The blurb reads: "In Slog's Dad Almond and McKean have collaborated to create a graphic novel that will astonish..." In some regards, this may be true...moreThe blurb reads: "In Slog's Dad Almond and McKean have collaborated to create a graphic novel that will astonish..." In some regards, this may be true. Dave McKean's artwork is truly magnificent and I found myself admiring his handiwork throughout the story. However, I was not at all astonished by David Almond's story, other than wondering how it got to be runner-up in the 2007 National Short Story Prize.
Basically, it is about a boy whose father dies a horrible death, where his legs are amputated due to what the reader can infer is cancer from smoking, only to then come back and see his son, before disappearing forever.
I guess, after reading Almond's novel Skellig, I expected something more. At least the artwork was worth the look, because the story definitely wasn't something I enjoyed.(less)
So Hal and the boys of the Heron Brotherband have set off after the pirate Zavac and his crew onboard the Raven to return the sacred Skandian relic, T...moreSo Hal and the boys of the Heron Brotherband have set off after the pirate Zavac and his crew onboard the Raven to return the sacred Skandian relic, The Andomal.
I like the way this book was broken up into sections, where Flanagan attempts to develop the characters a little more; although I must say that the main character that seems to develop in this book is that of Thorn, the former three-time Maktig (he's the only person to ever make it three-times as the Skandian's most fearsome/skilled warrior).
Hal, the leader of the Herons, doesn't really develop any more, with the same running "joke" that seems to happen throughout all the books becoming a little annoying - that is, Hal always needing to check the finer details of his plans. However, Hal manages to invent a large crossbow, called The Mangler, and sets it on his ship, as well as making a couple of new 'limbs' for Thorn's missing hand; one is an all purpose hook, the other a club to use in battle.
The first section of the book was pretty much about the boys training. It made the boys see Thorn in a different light, as most them were only aware that he was a town drunk, with very few actually knowing that he was a former Maktig. I liked the way Flanagan explained the training exercises and the way he showed the giant, blind boy, Ingvar's persistence to learn the new skills, by training by himself at night, even though it was more difficult for him.
The second section moves on when the Herons find Lydia, a Limmatian girl, floating around at sea in a small boat. It is here that the boys learn about the Raven having attacked Limmat in a hope to collect a healthy deposit of emeralds from the town's secret emerald mine. It also had the Skandians from the wolfship, Wolfwind, catch up with the Heron, in a bid to assist them in finding Zavac and retrieving The Andomal.
What I couldn't really comprehend was how Hal had managed to come up with a great plan to overcome the pirates who lay siege to the town, with minimal help from the Limmatian or Skandian warriors. How could a boy who had never been at war have such a grasp on war tactics? I thought that with presence of warriors such as Thorn and Svengal, along with the Limmatian partisans, there would be a lot more input into the plans than a bright kid who has never been in a real battle (at sea or on land) and doesn't really know the landscape that well.
However, overlooking that, the third part is the battle for Limmat, which runs somewhat smoothly, although the Heron crew do sustain casualties. I like that Flanagan did not overlook the emotions that the boys, especially Hal, would have felt after seeing one of their crew go down. I think Thorn's casualties of war speech helped show Hal that he was not just a little boy playing war games now, he was in the big leagues.
Another wonderful book overall. I think this book really makes you want the Heron Brotherband to finally catch up with Zavac and deal out whatever punishment they deem necessary. I look forward to concluding this trilogy in The Hunters.(less)
The first of the Ranger's Apprentice books, The Ruins of Gorlan introduces readers to 15-year-old Will and his fellow wards from Castle Redmont. From...moreThe first of the Ranger's Apprentice books, The Ruins of Gorlan introduces readers to 15-year-old Will and his fellow wards from Castle Redmont. From the very beginning John Flanagan paints his new world and develops a likeable protagonist, who has a balance of strengths and weaknesses that allows the reader to sympathise with him. I rarely like books that make their characters either filled with weaknesses, where they become whiney and annoying because nothing is working the way they want, or too strong, where they are meant to be 'apprentices' but end up saving the world, while other more experienced characters have been trying to save the world but can't.
Flanagan set Will up as a boy with no real ties to anyone and a mysterious past. He clings on the belief that his father was a great fighter and sets his sights on becoming a knight, but due to his stature and physique he is unable to join the battle school. He is unhappy about not being chosen and falls into the secretive Ranger Corps under the tutelage of the surly, highly-decorated Ranger called Halt. The way the relationship between Halt and Will develops, becomes almost like a father/son relationship, where Halt teaches Will all about becoming a Ranger and Will teaches Halt how to relax and laugh.
Following the story, it was good to see that Will didn't develop into a highly skilled ranger too quickly, which made the story more believable. The fact that the reader was introduced to two formidable monsters stalking certain targets which came across as almost unbeatable, I was worried that Flanagan would have the creatures defeating Halt and some of the more experienced knights, before having Will defeat them. However the story unfolded well and even though Will did eventually become the hero in the end.
There is an additional sub-plot that has one of Will's enemies from his days as a ward of Castle Redmont being taken in by the Battle School. Horace, introduced as an arrogant strongman, is being bullied by some older boys in the Battle School. Through this minor storyline we see how Horace transforms from what could almost be described as a 'bully' himself into a victim, only to pull himself out of this scenario with the help of Will and Halt.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to seeing how the characters develop throughout the series.(less)
When I picked up the book and read a few pages I really began liking the character of the Raven; grumpy, but sophisticated, worldly, but also quite na...moreWhen I picked up the book and read a few pages I really began liking the character of the Raven; grumpy, but sophisticated, worldly, but also quite naive. The first few chapters introduced the Raven and the churchyard he calls home, which then had me wondering "How is a story going to unfold with a raven as a protagonist?" But unfold it did, into a wonderful little tale about a little raven that is in the process of finding himself while doing his best to avoid those that annoy him.
We're introduced to some quirky characters, like the Pigeon who has such a vast vocabulary, but doesn't seem to understand much that he says, the Scarecrow who is just looking for 'devotions', and to give 'devotions' in return, several ghosts that haunt the churchyard and the Weather-Hen who seems to have her painted eye on the Raven and his treasure.
The only thing that made me question the storyline was the actions of the Raven's stoic and trusted friend, Father Cadman. The Raven has trusted Father Cadman with his biggest secret and has been allowed to sing with Father Cadman after mass every Sunday for some time, which has helped their friendship grow. The Father even states "What a wonder this is! My own God, speaking to me through the mouth of one of his creatures." As far as the reader knows, the Raven has never done wrong by the priest, but as we move through the book, we find the priest turning on the Raven after one single accusation. This transgression has Father Cadman banishing the Raven from the church, which made me wonder about how the priest's mind works. If he really did believe it was his God talking to him, why would he doubt the Raven so quickly?
However, apart from that, I found this book a great read that had me wanting to read just a little more, every time I should have been going to bed or doing something else. Samantha-Ellen Bound has woven a delightful story that I will be recommending to my Grade 3-6 students at school.(less)
They say "Never Judge A Book By It's Cover", but I must confess that when I picked this book up from my local bookstore, that's exactly what I did......moreThey say "Never Judge A Book By It's Cover", but I must confess that when I picked this book up from my local bookstore, that's exactly what I did... well, after reading the blurb. I have never read any of the Ranger's Apprentice titles written by John Flanagan, so I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself in for - however I enjoy reading Fantasy fiction, especially swords and sorcery, so I figured with some Vikings on the cover it was probably going to be somewhat enjoyable.
Upon reading the first few chapters, I was hooked. The story of Hal Mikkelson; a fatherless outcast and 'weirdo' in the eyes of many of the Skandian people, is trying his best to make a life for himself with his mother in the village of Hallasholm. Here is a true underdog character with amazing inventive talents that many from the village look past because of his Araluen heritage.
Hal is joined by the fiery, Stig, the short-sighted man-mountain, Ingvar, the joker, Stefan, the theif, Jesper, the bookish, Edvin and the annoying twins, Ulf and Wulf, to form the Heron Brotherband. Flanagan's ability to bring to life these characters was wonderful to read, apart from the likes of Ulf and Wulf. These two characters thoroughly annoyed me and I find myself disliking them immensely. Had they been the protagonists to this story, I probably would have put it down and moved on.
One of the most intriguing characters is Thorn. He had been a warrior with Hal's father, Mikkel, but had tragically lost his hand on the voyage back with Mikkel's body. Thorn begins the story as a rambling drunk, but is reminded of his promise to Mikkel to look after Hal and become the male rolemodel that Mikkel could no longer be. I am interested to learn more about Thorn as the series continues.
The plot is quite simple, but well written, forcing the reader to continue each chapter right until the end. We have a group of young Skandian boys trying to become warriors through a series of tests known as the Brotherbands. Each Brotherband is handpicked in a 'schoolyard' manner - that is, the most popular boys are made captains (or skirls in this case) and they take it in turns to choose their teams, which of course leaves Hal and the remainder of the Herons as unwanted outcasts. Svengal, the head-warrior training the Brotherbands, decides that the remaining boys become a Brotherband, but they are outnumbered and physically (for the most part) outmatched. Thursgurd is the bully who leads the Shark Brotherband, while Rolland is the reasonable leader who is the skirl of the Wolf Brotherband. The Brotherbands negotiate all manner of tests to see who wins the honour of becoming the best Brotherband.
While this storyline unfolds in typical fashion (i.e. it is evident that the Heron Brotherband will win), another storyline unfolds whereby we find that the pirate Zarvac has come to Hallasholm to steal the village's most treasured possession, the Andomal; which leads us into the second book.
This is a fast-paced, exciting read (apart from the annoying arguing of Ulf and Wulf), which has made me race down to my local bookstore to buy book 2 and 3. Hope they're just as enthralling!(less)
This was a typical X-Men storyline; so if you enjoy the X-Men then you'll enjoy this. However, I am getting a bit tired of the Humans vs Mutants stori...moreThis was a typical X-Men storyline; so if you enjoy the X-Men then you'll enjoy this. However, I am getting a bit tired of the Humans vs Mutants stories. I understand that the X-Men are meant to be 'misunderstood' (for want of a better word) and they are hated and feared by certain human factions, but a new storyline would be better.
That said, I'm not a big X-Men fan, as I am more into other superhero comics, so I can't say that I've read many of the storylines. Overall, I enjoyed the witty banter between the characters and was impressed with the artwork and the fact that Joss Whedon had decided to make Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat one of the characters in the forefront. I'd like to see what Emma Frost has in store for Kitty in the rest of the story.(less)
I'm not 100% sure how I felt about this book. After reading it, I fell that I have only read an introduction to the story, rather than Book 1 of the s...moreI'm not 100% sure how I felt about this book. After reading it, I fell that I have only read an introduction to the story, rather than Book 1 of the story. I am looking forward to the second book, which will hopefully give more answers instead of raise more questions. I felt that I was only beginning to understand Hylas' character and his purpose. Pirra and Spirit were somewhat annoying in certain scenes, but I believe that it was more the way they were written. I felt Telamon, who is meant to be a warrior, was a virtual non-character and was quite 'weak' in the sense that he never really stood up to anyone about anything. Finally, even though I'm sure that we'll learn more about him in future books, Akastos' appearances were also out of the blue and I didn't really like the character from what has been written.
I think this book would be best read once you have the second book, where you can flow from one to the other without having to pause and wonder. Well, at least that is what I hope.(less)
If you are a fan of superhero comics, you'll enjoy this. However, if you want to read something that is totally different from most other superhero st...moreIf you are a fan of superhero comics, you'll enjoy this. However, if you want to read something that is totally different from most other superhero stories, then you might be a little disheartened, as Vanguard Prime: Goldrush pretty much follows the cliche of most superhero stories; young hero comes into powers, young hero is seen as too young to be able to handle powers, young hero fails to impress other heroes, young hero proves himself by saving the world. The original members of Vanguard Prime have a uncanny resemblance to DC Comics Trinity (in behaviours, not powers), in that Agent Alpha stands for truth and justice, with a stand up attitude that Superman and Captain America deliver. Gaia loves a battle, like the Amazon Princess Wonder Woman and Knight of Wands acts not unlike the mysterious Dark Knight himself, Batman.
That said, the book moved at a steady pace and I was drawn into the book virtually from the beginning. I look forward to reading the next book, as the character of The Knight of Wands is quite intriguing, especially with the mention of the enigmatic Major Arcana as the looming villains. I am hoping that they will not follow the likes of the little known 2011 superhero TV drama series 'The Cape', which had one season and introduced the audience to an organisation called Tarot, and was slowly unfolding its villains like The Tower and The Chariot (in Tarot Cards, these are part of the Major Arcana). So, how the author, Steven Lochran, will unfold the mysteries to come makes me want to continue reading this series, as this first book left me with a lot of questions that I would like answered.(less)
I found 'The Boy Who Wasn't There' was always there! He became quite annoying. The pace of the story was slow and I found it difficult to like the cha...moreI found 'The Boy Who Wasn't There' was always there! He became quite annoying. The pace of the story was slow and I found it difficult to like the characters. It was very obvious what was going to happen as soon as we found Gabrielle being fostered into the Calvert family and the ghost of the boy was wandering around complaining. I won't give it away, because if you decide to read it, you may want to figure it out within the first couple of chapters yourself.
I would have expected the story to unfold differently, whereby the reader could slowly piece things together as more information was given. Instead I was quite let down.(less)
I just couldn't put the books to this series down. Mockingjay was a bit jumpy, as far as it moved from one thing to another a fair bit, but I still wa...moreI just couldn't put the books to this series down. Mockingjay was a bit jumpy, as far as it moved from one thing to another a fair bit, but I still want to find out what would happen to Katniss and the rest of the characters. Some of the story was quite easy to guess what would happen, but there was still a lot of action and drama that made the book a great read.(less)
Hunger Games: Catching Fire continues where The Hunger Games left off and was just as exciting. Suzanne Collins weaves a wonderful story and, although...moreHunger Games: Catching Fire continues where The Hunger Games left off and was just as exciting. Suzanne Collins weaves a wonderful story and, although I could see certain events coming, I found it difficult to put this book down. I'm straight on to the next book, Mockingjay, eager to find out what happens with the characters of District 12.(less)
Firstly, I admire the fact that Alexandra Adornetto was at such a young age when she first had this book published. She shows a vast vocabulary, which...moreFirstly, I admire the fact that Alexandra Adornetto was at such a young age when she first had this book published. She shows a vast vocabulary, which assisted in painting an image of the scenes found in the book and bringing to life the characters.
However, I was not taken in by the storyline. I felt that, even though the plot was interesting, the story unfolded in a way that I could either see what was coming or didn't really care about what was going to happen. As a primary school teacher I have seen many stories written by students, which unfold the same way (although I must say, without the interesting vocab or description).
I cannot pinpoint exactly what I was looking for that would make the story jump out at me. I guess it just moved too slowly for my liking. That said, I guess it is aimed at a younger audience and I can see what they may find appealing.(less)