibble about the book, it's the abrupt end. There is so much build up to the finale of the story, that when it arrives, I was left a little shocked. It may just be that I wanted more of the story, but once the Game comes to an end, it is finished. No further explanation as to what happens to the characters, nothing. The story is just done. For me, it was just a little too unexpected, but I guess it works with the way the book is written, as we're only shown this one month of the character's lives.
End of spoilerish bit.
A Night in the Lonesome October is an immensely clever and entertaining book, a perfect addition to any reading that you may be doing leading up to Halloween. I'm fairly sure this will become a favorite of mine each October....more
I was rather excited about this book from the moment I was first told about it. The person telling me about the book generally doesn't like children'sI was rather excited about this book from the moment I was first told about it. The person telling me about the book generally doesn't like children's books, so when she was proving to be excited about it, I thought I should be paying attention to that. And you know what? She was right.
There is so much in this book that I liked. We're immediately introduced to Horace, our hero of the story, who immediately sees a sign that catches his eye, which immediately leads him to his first encounter with a questionable character, which is quickly followed by Horace's discovery of the the House of Answers, which immediately sets Horace on his way to adventure. This all sounds really rushed when I type it out like this, but it works. Sometimes I feel stories are too drawn out to get to the action, and sometimes they are far too rushed, but this one worked perfectly for me to get us into the story. As was mentioned by the person who told me about the book, I had an immediate feel for Harry Potter, but only in the sense that there was a very real, very close world of magic that is going on in the background of this story that the general population knows nothing about, and it's been this way for a very long time. Sanders really does a great job of a quick world building that doesn't feel forced, it just is. However, that's about as far as the HP similarities went. Horace is a really smart kid, and he's very methodical and scientific in his thinking, so when he is presented with what seems to be a magical artifact, he goes about exploring it's properties in a very scientific way, even going so far as to discuss some of his thoughts with his science teacher. Here is another something that I particularly liked about the story; there does actually seem to be some science behind the magic and fiction in the story. It makes the entire story feel really grounded for me.
Horace, Chloe (the other hero of our story), their families, and the other characters in the story also feel very real. They have their flaws, their families aren't perfect, they make mistakes. One of the things that I continually was impressed with is Horace's relationship with his family, especially his mother. One thing that I find frequently frustrating about many YA and middle grade books is the constant necessity for the kids to keep things from the adults in the stories. I assume this must be to show that a certain level of independence in a young person is a good thing, but the other thing to remember is that the kids these books are geared at are young, and don't always know best, and sometimes it's OK, even a good thing, to ask for help from the grownups in their lives. Granted, while Horace doesn't reveal everything that is going on in his life with his parents, they still play an important part in his life and he still relies on their advice. To me, this seems like a refreshing turn of events for a YA or middle grade book. On the flip side of that, with Chloe's family and he strained relationship with her father, I feel this is refreshing in its own way, as it shows kids that don't have the ideal family life or have problems at home that there can still be magic in the world and that relying on your friends can be just as important as relying on your family.
While it seems like The Box and the Dragonfly is a large book (clocking in at 544 pages!), it is paced great and never feels like it is slogging along. I read it in two sittings and was partly saddened that I got through it so quickly. Given the age group that the book is geared towards, however, I think it will move along at a great rate and kids won't feel bored reading it at all, nor will they feel like they've got a huge book to plod through.
If I had any complaint at all about the book, it's Sanders' descriptions of his characters. I never felt at any point in the book that I had a clear idea of what any of the characters looked like. While this works to some of the characters advantages and their very nature, it doesn't work for others. Other than a vague idea that Horace is a bigger kid, I have no idea what he looks like. Is he bigger as in taller, broader, or bulkier? Just telling me he's a big kid doesn't really help me put a clear picture of him together in my head. While reading, I kept having more and more differing views of how the characters look. Maybe it's just me, but I feel a more precise description of some of the characters would have gone a long way.
This one "flaw" aside (and honestly, that's not even that big of a deal), Sanders has created quite the fine world in The Box and the Dragonfly. Not one to read much middle grade anymore, I'm pleased to have read two such strong middle grade debuts this year (the other being J. A. White's The Thickety: A Path Begins). Just like that book, I'll definitely be looking forward to continue reading Horace and Chloe's adventures and will be recommending this book to all my friends with young readers!...more