Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Lost Heir

Wings of Fire #2: The Lost Heir by Tui T. Sutherland
Scholastic Press - January 1, 2013
336 pages

The lost heir to the SeaWing throne is going home at last...
She can't believe it's finally happening. Tsunami and her fellow dragonets of destiny are journeying under the water to the great SeaWing kingdom. Stolen as an egg from the royal hatchery, Tsunami is eager to meet her future subjects and reunite with her mother, Queen Coral.
But Tsunami's triumphant return doesn't go quite the way she imagined. Queen Coral welcomes her with open wings, but a mysterious assassin has been killing off the queen's heirs for years, and Tsunami may be the next target. The dragonets came to the SeaWings for protection, but this ocean hides secrets, betrayal--and perhaps even death.

Okay, I don't read much middle grade fiction anymore (with the exception of Warriors and Survivors, but I've spent so much time with those cats that I don't expect to give up anytime soon). Young adult and adult fiction? Check, check, check. But I was engrossed by this series due to its being written by one of the Erin Hunters. Plus, it was about dragons.

It's easily better than almost all of the middle grade fiction out there. It doesn't minimize violence or plot because it's written for a younger audience, and all of the characters are believable. While they seemed like somewhat charicatures in book one, that was before I realized that each book would have insight into the world of each dragonet so that you get to understand them and their motives much better. I also love the broken prophecy plot; the prophecy wanted a SkyWing, but they got a RainWing instead, the SandWing has stunted growth and the NightWing doesn't have secret powers.

The underwater kingdom seemed real to me for that setting, which was a big thing for me. Tsunami seems annoying at first, but she grows into her own over the course of the book and becomes a more sympathetic protagonist.

A couple minor gripes: the language didn't seem like what dragons would be saying. I know that they're young, but they probably wouldn't use the same language as human teenagers. Also, the awkward capitalization of dragon names is a little annoying. That's all that I can think of.

Grade: A-

Monday, September 2, 2013

Fire Bringer

Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies
MacMillan UK - October 8, 1999
498 pages

Young buck Rannock was born on the night his father was murdered and into a herd of deer where hunger for power has gradually whittled away all that is true and good. He knows that he must escape to survive. Chased by stags, with their fearsome antlers sharpened for the kill, he begins a treacherous journey into the unknown, and ahead of him lies a shocking and formidable search for truth and goodwill in the shadow of the Great Mountain.
One day he will have to return to his home and face his destiny among the deer to fulfill the prophecy that has persistently given them hope: that one day a fawn will be born with the mark of an oak leaf on his forehead and that fawn's courage will lead all the deer to freedom. Filled with passion and a darkness that gradually, through Rannoch's courage in the face of adversity, lifts to reveal an overwhelming feeling of light, Fire Bringer is a tremendous, spirited story that takes the reader deep into the hearts and minds of its characters as they fight for their right to live in peace.

I tried to read The Sight by David Clement-Davies about a year and a half ago and I needed to stop. I found this one recently and decided to give it a shot because I thought it must amount to a slimmer version with the bigger font, shorter standing, and slightly fewer pages.

I was pleasantly surprised. Fire Bringer took a lot of cliche elements (a prophecy, a great evil, a suspicious birthmark that lets everyone know that you're The Chosen One), but it didn't seem that horrible to me. It wasn't that amazing either; it was just good. Some of the chapters were misnomers, as what was covered in that chapter was only in the first few pages, but that's only a minor gripe.

One good thing is that Clement-Davies isn't afraid of killing deer off. In most books, you know that nobody is really in danger because the author would never even think of killing them off; George R. R. Martin, Erin Hunter, and now David Clement-Davies will let anyone die who you think just HAS to be safe.

I reiterate: the story reuses many old literature tropes, and though it doesn't turn them on their heads, it isn't bad either. The result is something familiar and bland, but it's better than new and terrible.

Grade: B