Book Review: “The Book of the Sword” by A.J. Lake
Book Reviews / June 19, 2014

Edmund is a prince with the power to see through the eyes of other people and animals, to communicate mind-to-mind. Elspeth is a sailor’s daughter who has formed an intimate bond with a magic sword. Together, they are either mankind’s only hope to defeat the evil god Loki or Loki’s only hope to defeat mankind. Welcome to Book 2 of the “Darkest Age” trilogy!

Review: “A World Without Heroes” by Brandon Mull
Book Reviews / May 24, 2014

Thirteen-year-old Jason is an ordinary, baseball-playing, zoo-volunteering kid from Colorado, until the day he hears music coming out of a hippopotamus. Leaning closer, he falls into the hippo’s mouth, slides down a long chute, and comes out at the bottom of a hollow tree in a completely different world. It’s not how most visitors from our reality find their way to the magical land of Lyrian. Later, Jason meets a girl his age named Rachel, who followed the more usual route by walking under a stone arch and suddenly finding herself elsewhere. From the moment they arrive, they are in danger. Things are going on in Lyrian that they don’t understand. Weird races, created long ago by a group of wizards, are doing weird things, following an agenda that either serves or seeks to overthrow an evil wizard emperor named Maldor. And just when Jason thinks he’s on the scent of a way home, he reads something in a forbidden book that makes him Public Enemy Number One.

Book Review: “The Secret War” by Matt Myklusch
Book Reviews / May 10, 2014

In the sequel to “The Accidental Hero”, young Jack Blank has five days to save the world. And yet he wastes most of that time trying to keep a terrifying secret that could instantly transform him from the hero who saved the Imagine Nation to an enemy who cannot be trusted. Kids and their priorities!

Book Review: “Empire of Bones” by N.D. Wilson
Book Reviews / April 4, 2014

The third and final book of “The Ashtown Burials” features so many characters, doing so many things at once, in so many places, that even quite close to the end I couldn’t believe it was going to conclude the trilogy. I fully expected another cliffhanger, hooking us for a surprise fourth book, à la “Brisingr”. The good news—if you’ll pardon my relief—it really does end here. More or less. In fact, it ends so abruptly that I was taken aback and felt I must have missed something. The battle to save the world from rampaging transmortals on one hand (led by Dracula’s were-dragon brother Radu Bey), and from a creep named Phoenix who intends to repopulate the world with supernaturally engineered super-people on the other, is indeed fought to the bitter end, and the fate of the world is determined. I won’t be a total pig and tell you which way it goes. But I can’t help noticing that there are several loose ends dangling at the end. There really could be a fourth book. It might even be a good idea. [EDIT: Nate Wilson’s wife Heather writes, “There will be a fourth book… Probably 2015.”]

Book review: “Finnikin of the Rock” by Melina Marchetta
Book Reviews / January 7, 2014

The Australian author of “Jellicoe” Road has dealt with many issues facing today’s young adults: loneliness, depression, grief, single pregnancy, suicide, racism, family and school problems galore. Then she turned toward writing YA fantasy, and the “Lumatere Chronicles” is the result. In this first book of the trilogy, we are introduced to a gripping, romantic fantasy about sexy young people riding horses, sailing ships, and fighting with bows and arrows and swords, all to restore a lost kingdom. What sets it apart from every other tween melodrama about prophecies being fulfilled, curses being broken, secret identities being revealed, and prisoners being delivered from durance vile?

Book review: “Fall of a Kingdom” by Hilari Bell
Book Reviews / December 15, 2013

Inspired by a Persian legend and originally titled “Flame”, this is the first book of the Farsala Trilogy. The new and improved title, while dramatically distinctive, has the drawback of giving away the ending. But since the story is only getting started, that’s probably all right.

Book review: “The Runaway King” by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Book Reviews / December 8, 2013

Jaron, alias Sage, proved to be more than as advertised in “The False Prince”. After convincing an ambitious nobleman he was the best impostor for a long-lost prince, Jaron proved to be the real prince after all—supposedly killed by pirates, but lying low in the guise of a street urchin. Now he has returned to claim his throne, just when his country’s aggressive neighbors are poised to strike at any sign of weakness. In the second book of the Ascendance trilogy, the young king must run away from his kingdom in order to save it from an imminent threat of invasion.

Book review: “The Drowned Vault” by N. D. Wilson
Book Reviews / November 28, 2013

In the second book of the Ashtown Burials, Order of St. Brendan journeymen Cyrus and Antigone Smith have survived the test that determined their right to seek shelter in the Order’s sanctuary at Ashtown, somewhere on the Wisconsin shore of Lake Michigan. But they have also earned the distrust and resentment of many other members of the order, by losing the Dragon’s Tooth.

Book review: “Three Hainish Novels” by Ursula K. Le Guin
Book Reviews / October 3, 2013

This omnibus volume of the first three books of the “Hainish Cycle” is also available under the title “Worlds of Exile and Illusion”. I chose to lead with the simpler, more plainly descriptive title, mainly because it happened to be this edition that I borrowed from the public library. To be sure, it’s a bit of a misnomer. The first three installments in Ursula Le Guin’s multiple award-winning series are really more on the order of novellas, weighing in at 117, 113, and 160 pages, respectively.

Book review: “First Lord’s Fury” by Jim Butcher
Book Reviews / August 26, 2013

Five books ago, Tavi of Calderon was an active, resourceful, good-naturedly trouble-prone farm boy whose prospects in life were dimmed by the fact that, unlike everyone else in Alera, he had absolutely no fury-craft—that is, no control over the spirits of air, water, wood, metal, earth, and fire. While others had these powers to a greater or lesser degree—and those with the most fury-craft tended to rise to the highest positions in society—Tavi couldn’t even turn the lights on or off without help. Nevertheless, we watched him grow into an admirable young hero, thanks in part to the unique approach to problem-solving that his disability forced him to develop.