Book Review: Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean

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Confession time: In my review of J. M. Barrie’s book Peter Pan and Wendy, I got a few chronological details wrong. First of all, the character of “Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up” appeared first in a 1902 novel for adults (in a passage later excerpted and published as a standalone book called Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens), then in a 1904 play under the title set off in quotes above, and finally in ... Read More »

Book Review: The Hundred Days by Patrick O’Brian

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Here is Book 19 of the 20-volume novel of warfare, wildlife, society, and culture in the era of Napoleon, featuring a brilliant British frigate captain named Jack Aubrey and his medical officer, intelligence agent, musical partner, and longtime friend Stephen Maturin. And if book 18 (The Yellow Admiral) was a book of tragic forebodings, The Hundred Days is one in which the foreboding comes true. Don’t be shocked when a couple important, recurring characters’ deaths seem to ... Read More »

Book Review: The Yellow Admiral by Patrick O’Brian

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A critic’s endorsement on the cover of this book compares Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, heroes of this long series of historical novels, to Holmes and Watson. What devoted readers of this series will find astonishing is not the aptness of the comparison, nor yet its flattery of O’Brian’s characters, but frankly the paleness of Holmes and Watson over against Aubrey and Maturin. Sherlock Holmes is a fascinating character and no mistake; but he was ... Read More »

Book Review: The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean

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It’s the 13th century. Kublai Khan has conquered China, spreading the Mongolian empire from Ukraine to Korea. His epoch-making attempt to invade Japan is about to get underway—the one that will end with Kublai’s army at the bottom of the Yellow Sea, thanks to a storm that will go down in Japanese memory as “Kamikaze” (divine wind). At that crucial point in history—to the Eastern world what the sinking of the Spanish Armada was to ... Read More »

Book Review: The Commodore by Patrick O’Brian

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This is the 17th book of 20 about the daring British naval captain Jack Aubrey and his friend, naturalist, physician, and intelligence agent Stephen Maturin. And although it takes its title from a development in Jack’s career – being put in command of a squadron, which entitles him to dress like an admiral – I find the narrative increasingly tilting towards Stephen’s point of view. Commanded to attack the slave trade off the Atlantic coast ... Read More »

Book Review: The Wine-Dark Sea by Patrick O’Brian

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This sixteenth book of the Aubreyiad, featuring the exploits of Royal Navy Capt. Jack Aubrey and his physician-musician-naturalist-secret agent friend Stephen Maturin, opens with the British privateer frigate Surprise chasing an American ditto through the South Pacific. Nature brings the chase to a terrifying conclusion, thanks to the explosion of a volcano. This stunning act of God sets the stage for the remarkable tragedy that unfolds in the pages that follow. Let’s put the pieces together: A French ... Read More »

Book Review: The Box of Delights by John Masefield

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The Box of Delights, or When the Wolves Were Running, is the sequel to The Midnight Folk by this sometime Poet-Laureate. So again we enjoy a charming young hero named Kay Harker, home from school for the Christmas holidays and experiencing another round of adventures involving wicked witches, talking beasts, ancient philosophers (of the Nicolas Flamel variety), mythical figures, and an appalling crime wave which can only be stopped by a boy with a magical box. And sometimes ... Read More »

Book Review: The Truelove by Patrick O’Brian

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The words “outraged platypus” appear on the third page of this book. Personally, I think that would have been a great title. However, for the title of his fifteenth installment in the adventures of British frigate commander Jack Aubrey and his physician-naturalist-intelligence-agent chum Stephen Maturin, Patrick O’Brian chose the name of a ship that doesn’t heave into view for another 200 pages and more. Oh, well. We can’t have everything. Jack and Stephen are back ... Read More »

Book Review: Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

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Book 2 of the “Enchanted Forest Chronicles” continues the story begun in Dealing with Dragons, only from a new character’s point of view. Mendanbar, the young king of the Enchanted Forest, has a problem with princesses. Everyone expects him to marry one someday, but they all seem hopelessly silly to him. He also thinks he has a problem with dragons, because suddenly whole patches of the Enchanted Forest are turning up, burned to a crisp. So ... Read More »

Book Review: Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

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Once again, in this third book of the “Enchanted Forest Chronicles,” the saga switches to a new point of view: the young, rather non-traditional, witch Morwen, who has nine cats (none of them black), and who can understand every word they say. The interplay among the cats creates a steady pulse of wry humor throughout the book, but it’s only incidental to what the story is actually about. It is, of course, another adventure featuring ... Read More »