The Speaker is corrupt, the Oracle has been betrayed...and I need to get my hands on the sequel. Slightly reminiscent of Megan Whalen Turner's The Thi...moreThe Speaker is corrupt, the Oracle has been betrayed...and I need to get my hands on the sequel. Slightly reminiscent of Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief in terms of alternate mythology, gods who speak to the characters, and intrigue. Hard to put down, and it will make you grateful for every drop of water you have access to.(less)
Just as engrossing as The Oracle Betrayed. I particularly like the way solving one problem doesn't magically fix everything for the characters - they...moreJust as engrossing as The Oracle Betrayed. I particularly like the way solving one problem doesn't magically fix everything for the characters - they struggle along with their character flaws and their adversaries, doing the best they can. Another twist at the end has me (again) looking forward to the next one. So far a solid series.(less)
For a inimitable narrator and mind-boggling vocabulary, you can't beat Bartimaeus. The point of view alternates between Nathaniel, a young magician's...moreFor a inimitable narrator and mind-boggling vocabulary, you can't beat Bartimaeus. The point of view alternates between Nathaniel, a young magician's apprentice, and Bartimaeus, the djinni he has summoned. There are plenty of adventures and battles of intellect and strength between magicians and the entities they summon, a fantastic dry humor in Bartimaeus' tone, and a delightful relationship between apprentice and captive djinni. I'm looking forward to the sequel - which I'm getting on audio, the better to appreciate the fabulous tone and language. Plenty of violence, but none graphic, so I think this would be appropriate for any reader who can take on the vocabulary (I had to look up a few things myself).(less)
An all-around fun, slightly rambling adventure through the mythology, folklore, society and religion of Dark Ages England. The ending felt rushed, esp...moreAn all-around fun, slightly rambling adventure through the mythology, folklore, society and religion of Dark Ages England. The ending felt rushed, especially after the time spent on the journey, and there were a few loose ends left annoyingly untied, but I whole-heartedly recommend to fans of the first in the series, The Sea of Trolls. The ending was open enough to leave room for a third, but apart from a lack of back-story, particularly regarding Lucy's personality and Thorgil's role, this one could stand alone. While there wasn't a single line I loved quite as much as Trolls' "Just say no to pillaging," I did relish reading aloud any mention of the Bugaboo and his Nemesis. Bugaboo! I also love Farmer's combination of history, folklore and mythology, not to mention the sizable bibliography. (less)
A satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Not all of my questions were answered, but enough to keep me happy. The stories are fairly complex, and althou...moreA satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Not all of my questions were answered, but enough to keep me happy. The stories are fairly complex, and although they follow the standard 'must set out on a quest' set-up, the quests are never straightforward. Characters are deliciously complex, growing and changing throughout the series. The series draws on Greek mythology and ancient Egyptian society, but deviates enough to feel original. Religion is an integral part of the characters' lives, particularly for those who hear the voice of the god.
I had a few minor quibbles with the story, maybe more related to my lack of attention than to the book. At times it can feel very chaotic, quickly alternating between several limited 3rd-person points of view. Since the characters themselves are in chaos, it feels appropriate though occasionally confusing.
The complexity of the stories suits them to the YA audience, or to sophisticated younger readers. There is violence and bloodshed, although several characters participate reluctantly and the focus of the story lies elsewhere. (less)
I'm torn about this one. On one hand, the characters have depth, the tone is smart and irreverent, and it does fun things with Greek mythology. It's l...moreI'm torn about this one. On one hand, the characters have depth, the tone is smart and irreverent, and it does fun things with Greek mythology. It's like a cousin to the Percy Jackson books - related but definitely different. On the other hand, the pacing felt uneven. Some chapters had me hooked, while others dragged. The introduction to Hades was snappy and had me itching to read it aloud, but the action scenes felt curiously...dull. I'm not a huge fan of reading (or watching) action scenes, so this could be part of it. The character of Mr. Metos felt underwritten, and frankly not even necessary to the story; I assume that we will learn more in later installments. Whether or not I'll be along for the ride...I'm not sure yet. Even for part of a series, this felt a little too unresolved (but not in a cliff-hanger "get me the next book RIGHT NOW" kind of way). (less)
While the parallel stories are compelling, the world is fascinating, and the characters complex, I just didn't click with either of the main character...moreWhile the parallel stories are compelling, the world is fascinating, and the characters complex, I just didn't click with either of the main characters, and that took the story down a notch for me. Still, it's a strong book with a cliff-hanger of an ending and lots of unresolved bits and pieces that will definitely have me picking up the next installment. Although fantasy, the fantastic elements are almost beside the point, with the learning of magic centered more around almost-forgotten rhymes and songs and the ability to think clearly and creatively. The world of the academy is particularly vivid and gritty. I think this would appeal to young adults who enjoy fantasy that's more about the mind than action sequences; once you get into the story, the pace is fairly quick. Some language and violence.(less)
It had been a few years since I originally read this, so I went at it with something of a fresh perspective, but knowing more or less how things would...moreIt had been a few years since I originally read this, so I went at it with something of a fresh perspective, but knowing more or less how things would turn out (I have a terrible memory for plot). I know some people object to Pullman's books because they think he's trying to push an atheist agenda; the experience of reading them, though, only makes me spend more time considering issues of spirituality and religion and the nature of the soul - how can that be a bad thing? Like the first time I read it, I was a little put off by Pullman's assessment of original sin, but how much better to read a thought-provoking book that you disagree with than to never have your beliefs challenged? The story is fairly mature in a lot of ways, although the main character is a child, and I would like to think that any child old enough to read and enjoy this book would be capable of differentiating between her own beliefs and what the book presents. Is IS fantasy, after all.
The audio version is excellent - the first time I've listened to a full-cast audio - with the exception of a tinny echo in some scenes, as though they were all recording in big room. Not bad enough to be really distracting, but odd. Overall it's entertaining and the narration and character voices mixed seamlessly to tell the story. (less)
While there were some great things going on here, and an interesting blend of Victorian life and fantasy, the whole concept of 'the realms' didn't rea...moreWhile there were some great things going on here, and an interesting blend of Victorian life and fantasy, the whole concept of 'the realms' didn't really do anything for me. And since it's a good chunk of the plot, parts of the book ended up falling a little flat. It also walked a fine line with a few stereotypes (and I knew what would happen as soon as Gemma said "I hate you" to her mother) but all in all it was a fun read and I think I'll pick up the sequel. I can definitely see it appealing to teen girls.(less)
I felt much the same way about it as I did about A Great and Terrible Beauty - the characters are interesting, as is the contrast between Victorian so...moreI felt much the same way about it as I did about A Great and Terrible Beauty - the characters are interesting, as is the contrast between Victorian society/finishing school and the fantastical 'realms,' and (maybe I just noticed it more in this book) Gemma has some good snappy comments in her narrative. But - I just don't care about what happens in the realms. I'm more interested in how the characters work out their friendships and manage to live out their everyday lives.
It's a quick read (especially if you're half-skimming through the realms) and fun, and I'm looking forward to seeing Libba Bray along with Shannon Hale at Powell's this Saturday. With, I assume from other reviews, plenty of squealing fan-girls. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I'll just be doing my squealing for Shannon Hale.(less)
A fantastic audio version - even with constantly shifting perspectives, I was always able to keep track of who was talking, plus the voices were just...moreA fantastic audio version - even with constantly shifting perspectives, I was always able to keep track of who was talking, plus the voices were just a delight to listen to. Bartimaeus continues to be his usual delightfully tongue-in-cheek self, Nathaniel turns into a stuck-up prig of a magician (the main character that you love to hate, but still hope he'll turn around), and Kitty was a great addition to the story. You see a lot more of the struggle between commoners and magicians, a sense of history, class differences, corruption, etc. Which makes it all sound very serious, but it's full of laughs and features perhaps the most entertaining walking skeleton to grace children's literature. I enjoyed this even more than the first book in the trilogy, The Amulet of Samarkand, and I look forward to getting my hands on the third.
Middle school and up - it's a thick book with an amazing vocabulary, so good for those readers who like a little challenge.(less)
If I finish a book and then am vaguely dissatisfied with my other reading options, that's when I know I finished something good. This was definitely t...moreIf I finish a book and then am vaguely dissatisfied with my other reading options, that's when I know I finished something good. This was definitely the case with Dreamquake, my little experiment in reading the sequel before the first book. Since it won a Printz Honor, and should thus be able to stand alone, I wanted to find out for myself. Would I still enjoy it without the backstory? Would the characters and world still be engaging? Would it feel incomplete?
It does feel complete. While the beginning was a little confusing, figuring out who is related to who, how old they all are, the parameters of the semi-historical, semi-fantastical world they inhabit - it was no more so than any good, demanding book that throws you into the action and lets you figure things out as you go along. This quality, plus the tone, tight plotting, reticent characters, sense of place, and the historical/fantastical combo, all reminded me of Megan Whalen Turner's books. So if you liked those aspects of her books - particularly The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia - then I definitely recommend this.
The ending was incredibly satisfying, and has been on my mind ever since I finished it. Things are wrapped up, but not too tidily. Now I get to go back and read Dreamhunter and find out if any of my guesses about it are correct - I avoided reading any plot summaries or reviews in the interests of a fair and balanced experiment. Overall, a success. Good for a somewhat patient reader looking for a story with good characters, an intriguing premise, and plenty of maps to consult. (less)
While I enjoyed this trilogy-in-one-volume, it didn't come near the Oracle series in intensity, plot, or character development. Also, each installment...moreWhile I enjoyed this trilogy-in-one-volume, it didn't come near the Oracle series in intensity, plot, or character development. Also, each installment in the story stood alone, but none had a truly compelling narrative arc. But the setting and culture were fascinating, and I would recommend it to anyone who liked the feel of Nancy Farmer's Sea of Trolls or Edith Pattou's East. Not quite on par with those, it will still an interesting story. Also, once I realized that the beginning of chapter quotes were from Beowulf and Norse poetry (there's a note at the very end), they suddenly made much more sense - that note really should've been at the beginning of the book.(less)