Book Review: Goblins in the Castle by Bruce Coville
Book Reviews / August 10, 2005

This story, by the author of Aliens Ate My Homework and I Left My Sneakers in Dimension X, started its life in an elementary school classroom, where the author’s half-mad, hunchbacked brother Igor made an appearance every Halloween. The classroom tradition evolved into a storybook which finally got published, so the rest of the world can fall in love with Igor and gasp with amazement, horror, and laughter at the antics of the goblins.

Book Review: The Fortune of War by Patrick O’Brian
Book Reviews / July 15, 2005

The sixth of twenty completed novels about a 19th-century Royal Navy captain named Jack Aubrey and his faithful ship’s surgeon, Stephen Maturin, is unusual in many ways. For example, in this book Aubrey is never in command of anything larger than a rowboat. As O’Brian explains in the preface, the book dramatizes actual events in naval history, inserting his fictional characters into the action. Yet even though they don’’t displace any of the real people who took part in these events—for example, Aubrey commands none of the ships that fight in the book’s two thrilling battle scenes—O’Brian’s characters make this story very much their own.

Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Book Reviews / July 8, 2005

The book that started not one but two celebrated series of science fiction novels started, in turn, as a story in Analog Magazine, which my father used to get when I was a kid, so it was always lying around. First published in 1977, it is eerily predictive of some developments such as e-mail and the internet…but mostly, it is a far-out fantasy that inhabits its own unique, somewhat futuristic world.

Book Review: The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer
Book Reviews / July 8, 2005

In the near future, a place called Satellite City has become the urban nightmare du jour. Everything, including the steering of individual cars, is controlled by a privately-owned satellite hanging low in the sky over town. City police, private police, and armed-and- dangerous squads of lawyers patrol the city, and “no-sponsor” orphans like Cosmo Hill are locked up in a maximum security “institute for parentally challenged boys” where they earn their keep as guinea pigs to test all kinds of products, from music videos to health-and-beauty aids. Cosmo knows that he has a slim chance of living to adulthood, and if he does, he will be sold to a labor prison on trumped-up charges. He has three choices: be adopted, die, or escape. It’s too late for door number one, so that really only leaves two…

Book Review: Desolation Island by Patrick O’Brian
Book Reviews / July 8, 2005

Fifth in the series of historical novels that started with Master and Commander, this book continues the adventures of the big, jolly Royal Navy Captain Jack Aubrey and his small, melancholy friend and ship’s surgeon, Stephen Maturin. And though the mission in this book is an enormous test of Jack’s seamanship, leadership, and heroism, it is—more than the previous books in the series—really Stephen’s adventure, for the most part.

Book Review: The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’Brian
Book Reviews / July 8, 2005

This is the fourth novel of the twenty-book series about the Napoleonic-era exploits of British naval captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey and his friend, surgeon, and intelligence officer, Stephen Maturin. Or rather, as one reader wrote to me, it is the fourth part of one huge, wandering novel in twenty parts.

Book Review: The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley
Book Reviews / July 5, 2005

The Newbery-Medal winning author of many novel-length books of fantasy, for youth and adults, as well as “fairy tale novelizations” like Spindle’s End, has struck again with this collection of four fairy tales elaborated with warmth, sensitivity, and compelling characters, and interesting new twists. In “The Stolen Princess,” we learn what happens in the last kingdom before the borders of Fairyland (or Faerie Land), where newborn boys sometimes disappear from their cradles, and the most beautiful girls vanish on their seventeenth birthdays, and now the only princess in that kingdom seems doomed to vanish like all the others, never to return. What will her parents and their adoring subjects do? What happens when the borders of reality are challenged?

Book Review: Magic Kingdom For Sale–Sold!
Book Reviews / June 22, 2005

The author of the acclaimed fantasy novels Running with the Demon and A Knight of the Word, as well as the best-selling Shannara series, is one of the authors most often recommended by your feedback. I have been hesitant to follow this recommendation, for two main reasons. First, it sounds like he’s already popular enough without my help. And second, he has written a lot of thickish books and, believe it or not, I’m a slow reader. I was afraid that once I got hooked on Brooks, I wouldn’t be able to read anything else for about 2 months. And that would be such a drag when I’m already in the middle of a months-long commitment to Patrick O’Brian’s novels. But I decided to sample just one of his books, in between O’Brians, and to read the rest of the series some other time. So I chose this book, the first in the (shorter) “Magic Kingdom of Landover” series.