This book hadn't been written when I was a youngster, so I've never read it. But recently I've heard several people say they think it's a classic from...moreThis book hadn't been written when I was a youngster, so I've never read it. But recently I've heard several people say they think it's a classic from their childhood. So now, as an old man, I've gone back and finally read it.
I guess I thought it was just okay, smooth readable prose but not really exciting and like most children's books I suppose, pretty obvious throughout. I guess I had to of been there.(less)
There's a lot to like about this YA fantasy. The setting is a small kingdom on a relatively tiny island somewhere around an alternate Europe. The cast...moreThere's a lot to like about this YA fantasy. The setting is a small kingdom on a relatively tiny island somewhere around an alternate Europe. The castle, village, farms and island are protected from the greater ills of the outside world by powerful enchantments.
Dana is the young Princess, 14 going on 16, with a magical power of "true dreaming" that lets her observe real events, past, present, (and future?) Will is a orphaned teenage commoner who came to the kingdom from the outside after inheriting the Golden Ticket from his late mother. Naturally, these two are going to meet up when Will is apprenticed to the king's castle. And then they'll be swordplay, magic, danger, excitement, and young love.
The story is a little slow getting started, but on the whole it was an engrossing read. The young heroine and her teenage would-be protector are likable enough characters. And the situation has just enough mystery about the enchantment.
The biggest drawback is that this isn't the whole story, it's really just the prologue to the real adventure. It's a bit like reading "The Fellowship of the Ring" up to the point where they leave Rivendell for Mordor. One presumes a sequel is in the works (the darn well better be.) I suppose this is a complement. If the story wasn't interesting, who'd care what happened next?
There were a couple of places where the storytelling left me scratching my head as to what had just happened. (I re-read chapter 9 several times, but for the life of me can't understand why everyone is acting so bizarrely at the castle gate.)
Just your basic dystopian Japanese-themed steampunk YA supernatural samurai story.
Despite a few flaws, I found it a pretty engrossing read. Uninterest...moreJust your basic dystopian Japanese-themed steampunk YA supernatural samurai story.
Despite a few flaws, I found it a pretty engrossing read. Uninteresting alternate world, more similar to Japanese culture for a change. It mixes some ancient supernatural legends with a more recent steampunk technology. The empire is corrupt led by a ruthless and have-crazy shogun, and a mysterious Guild provides the fuel (Chi) that drives the economy and the war machine. Yukiko is an engaging heroine, and the cast around her complex and flawed. Along with her father, she's dispatched by the Shogun to capture a mythical beast long extinct. Well, it wouldn't be much of a story of it really was extinct, would it?
The unique setting, engaging characters, and fast-moving plot have no trouble overcoming the author's occasionally I'll use of metaphor and introduction of terms that seem anachronistic. (There's also a odd similarity to Dune, with a mysterious Guild controlling a drug, Lotus, and a mantra, "The Lotus must bloom," which is a bit too much like "The Spice must flow.”)
(Classified as YA because the heroine is 16, parents should note that the story involves drug and alcohol abuse, profanity, violence and sex.)(less)
Brandon Sanderson's long-awaited foray into the Young Adult market tells a decent story in an imaginative (though somewhat odd) alternate world.
An al...moreBrandon Sanderson's long-awaited foray into the Young Adult market tells a decent story in an imaginative (though somewhat odd) alternate world.
An alternate Earth where North America is a huge collection of islands, technology is driven by gears and springs, and mathematically-inclined wizards, called Rithmatists, wield power through funny looking chalk diagrams based on geometric figures and line drawings. (I thought the novel was a little slow to explain that these two-dimensional chalk drawings that spring to life can affect the physical world around them; for good part of the beginning, it seemed more like Tex Avery vs Walt Disney, sending Bugs Bunny to battle Mickey Mouse on the blackboard.)
The hero is a teenager, Joel, who was attending a prestigious Academy on a scholarship in appreciation of the efforts of his late father, who used to work there. To his chagrin, though Joel loves Rithamtics, he is not a Rithmatist himself. The story is a who-done-it mystery centering on abductions of Rithamtics students of the Academy, probably by a rogue Rithmatist. Sort of Hardy Boy & Nancy Drew meet Harry Potter.
Once the story gets moving, it moves along pretty well. Sanderson has a reputation for detailed magic systems, and here he's gone hog-wild with dozens of diagrams of magical shapes. He seems notably less interested in the more mundane technological background of spring-driven gears that provide the mechanical power of the world.
Although there is a mystery that's solved by the conclusion of this book, the plot remains open-ended for the sequel to resolve the larger issue.(less)
I found "The Maze Runner" modestly interesting, short book about teenage boys dumped in an unusual situation. Sort of "Lord of the Flies", without the...moreI found "The Maze Runner" modestly interesting, short book about teenage boys dumped in an unusual situation. Sort of "Lord of the Flies", without the flies.
Unfortunately, I found several parts of the storytelling to detract from the overall enjoyment. Aside from the general absurdity and impracticality of the situation, I found it annoying that none of the boys would answer any of the newcomers questions. It turns out there's no actual reason for this put off, beyond the author's desire to prolong the mystery. Beyond that, I found Tom (the newbie) to behave irrationally: generally driven to question and explore for answers, on a couple of occasions when given a chance to learn things, he withdraws and sits in a corner and sucks his thumb instead. Lastly, the ending explains nothing beyond the necessity for purchasing the sequel.(less)
Ends the series with a solid wrap-up that takes the Leviathan and our two young heroes Around the World in Eighty Days. Westerfeld still ahs some plot...moreEnds the series with a solid wrap-up that takes the Leviathan and our two young heroes Around the World in Eighty Days. Westerfeld still ahs some plotting surprises in store, blending some actual history with a heavy brew of imagination, though nothing so fantastical as the clever setting he created and introduced in the first book.(less)
"Sora's Quest" is a sword and sorcery fantasy novel for young adults set in a traditional pseudo-medieval fantasy world. The title character, Sora isn...more"Sora's Quest" is a sword and sorcery fantasy novel for young adults set in a traditional pseudo-medieval fantasy world. The title character, Sora isn't thrilled with the marriage her noble father has arranged for her to a lord she's never met, and she's considering running away from home (thus abandoning her wealth and status.) Before she can act, her father is assassinated and she's kidnapped by one of the perpetrators. Soon, she is traveling with a trio of rough criminals (though there's no sense of peril in that abduction). Thus begins Sora's journey of adventure.
"Sora's Quest" is a well paced action story, generally well written in the traditional fantasy style, and it's paced to never drag. The fantasy world it creates isn't far from the generic, but it offers a few twists on the usual sword & sorcery realm of castles and magical artifacts, mostly in some new races. The tone is a little inconsistent, generally serious but with a light touch, except when it descends into outright farce in the portrayal of the jilted groom as an unbelievably self-centered fop ("Well, the bride's been kidnapped and her father murdered, but there's no sense wasting the reception banquet, is there? Let's party!) Fortunately, he isn't around for long.
The story is woefully short on motive and reasons, though. I found it hard to accept Sora's total indifference to the murder of her father, an apparently decent man who raised her in luxury after her mother abandoned her, and who has no obvious vices beyond apparently not being loving enough and arranging her unwanted marriage. Yet, Sora doesn't shed a tear or even pause for long. It's never explained why he's murdered, and through all her travels with the assassin, Sora never even asks. It's not really clear why she's kidnapped in the first place, or why the criminals keep her around before they find out she bears a magical Catseye (an enchanted legacy apparently from her unknown mother. Once they know she wields its magic, they find her very useful.)
Nor do we know where these three men are going or why they insist on taking such a dangerous route through a cursed swamp (what would they have done if they hadn't accidentally met someone with a Catseye to protect them from the curse? If it's a shortcut, why do they dawdle for over a month after crossing it?)
By the halfway point of the novel, the journey becomes more one of survival than destination, which masks the total lack of purpose behind any of these events. But, when the dust clears at the denouement, that hollowness remains.
As an elderly male, I'm certainly not the target audience for this, which seems aimed at teenage girls. As I said, the book is well-written and evenly paced. Presumably that target audience would find the adventure and promise of romance (small as it is) far more compelling than I.(less)
It's back to the world of the Uglies trilogy (Uglies/Pretties/Specials), but this time in a different (Japanese) city about three years after the even...moreIt's back to the world of the Uglies trilogy (Uglies/Pretties/Specials), but this time in a different (Japanese) city about three years after the events of the original trilogy, and starring the fifteen-year-old Aya. The Operation is gone, though cosmetic surgery and genetic health improvements are still part of this futuristic world. In this new city, fame is everything, and people constantly watch their "face rank", sort of like checking how many Twitter followers and Facebook friends you have. Aya wants to be a famous "kicker", a sort of newsy/blogger of the new age; in fact, her "hovercam" maybe her best friend. But the story she chases leads her to an even bigger, danger-making story. (Despite the shift in setting & characters, you will want to read the original trilogy before opening this book.)
This adventure story of fame-seeking moves on nicely, and author Westerfeld manages to drop in a few trenchant observations along the way.(less)
A fast-moving YA tale of adventure, well-written. The dystopia in which it set seems highly improbable (a society divided into five strict philosophic...moreA fast-moving YA tale of adventure, well-written. The dystopia in which it set seems highly improbable (a society divided into five strict philosophical factions, with no room for shades of gray in between.) But given that premise, Roth definitely makes the most of it.(less)
The sequel to the Uglies is, if anything, just a little more bubbly than its predecessor, layering a few shades of gray into the story. Once again, th...moreThe sequel to the Uglies is, if anything, just a little more bubbly than its predecessor, layering a few shades of gray into the story. Once again, the cliffhanger ending is tense-making. (less)