Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sir Thursday by Garth Nix

Link to the Amazon synopsis: Sir Thursday (The Keys To The Kingdom, Book 4)

In previous posts on the Keys to the Kingdom series I expressed concern about these books becoming monotonous, or at the very least repetitive. Drowned Wednesday did a good job of involving new characters and new settings, but I was still a little skeptical. Well, after Sir Thursday, I think that Nix is brilliant. The story carried the same style and speed, but the setting was different while still within the context of the book. And that made all of the difference. Old characters and new interact differently, and where we were on the sea careening with pirates in the last book, here we are on the castle walls defending against invaders. The future potential is wide and varied, even if the plot demands a certain direction. As I said, this was a masterful answer to my earlier concerns, and a lesson for me in my own work.

As to the downside, at times the main character's actions seemed ahead of his development. A boy too young to shave, and young enough to be recognized as a boy, is combat trained in 6 weeks, can tromp around in armor, and in the end is given command over others. The author mentions this in the text, I think seeking to answer the objection by admitting it, but that didn't work for me. Still a great read and a high recommendation.

Date Completed: 8/23/08
Rating: 4.1

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix

Link to Amazon summary: Drowned Wednesday (Keys to the Kingdom, Book 3)

So my concern after book 2 was that the series was going to get predictable. I think Nix did an excellent job of walking the line. The series didn't take a huge turn in direction, but the resolution at the end came about in some new ways and with some new people. My only criticism is that it felt a bit rushed, almost like it was time for the book to end, so everything just kind of worked out for the hero. It wasn't way obvious, rather just a hint of "I have to get it done in the chapter" kind of feeling. Still a good book, but I doubt that this book will be my favorite of the series.

Date Completed: 8/21/08
Rating: 3.9

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix

Link to Amazon synopsis:Grim Tuesday (Keys to the Kingdom, Book 2)

Once again, I have a strong recommendation for the work of Garth Nix. The saga continues from the first book, Mister Monday, and the pace of the story is maintained through the whole book. The reading experience was one of those "did I really just read this whole book in one sitting" type experiences. Yes, it is written for a young audience, but it draws you in such that the time flies by, both for you and for the characters.

The only danger I see in this series is the possibility that the resolution to the conflict for each book could become predictable. In the first half of the first book you could see the conflict through to the final book, even if you didn't know very many details. There are seven guys that oppose the protagonist, each named for a day of the week--thus they are the Morrow Days. You can see seven books with our hero defeating one bad guy per book. The path to the final confrontation and defeat of the first two guys (Monday and Tuesday), while different, had enough in common that I am really hoping for something original in the third book. We'll see how it goes.

As for this book, it was a great installment in a series that draws me further and further in every time I turn a page. High marks for this one.

Date Completed:8/17/2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Half Magic by Edward Eager

Link to Amazon synopsis: Half Magic

As I mentioned in the last post, I had a basket full of series-starters. This was one of them. It was a different choice for me given the shortness of the book and big print, but the name drew me in, and there was a big shelf of similarly bound books, so I thought I would give it a try. It was a little on the disappointing side.

The story idea was fine, but the characters were a little ... obvious. Even for this age group. So you get past the characters and back to the story and it was mediocre as an overall product. I do like to branch out and read stuff that I feel like I learn from as a writer, and so I decided to give the next book a try. Unfortunately it turns out the Eager wrote a lot of similar, yet independent stories about children and magic, and that this wasn't a series by my standards. What a shame. Like I said, it wasn't a knock-your-socks-off-book, but I was ready to give it a go as a series where I thought that some of the character issues could be worked out, etc. Unfortunately no such luck.

In Eager's defense (since I have been pretty hard on his work here) this was an older book, and like many older authors (C.S. Lewis, Frank Baum, etc.) he didn't pace the story as quickly as many contemporary authors (and readers) prefer to. That probably has something to do with my opinion. If you like older j. Fiction, then you might disregard some of my opinions here and give Half Magic a try.

Date Completed: 8/5/2008
Rating: 2.4

Mister Monday by Garth Nix

Link to synopsis at Amazon here: The Keys to the Kingdom, Book 1: Mister Monday

I have a history with this book. As I mention at least every other post, I like to just peruse the juvenile fiction section at our local library, looking for books with the right font on the spine and the right thickness. Basically, I have physically profiled the books I like to read. Anyway, I picked up Mister Monday late last year, along with a handful of other likely targets. As happens from time to time, err, OK it happens all the time, my book basket is bigger than the empty spaces on my calendar, I returned it 3 weeks later unread. I forgot about it, and then a few months later, after the craziness of the holidays were over, I re-discovered the book the same way and took it home. For the second time I returned it unread. So when it caught my eye yet again on my routine trip through the fiction section I paused and thought it through. I decided that I wouldn't check it out unless I was really going to read it. I already had three different first-books-in-the-series in my basket, but I checked it out anyway, and when I got my first free minutes afterwards and got to pick the book to start with, this was it.

The good news is that as long as the editors and graphic design people don't change their ways, my physical book profiling is pretty good. A little weird in the prologue and first chapter or two, I had my doubts about this book early on, but by the end I am a fan and will read the rest of the series. Since you can read the basic plot elsewhere, I will attempt to give you a feel for the book. It is something of a cross between Levan Thumps and the Septimus Heap books (Magyk, Fltye, Physik, etc.) It is an adventure, with our main character destined to save the world, but in an outlandish kind of way. The world is contemporary, yet fantastic and eccentric.

I liked it and look forward to posting about the rest of the series.

Date Completed: 8/2/2008
Rating: 4.0