Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Exceptional Fun for the Young (and Young of Heart)

The Last Akaway (Brody Boondoggle, #1)The Last Akaway by Gary Karton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cute adventure story aimed at young boys - 7-10 at a guess, and designed to encourage them to play outside instead of spending their time in the computer-game world.

This book was a LOT of fun - the characters of Jake and Brody were immediately likeable and immediately realistic. I did find the jumping viewpoint a little confusing at first: the chapters are so short that one minute you're in Jake's head, the next in Brody's, but once I slowed down my reading speed a little it became rather easier. The random conversation topics spattered throughout the text were highly entertaining, and I am wondering if the author garnered them from his own two boys, whom I imagine are a lot like Jake and Brody.

Some of the plot seemed a little forced - the fact that Jake stayed up all night basically reading every single book about the spirit animals that he could find seemed rather a convenient excuse to give him instant knowledge on everything important, but I would very much doubt a teenage boy would read that fast and retain that much. Still, this is not exactly a logical book - it is a tale to entertain and amuse the young fellows, who will not be analysing everything: like how a fish could walk and whether the Crab skittered sideways.

Overall, this was a great romp and would be exceptionally fun to read to a young audience. If I ever find myself in the situation where I have my tablet and are required to amuse a young boy (aged 6-9) then I shall certainly be reading this one! Heck, maybe it might inspire them to put down the game console and go outside, climb a tree or throw a snowball (but not a rock) and get in touch with their own spirit animal.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

A Well Crafted Fantasy Adventure

Journey to Landaran (Spirit Mage Saga #1)Journey to Landaran by Judy Goodwin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was fortunate enough to receive an advance "beta" copy of this from the author, and I am highly impressed. Her characterisation and prose are splendid, with the world and its occupants truly coming to life. She has also put a great deal of thought into the political and magical structure of the world, with some pleasing hints at its origins. The writing style is eloquent, with vivid and dramatic descriptions, and never a dull moment. It has some darker moments too, including a really despicable villain and a goodly amount of emotional upheavel. I whole-heartedly enjoyed entering the realms around Landaran and look forward to venturing there again.

"Journey to Landaran" is the story of two twins, teenagers by our standards. They live a peaceful life in a mountain community, getting up to a fair amount of mischief. The brother, Tavish, has a Talent with fire, but Aidah's Talent is much rarer and much sought after. As the world grows darker, the two children are forced from their village and into a life on the run.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

A Fresh Face in Fantasy

Dream Caster (Dream Cycle, #1)Dream Caster by Najeev Raj Nadarajah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautifully written and eloquently told tale, with the freshness and originality that can only be found within the realms of independently published fiction. The narrative is instantly enticing, the landscape well conceived and developed, described in just enough detail to allow the reader to form their own mental impressions. The protagonist, Weaver, is a young man of unknown heritage - a trope fairly standard in fantasy novels - but he appears to have no special talents or abilities, and has been raised by a man who treats him more like a servant than a son, yet still shows him care and attention. For the most part, the plot is well constructed, the characters diverse and interesting. The ending did leave me feeling a little disappointed though, not because it left too much hanging, but because I wanted the story to go on further, to tie up the remaining loose ends. I look forward to the sequel!

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