"The Luck Uglies", is a fantasy for the child in all of us. Paul Durham's fantastical world has a great young female character, nasty villains, monste"The Luck Uglies", is a fantasy for the child in all of us. Paul Durham's fantastical world has a great young female character, nasty villains, monsters, a little magic, an evil Earl and plenty of secrets and mysteries to discover. It's a perfectly splendid fantasy read.
My daughter, who is not even a fantasy fan, loved this book. Most of the characters are not mere stick figures, but fleshed out people. Durham also pulls the reader along as his young character must unravel the mystery of her heritage and defeat a great evil. This is an adventure tale for middle school readers.
When we first meet Rye O' Chanter, the young heroic female main character, she and her friends have are on the run on the rooftops of the Village of Drowning because they have stolen a special book, which tells the secret story of Drowning. Durham uses the tales in this book to fill in the back story of the novel. Its a good technique. Rye lives with her mother, sister and cat and a bunch of rules. One of which is never to let the cat our of the house -- maybe there is more to the cat than meets the eye.
It is a time of trouble in the village. The evil Earl and his soldiers are flexing their muscle. The soldiers are threatening Rye's mother with special taxes. Then a young Bog Noblin, thought extinct, is captured and imprisoned by the Earl, who thinks he can keep the monster imprisoned. However this Bog Noblin is a mere baby. When the Bog Noblin's relatives come calling, the Earl and his troops will be faced with monsters twice as big and much more ferocious. The townfolk are afraid.
When Rye was a young girl, the Bog Noblin attacked Drowning, but the Luck Uglies, a criminal gang fought them off in alliance with the Earl. But the Earl turned on the Luck Uglies and forced them into hiding.
Now the peril to the town is dire and one of the Luck Uglies, a man Rye has befriended is in the castle dungeon. Rye must free him, open a secret door to the forest and use her wits and friends to save the town.
Who knew that trolls could be so entertaining. Rob Harrell's funny coming of age troll story is a bright engaging tale of a boy troll in middle schoolWho knew that trolls could be so entertaining. Rob Harrell's funny coming of age troll story is a bright engaging tale of a boy troll in middle school who has to learn to harness his "troll blood". I had a smile stuck on my face for most of this fairy tale like farce, and my son, who is 11 loved it too. I dare say that any middle grade boy will find it funny. It's set in an alternative universe fairy tale world, where Goldilocks is the lunch lady and kids and monsters go to school together. Harrell's background in comics is also front and center because each page has a little drawing that adds to the humor. We got an advanced reader copy of this novel from the publisher.
Zarf is like any other kid in middle school, knocked around by the football kids, who here are real ogres, just trying to get through algebra. He hangs out with Kevin Littlepig, who is the scion of the pigs who lived in brick houses (and survived the wolf), and has yet to overcome his anxiety of just about everything. Another pal, who frequently joins Zarf and Kevin in their tree-house would be Chester, soon to be Chester the Jester. While Zarf is on the bottom of the social chart, Chester's jokes all fall flat. Chester is a big fan of the Knoble Knight, and like any little kid, has underwear with his hero on them.
Zarf's biggest nemesis is Prince Roquefort, the sole heir to the throne, who also goes to school. Roquefort, the meanest of the mean, is followed around with two huge ogre bodyguards, but it's mouth that is his biggest weapon. He does not like trolls and the feeling is mutual. Zarf gets in some trouble with him in school when his "troll blood" takes over and he beats on Roquefort. So the boys have to meet outside school to joust on giant frogs with nerf lances. Naturally, Roquefort cheats.
But the real trouble happens when the good King Cheznott, who had enacted laws banning discrimination against trolls, is captured by the dangerous Weasels, monsters that have been terrorizing the town, and Roquefort is made King. His first act is to go after trolls in general and Zarf in particular, who is immediately imprisoned in the creepy dungeon.
Zarf escapes the dungeon with help from Goldilocks, and Kevin and Chester and the Knoble Knight, who was imprisoned there and goes on a quest to find and try to rescue the King. The story flags a little during the quest, but is rescued more than once by Harrell's puns, jokes and just plain funny writing and scenes.
Of course, Roquefort also is trying to rescue the King so Zarf and Roquefort spend some time together. Its tough to be a troll.
Can Zarf learn to use his natural "troll blood" and rescue the King and for once be the hero of the middle school novel. What do you think.
It's all fun. A perfect book for back to school. ...more
After the huge success of Harry Potter, there has been a veritable explosion of fantasy novels aimed at the youth market. But like Harry Potter, someAfter the huge success of Harry Potter, there has been a veritable explosion of fantasy novels aimed at the youth market. But like Harry Potter, some of these books have crossover appeal to teens and even adults.
A case in point is John Stephens enjoyable series "The Books of Beginning", which had its start in April 2011 with the publication of the first book in the series "The Emerald Atlas". In Stephens capable hands, this fantasy comes alive and shines. If you have not had a chance to read it, or your kids are looking for something different than the upteen sequel in the Rick Riordan's series, then you should definitely try these books.
The Emerald Atlas, in which we are introduced to Kate, Michael and Emma, three orphan children, who had been shifted time and time again to worst and worst orphanages, were children of destiny, who were bound to find the Books of Beginning. In that first book, ably summarized by the author herein, the three children met Stanislau Pym, a wizard, discovered the first of the books of beginning --an old green book that had the power to move people back in time or stop it on a dime, and Kate learned how to use it. The children fought evil monsters and a witch, met dwarves and were all heroes.
As we start The Fire Chronicle, the children are once again hiding out at another terrible orphanage in Maryland, when they come under attack from some monsters. Kate uses the Atlas and is transported back in time, while Michael and Emma meet Pym again and try to follow the clues to find the second Book of Beginning.
Stephens moves back and forth between Kate's story in the past (around the time of Separation when the magical creatures and magical humans of the world wove a great spell so that non magical mundanes of the world could not see them anymore) and Michael and Emma's search for the Fire Chronicle.
Michael, who is plagued by doubts about his worthiness must somehow overcome his fears and become the Keeper of the Book, but even before that, he, Emma, Pym and Gabriel, are attacked and have close calls aplenty while searching for the Book, must fight off Rourke, the evil henchman of the main villian in the books, the Dire Magnus, meet some elves, find a dragon guarding a treasure, and an elven princess.
Meanwhile in the past, Kate is thrown in with some magical orphan thieves and meets Rafe, a boy of destiny.
Stephens reveals more about the history of the world, the Dire Magnus's origins and just when you think the story is going to have a happy sort of ending, leaves you with a nice little cliffhanger.
Its all great fantasy for youths, and this adult as well.
The characters are deeper than you expect, with real fears and emotions. The plot is twisty, and even for a quest novel, there are plenty of surprises and action.