Based on true events, which are then beautifully and thoughtfully embellished, this book is a delight for young adult readers and their parents. JoannBased on true events, which are then beautifully and thoughtfully embellished, this book is a delight for young adult readers and their parents. Joanne Williamson is an expert at writing historical fiction that really appeals to youth. Her books bring the characters to life, and raise wonderful questions about right and wrong, justice and truth, without being either heavy handed or too simplistic.
Young Taharka is one of dozens of children of the Kushite Pharaoh, but when he is chosen to succeed his father, he finds the job more like a prison. And his older half brother Shabataka is certainly not happy to be set aside as The God King when he fully expected to be chosen as the next Pharaoh. But there are many problems facing the young God King: and the worst of them is the invading army of Assyrians. When he must escape in the middle of the night from those who would kill him, Taharka's life changes forever. Now on the run, he begins to see the rest of the world. And he must decide, what kind of leader should a man be?
Many things appeal to me in this novel. The author has taken small historical clues and from them tweaked out well-rounded characters and exciting events that are reasonable, if not provable. A strong female character, Shepnuset, with enough fire and spunk to defy the rules laid down for he, is another reason to love this novel. Taharka is both likeable and yet not perfect. This makes him an accessible hero, and one that boys and girls can all connect with. The various religions of the different peoples are all treated with respect. This is not a heavy handed treatise on Christianity at ALL.
But for me, the thing I like best is the way it plants the idea that evil is evil, no matter who is committing it: a stranger, an enemy, or even your own brother. Evil is evil, and if you choose to serve evil, you become evil.
Recommended for strong readers in grade five (about age 9 or 10) all the way up to adults. One scene of city destruction is pretty graphically described. There is no cussing or sex.
I greatly enjoyed the first novel in this trilogy and approached the second one with some trepidation, as sequels are often not nearly as compelling.I greatly enjoyed the first novel in this trilogy and approached the second one with some trepidation, as sequels are often not nearly as compelling. But this one was a pleasure, and quite intriguing. This is more Seth's story than Mirany's, though she is still around and still active, I would say he is the focus of this sequel.
The Archon has brought rain, and is installed as the god, but the rivers are still not flowing and the threat of drought remains, suffocating the land. In addition, Hermia retains her position as Speaker, even though she knows --and even admits -- that she is NOT hearing the God speak, and greedy powerful Argelin is still in control of the army. Mirany, in addition, is in constant danger of being poisoned and has to have a food taster. (She feels terrible about putting someone in danger this way.)
The only way to restore the rivers is to return to the Well of Songs and put back into place the three stolen apples (stars) that the Archon Rasselon took many years ago. This mythology is brought to life when Seth is offered a "mysterious stone" by a trader: a stone with such gleaming light that he is compelled to buy it. This is, of course, the first of the three stars, but no one knows it yet. He is also offered a terrible choice, and is manipulated by his love for his family into agreeing to do something he does not want to do. The tension of this agreement he carries to the very end of the book.
A quest is therefore undertaken, by the Archon, Seth, Obleck (who longs for his musical inspiration to return and believes that the Well of Songs will give him that) and, oddly, the Jackal and his sidekick the Fox. At this point, the book becomes a parallel tale: we bounce back and forth between the men on quest, and the women of the Nine. The parallels are loose at fist but as the book progresses they become more tightly connected. I loved the skill with which the author made this happen: the connections between the two groups, who are miles apart and unable to communicate, are nonetheless getting stronger and their situations begin to mirror one another's situations in striking ways.
The dessert has its own danger. Thirst of course, and bandits: then the mysterious animals, giant lines in the sand which the Archon diligently paces and honors. Then the bird people, who freaked me out a bit. Then the mountains themselves, so difficult to climb. Then the Well of Songs, where you must face..... well, I don't want to spoil it, but that particular scene was beautifully done.
We learn a LOT more about the side characters in this sequel, especially Hermia, Rhetia, Argelin, and The Jackal. I felt the book rounded out these characters and gave us some insight... and some sympathy... about why they act the way they do.
Eager to start story #3. Recommended for all readers. No sex, moderate but not graphic violence, lots of adventure and intrigue, and still those lovely fleeting diary entries at the start of each section.
I picked this novel up because of the author, Catherine Fisher. This series preceded her popular Incarceron/ Sapphique series by a couple of years, buI picked this novel up because of the author, Catherine Fisher. This series preceded her popular Incarceron/ Sapphique series by a couple of years, but I had never heard of it at all. IMHO it is FAR superior material. I was delighted with the intensity of the plot, with its many threads, the development and growth of the characters, the ordinariness of our motley crew of heroes, and the writing itself. (I swear her descriptions of the drought made me thirsty.)
Mirany is a shy and somewhat awkward girl from a distant place called Myros, who's been lucky enough to be selected as one of The Nine, priestesses for the house of the god. She's rightly terrified of her new position; it basically involves carrying gigantic heavy brass bowls around, which hold venomous snakes and scuttling scorpions. Most girls last under 6 months at this work.
The land is suffering from a terrible drought, and so the current incarnation of their god, The Archon, sacrifices himself, with Mirany attending, to bring rain to the people. But before he dies, he leaves her with a terrible warning. And in obeying his directives, everything changes for Mirany. Her great and terrible secret is that she actually does not believe in the god. At least, she doesn't.... until he actually speaks to her, a voice in her head. She saw the man die: but now he is talking to her. Driven by this new understanding -- that in fact the god is real, and waiting to be reborn into a new soul-- and that tragedy has been set into motion, she must find within herself the courage to do the risky things that will right the wrongs.
Along the way she meets Seth, a scribe and would-be tomb robber willing to put himself in a dangerous situation if it means clean fresh water for his father and little sister, who has been ill. We see some of the events of the book through his eyes, and cannot help but sympathize with him. We also meet Obleck, an old and rough musician whose recklessness and otherworldly attachment to The Archon makes him a bit of a loose cannon. Then there's Alexos, a scrawny child hand-picked by the god to be the next incarnation of The Archon. If, that is, they can get his village to let him go without being slaughtered on the way. Which seems unlikely.
The setting is never completely explained but is richly redolent of ancient Egypt, complete with labyrinthine tombs, a death fixation, and slightly creepy rituals, including days-long embalmings, sacred black cats....and scorpions galore. As a History teacher I especially appreciated the depth of detail in the various settings, from the opium den to the scribes room to the palace itself. The opening of each chapter is a little diary entry, poetic and mystical... at first you do not understand who is speaking, or why, but it becomes increasingly clear.
Excellent read for middle and high school grades, from ages 11 to, well, over 50. No sexual content, no "evil paraded as good", far less violence than in many YA novels. If a child is studying ancient Egypt this would make an excellent novel to read at the same time, but even if you know nothing about that time and place, you will be caught up in the drama and intrigue of this richly layered story.
This book is so far superior to Incarceron in both plotting and character development that I can hardly believe they came from the same author. ...more
Bored. I was bored. Which is the worst thing a voracious reader can say about a novel, I guess. 300 pages of "Oh my gosh why are all these young teenaBored. I was bored. Which is the worst thing a voracious reader can say about a novel, I guess. 300 pages of "Oh my gosh why are all these young teenaged boys trapped in this giant maze?" And then 25 pages of massive reveal, capped with a mass hanging. Seriously I had to force myself to read this to the end. It was tedious. And I felt manipulated.
Why are these boys living in a maze? Who built it, and why? How can they get out? They spend 90% of the book fretting over those questions with literally NO advancement towards an answer. While being attacked by gigantic bulbous poisonous robot thingies called Grievers, which are clearly mechanical. The main character roams around feeling alternatively baffled, inexplicably eager to be a Runner, and furiously angry. The author TELLS us how he feels rather than showing us, which violates every rule of good writing I have ever seen.
The handful of "clues" that are given in the first 95% of the book could not possibly lead ANY reader to the conclusion that this author gives us. Clues like "Wicked is good"... the metal panels in the walls of the Maze...the hole where the Greivers fall through.... meaningless. Unconnectable. Then there are the supporting characters, who are all flat, two dimensional people, who come and go without any grief or sorrow. (And in one case, go, then come back, then go, then come back again, then go....) Honestly when his sidekick dies, I felt nothing. Nothing at all.
Basically it was a billion pages of angst. Then a trick ending.
I'm told there are partial answers as to why the world is like this in the other books. But I will never know because no way in hell I am wasting anymore of my life on this. ...more
Wildly popular with middle schoolers, I as an adult found this book a bit... dull. Adventure adventure adventure, action action action.... fun, fluffyWildly popular with middle schoolers, I as an adult found this book a bit... dull. Adventure adventure adventure, action action action.... fun, fluffy, light reading. Who at age 13 wouldn't want to discover they are half god or goddess? ...more
Powerful and thought provoking book about prejudice. I found it disconcerting -- in the best possible way. "Crosses" rule the country and are the onlyPowerful and thought provoking book about prejudice. I found it disconcerting -- in the best possible way. "Crosses" rule the country and are the only ones holding jobs in government and other higher-up careers, both economically and status-wise. A few "Naughts" have gotten educated, but at great personal cost and with little to show for it. For the first third or so of the book, it is unclear to the reader what exactly separates the naughts from the crosses.....and when you discover it, you will be startled and hopefully uncomfortable.
Not appropriate for younger students as there is considerable adult drunkenness, some very nasty racially motivated bullying, a handful of kidnappings and beatings, one instance of premarital sex and an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. But a powerful read for older students or those concerned with social justice issues.