Monday, October 17, 2011

The Bone House by Stephen R. Lawhead



Kit Livingstone met his great grandfather Cosimo in a rainy alley in London where he discovered the reality of alternate realities.

Now he's on the run-and on a quest-trying to understand the impossible mission he inherited from Cosimo: to restore a map that charts the hidden dimensions of the multiverse. Survival depends on staying one step ahead of the savage Burley Men.

The key is the Skin Map-but where it leads and what it means, Kit has no idea. The pieces have been scattered throughout this universe and beyond.

Mina, from her outpost in seventeenth-century Prague, is quickly gaining both the experience and the means to succeed in the quest. Yet so are those with evil intent who, from the shadows, are manipulating great minds of history for their own malign purposes.

Those who know how to use ley lines have left their own world behind to travel across time and space-down avenues of Egyptian sphinxes, to an Etruscan tufa tomb, a Bohemian coffee shop, and a Stone Age landscape where universes collide-in this, the second quest to unlock the mystery of The Bone House.


Cons: Stephen Lawhead's longwinded literariness sometimes gets in the way of the story sometimes--but only sometimes.

The characters are growing a little, but for some reason I'm still not attaching to any of them.

Pros: This book seemed to move faster than The Skin Map did. The storylines diverged and converged and twisted, so it seemed more action-packed. Again, this plot amazes me.

Conclusion: This is a rather typical Lawhead book--longer than it really needs to be with characters who aren't super well-drawn. Still, it's an interesting time-travel read and I'm enjoying it.

Rating: four out of five stars.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Novel Spotlight: Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach

Storyline: Angel doesn't remember her magical heritage...but it remembers her.

Magic and science collide when she embarks on a journey to her true home, and to herself.

Angel lives with a loving foster family, but dreams of a land that exists only in the pages of a fantasy novel. Until she meets Gregor, whose magic Talent saves her life and revives lost memories.

She follows Gregor to her homeland...a world unlike any she has imagined, where she travels a path of self-discovery that leads directly to her role in an ancient Prophecy...and to the madman who set her fate in motion.


Cons: the only problem I have with this book that is was too SHORT! :) OK, and I thought that some of it was a little too much horror for a middle-grade novel. Most of the book was fine, but there was just one scene in a laboratory with specimen jars and dissections that I really thought showcased the author's horror side. Maybe I underestimate today's middle graders, but that scene felt a little too much to me.

Pros: The characters are awesome. Angel and Gregor as the main characters are pretty cool, but my absolute favorite character was Kalek, a rocker elf with quite an amazing Talent. I can't tell you anymore because I want readers to discover that for themselves and be as totally in awe of that scene as I was (favorite scene in the book, right there).

And speaking of Talents...I liked the magic system of the world. Each person has a primary magical ability, their Talent, as well as other magical abilities. For example, Angel's mom's Talent was painting pictures, then pulling the object out of the picture (as long as it wasn't alive). Gregor's Talent is making gates in trees to get from one place to another.

The storyline likewise was fun, quirky, and nicely paced. The climax had me biting my nails (after a successful month of not chewing them) and muttering, "I know where this is going--please don't go where I think it is--you can't just DO that! No, no, no!" and the conclusion was extremely satisfying, though tinged with sadness. Though there was no mention of a "God" figure, there were hints, and I'm looking forward to how the author will pull those hints out in further development of the world.

Conclusion: Obviously, I can't talk enough about this book. It's another Splashdown Books release, and probably my favorite to date that they've put out (as well as gaining a spot on my all-time favorite fantasy books list). The writing is great, and the story is one that, while I would hesitate to give it to anyone below 13-14, could easily charm anyone above that.

Rating: five out of five stars.

Next week: Review of the second book in Stephen Lawhead's Bright Empires series, The Bone House.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Sword in the Stars by Wayne Thomas Batson

Storyline: Haunted by memories of a violent past, Alastair Coldhollow wagers his life on the hope that a sword will appear in the stars and the foretold Halfainin, the Pathwalker, would come. Meanwhile, tensions simmer between Anglinore and the murderous Gorrack Nation, threatening war on a cataclysmic scale. The fate of all could rest on an abandoned child and the decisions of those who desperately seek to identify him.

My Thoughts:

Cons: The storyline covers a long amount of time, several years of which are covered by letters between two characters. It's interesting to see the two characters' relationship develop just by reading the letters, and I understand that it was the best way to make the time pass quickly, but I just didn't personally care for it.

The conversations seem to be stilted a few times, and a few scenes seem slightly misplaced to me (such as the scene where High King Aravel and King Morlan are born, which could have been a great foreshadowing piece if placed as a prologue, but instead seems a little...flat.)

At the beginning of the book Alistair heavily drinks Witchdrale, a drink that is supposed to be awful and extremely addicting. It's not portrayed in a good light and Alistair eventually repents of his weakness for Witchdrale.

Pros: I was fascinated by the world of Myriad (and love the name choice). The names sounded beautifully Celtic or Jewish and all the peoples were slightly familiar, yet tweaked enough to be unique (I love the Willowfolk!). The scenery he describes sounds beautiful, especially the land of the Willowfolk. I think Batson did an excellent job with his world-building.

I like that Alistair Coldhollow, the main character of the book, is deeply flawed and repentant but vulnerable to the temptation of falling back into his old ways. It made him see very real to me. I also like Abbagael and the relationship she has with Alistair. That's all I'll say about them so I don't ruin the book. :) Sprye and the Willowfolk were also fun characters and I wish they had been in more of the book.

For someone who loves one-on-one battle scenes, this book was amazing. I'm always in awe of master swordsmen in fantasy novels and Alistair was no exception.

Conclusion: I like this book a lot but felt that the quality was a bit lacking. Nevertheless, it's a great book for teens, despite the fact that many of the characters are quite a bit older than that. I'd give this book to a 14-year-old without hesitation.

Rating: Four out of five stars

Next week: Novel Spotlight of Finding Angel, yet another fabulous Splashdown Books release!