Jan 15, 12
young readers, middle grade boy readers
Read from September 13 to 30, 2011 — I own a copy
When I was reading The Key of Kilenya I felt like I ought to have a ten year old boy next to me reading along. I felt like that age group is probably the key audience for this book, because the kid in me was fascinated with what was going on in this fantasy world.
The story here is fast-paced from the get-go, starting with a chase through the woods by scary wolves and followed by adventure after adventure. One of the chapter titles is “Breakneck Speeds,” and that’s often what this book felt like. Jason is throw into a mystical new world, and is quickly put on a dangerous quest to retrieve a powerful stolen artifact from the clutches of terrible, invincible enemies.
I think the real strong point in Key of Kilenya is that a lot of the fantastical elements really feel original. In fact, reading this put me in mind of the creatures you would come across in an Oz book or one of the more fanciful Chronicles of Narnia, because the creatures really aren’t the norm. Pearson clearly hasn’t been hampered by other people’s imaginations. My favorite thing in the whole book was probably the creatures called Dusts whose hands changed to adapt to what they needed to do—but often changed without the owners’ consent, confusing the creatures and tripping them up.
I think that this book also did the “journey quest” very well. There is a lot of traveling going on in the story, but it never feels like “and then they walked for half the day.” Instead, there are different challenges and mentors sprinkled all along their road, keeping things interesting to say the least.
My biggest problem with the book is that it often felt like Jacob (and through him, the reader) was often withheld information from. A lot of things happened in a “don’t ask questions” kind of way, with adults brushing aside questions or simply not giving time for them to be asked, even though in many cases they did have the answers. In dealing with the Lorkon, Jacob was told that it was better the less he knew about his enemy, but why it was better never became clear, even after Jacob infiltrated their castle and stole back the Key he was looking for.
I was also a little less than enthusiastic for Jacob himself. He seemed to be following this quest just because he’d been told he had to and that he was the only one who could.That was alright in and of itself, I suppose, but in the end he’s supposed to have become a hero, and I don’t know that he truly acts heroically at any point. In fact there is more than one point in the book where he passes by people who are under enchantments and curses and instead of wanting to help them, he’s disgusted by what he sees and simply moves on. I would have been a little more ready to cheer him on if he’d at least seemed to feel bad about the strangers he couldn’t save.
There are also a lot of unanswered questions at the end of the book—though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering this is the beginning of a series. I’m definitely curious as to how this will all play out in the end.