Sps's Reviews > The Merchant of Death

The Merchant of Death by D.J. MacHale
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Jul 12, 2009

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bookshelves: story, fantasy, middle
Read from July 09 to 12, 2011

Chewy and sprightly teen/tween adventure novel. MacHale, I was unsurprised to learn, has been involved as a writer, director, creator, and producer of kids' TV series like Ghostwriter, and he brings that pacing and style to his book.

He's able to keep the plot bouncing along partly through the very convenient space-time rules of his invented world, wherein Travelers going between worlds always arrive right on time, and hours or days in one world can be mere minutes on another. Not to mention the trick of having the story told in journal entries (sent, of course, on parchment through a flume from a distant world) from the main character to his loyal buddies back home, periodically grounding readers in the familiar and allowing them to catch their breath.

Far from looking down my nose at devices like these, I salute MacHale for a finding a way to keep up the hectic, exciting pace many readers love. Practically nonstop battles, chases, encounters with monsters, and travels through time and space make this suitable for Rick Riordan, Erin Hunter, James Patterson, or 39 Clues fans.

Furthermore, protagonist Bobby Pendragon* has broad appeal because he's a talented athlete with tons of friends who just hooked up with a hot chick and then rode off on a motorcycle to save the world...but he spends most of the adventure facing his own cowardice, selfish tendencies, and lack of world-saving and/or ass-kicking practical skills. His journals are completely open about the times when he cries, screws up, or just has to pee. MacHale does a nice one here. (Except when he makes weird, possibly Canadian references to things like 'playschool' and 'Mischief Night.' D.J. MacHale, are you secretly Canadian?)

*Which I totally misheard a child say the other day and spent several fruitless minutes looking for "Bobby Pin Writing" books.
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