Monday, December 31, 2012

Inkheart trilogy

Inkheart trilogy (Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath) by Cornelia Funke
Chicken House Publishing - September 23, 2003 to September 28 2008
534, 635, and 683 pages, respectively

Mortimer Folchart's nickname is Silvertongue, and rightfully so. Whatever he reads out loud comes out of the world of the book and into our world. When his daughter Meggie was three, Mo read a book titled Inkheart, pulling his wife Resa and his two cats into the land, known as the Inkworld, and pulling out three men: Dustfinger, a man with control over fire and a horned marten; Capricorn, a relentless murderer; and Basta, Capricorn's superstitious and OCD servant. After nine years these men have come back into the lives of the Folcharts, and Mo, Meggie, and Meggie's great-aunt Elinor are tasked with getting them back into the book and bringing Resa back into our world.

I read Inkheart immediately after finding out that there was going to be a cool-looking movie (that had nothing in common with the book except for the name and characters; it was quite possibly the worst book-to-movie adaptation I've ever seen) and Inkspell as soon as possible after that. And then Inkdeath. Inkdeath was when I stalled. I stalled and then gave up on it for three years before finally returned to it, determined to finish it. Now that I have finally finished this great behemoth, which totals out to 1,852 pages, I can review it properly. Inkheart was an adventure, but Inkspell was the high point with its quick pace and character development, while Inkdeath was the low point, with nothing happening for the first half of the book. When things finally did happen, they happened predictably and boringly. In addition, the formerly spunky and quick-witted heroine of Meggie was relegated in Inkdeath to nothing more than a love triangle between two undesirable boys. Really now?

Inkheart: B
Inkspell: B+
Inkdeath: D

The Dragonet Prophecy

Wings of Fire #1: The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui Sutherland
Scholastic Press - July 1, 2012
336 pages

After the death of Queen Oasis, her three daughters Blaze, Blister, and Burn have been competing for the SandWing throne. They turned it into a world-wide war, dragging in the various other tribes of Pyrrhia. However, there is a prophecy that five dragons: a MudWing, a SandWing, a SeaWing, a SkyWing, and a NightWing, will save Pyrrhia and determine the new queen. However, the SkyWing egg was dropped and hastily replaced with a RainWing. No one knows if the prophecy will still work, but the enthusiastic Tsunami leads the other dragons out of the cave two years early and into the clutches of danger.

Tui Sutherland was one of the later authors of the Warriors series, which is reviewed elsewhere. I had high hopes for this. Fortunately, the majority of them were met. The characters were developed, although most of their behavior seemed to revolve around either a singular or dual character trait, and their little quirks did not shine as they could have. The pacing was quick, however, and secrets were unveiled to reveal the truth in a quickening beat. The amount of characters that died, however, was a little too many for my tastes too soon after introduction. Maybe prologues in the next books will tell us more about them?

Grade: B+

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Watership Down

Watership Down by Richard Adams
Rex Collings - November 1972
413 pages plus maps

In the Sandleford Warren, things are peaceful for all the rabbits but Fiver. He has received a horrible vision and tells his brother Hazel immediately. They go to the Chief Rabbit, The Threarah, but he dismisses this and they get chased out by Captain Holly. However, others come with them to find Fiver's high ground, such as the powerful Thlayli (or Bigwig), the clever Blackberry, the quick storyteller Dandelion, the timid Pipkin, the strong Silver, the slow Hawkbit, and the outskirters Speedwell and Acorn. Along the way they encounter other warrens such as Cowslip's Warren and Efrafa, as well as some interesting individuals such as Kehaar the black-headed gull, and search for peace.

I had some reservations going into Watership Down. I knew people that couldn't get past chapter one. However, my doubts quickly vanished as I plunged into the world of the Sandleford Warren. The plot moved at a rapid pace and was filled with suspenseful moments. I truly felt for the characters in one way or another, from loathing Hawkbit, Speedwell, and Acorn, to an instant attachment to Blackberry and the doe Hyzenthlay. While the two main characters Hazel and Fiver weren't particularly outstanding, it was the supporting characters that were wonderful. My personal favorite moments of the stories were the breaks when Dandelion would tell a story of the rabbit trickster El-ahrairah, which were richly crafted, especially The Story of the Trial of El-ahrairah. There were some moments, particularly the very end, where (spoiler alert!)Hazel is invited, upon death, to be part of El-ahrairah's Owsla (or council of high-ranking rabbits) as opposed to the more clever Blackberry, who would be much more fitting for the job of working with the trickster(spoiler end), that I thought could have been handled differently, but it was still a great, engaging read.

Grade: A-

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Survivors: The Empty City

Survivors: The Empty City by Erin Hunter
HarperCollins - August 21, 2012
288 pages

Lucky is a golden-haired mutt that's always had a nose for survival and a preference to stay a Lone Dog. No packs or humans could hold him back. Then the Big Growl strikes, splitting a hole in the ground, causing humans to flee, and resulting in utter chaos among the dogs. Lucky attempts to survive on his own again, but when he sees a pitiful "pack" made of former Leashed Dogs hoping that their owners will come back and including his sister Bella, he sees that he has to help them.

Warriors was so excellent that I tore through the books. Seekers was so horrible I couldn't get through the first book. So I eagerly dove into the first book in the Survivors series hoping for the best but anticipating the worst, especially since it was by a new Erin Hunter. I was surprised but not, I should mention, disappointed with the result. I was expecting something hardboiled and realistic, considering how close dogs are to humans. Instead I got a more mythological book, with dogs being the true sky, sun, lightning, river, forest, and earth and with different roles (Forest-Dog is the trickster). The wide variety of dogs with their personalities highlighted make it interesting. The only major problem I had with this was the vocabulary. I find it hard to believe that a cat who spends its life avoiding humans knows more terms than a dog who lived with them all its life. (spoiler alert!)I did a little investigative work, and if you get confused when Daisy passes out in her backyard, there was a gas leak in her humans' house.(spoiler end). With enough deduction, you can figure it out, but it shouldn't pull you away from the novel too much.

Grade: A-

The Owl Keeper

The Owl Keeper by Christine Brodien-Jones
Delacorte Books for Young Readers - April 13, 2010
320 pages

Maxwell Unger has always loved three things: the night, silver owls, and his gran. Well, the night will always be there, but his gran is gone now, and silver owls are hunted down by the High Echelon, who claims that they carry disease. Maxwell knows better, though. His silver owl, the one he keeps in the tree nearby, has no disease. She just has a couple injuries from a rough flight. His gran used to tell him the story of the Owl Keeper, who would bring back the silver owls and sages and unite them to fight the power of the dark. When a mysterious girl comes along and Max has nightmares about killing his silver owl, he knows that things aren't going to stay normal for long.

This concludes my cycle of six book read for an event that began with Mockingbird and also included Chasing Lincoln's Killer, The Maze Runner, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, and The Grimm Legacy. I'm pleased to say that this is my favorite fictional read (Chasing Lincoln's Killer is still the best altogether), considering I started off so poorly with Mockingbird. The characters, setting, and mythology are well-crafted, and information is delicately placed where it is required the most, as opposed to a page-one info-dump. The slow reveal of the mystery behind Maxwell's world kept you guessing until the end. I don't know if there'll be a sequel or not, but The Owl Keeper was one of those rare books where you would be pleased either way.

Grade: A-