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: “The Journal of Curious Letters” by James Dashner
Book Reviews / April 4, 2014

Atticus Higginbottom, Tick to his friends, is a 13-year-old science geek who gets bullied at school, trips over his own feet, and plays champion-level chess. Few people would guess that such a boy would have the makings of a hero who might one day save the world. Somebody seems to have guessed, however. Somebody calling himself M.G. (short for Master George) begins sending Tick a series of clues, leading to an opportunity to save thousands of lives—but only if he has the courage to face danger and suffering, the cleverness to solve a series of puzzles, and the will to go through with an adventure fraught with spooky weirdness.

Book Review: “The Throne of Fire” by Rick Riordan
Book Reviews / March 15, 2014

In Book 2 of the “Kane Chronicles”, the Texas-based author of the “Tres Navarre” mysteries cleverly uses hilarious, romantic, magical, and thrill-packed entertainment to educate young adults about ancient Egyptian mythology. He’s very sneaky that way. But we’re not surprised since he did the same thing with Greek mythology in the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series. Ditto with Roman mythology in the “Heroes of Olympus” series. Face it, you’re going to need a roadmap to keep track of all the different ways Rick Riordan has brought the legends of ancient gods and heroes into the present day. But in spite of the globe-trotting complexity of the action in this book, and the relative unfamiliarity of the gods, monsters, and mythological concepts it introduces, this is a deceptively easy book to enjoy.

Book Review: “The Ballad of Sir Dinadan” by Gerald Morris
Book Reviews / March 9, 2014

The fifth book of the “Squire’s Tales” series continues this Wisconsin-based author’s retelling of Arthurian legends for younger readers with a combination of two knightly love stories with the point of view of a minstrel knight who has fallen out of love with romantic love. Forced into knighthood, though he would rather be a rebec-playing troubadour, Sir Dinadan rides out into the English countryside in search of inspiration for heroic ballads. Instead, he finds disillusionment. First it comes in the form of a beautiful lady who toys with his heart and tries to trick him into doing something vile. Then he observes the series of tasks that a would-be knight named Culloch must do to win the hand of a Welsh princess—ridiculous tasks that have nothing to do with the “helping the helpless” sort of thing King Arthur values in his knights. And thirdly, he gets mixed up in the affair of Tristram and Iseult, the most tragic lovers in all of song and legend, though in reality (as Dinadan sees it) theirs is the stupidest and most sordid story of all.

Book Review: “The Emerald Atlas” by John Stephens
Book Reviews / March 8, 2014

Kate P. barely remembers her parents. Heck, she doesn’t even remember her last name – only the letter P. Mostly she remembers the night her parents disappeared, when her mother gave her a cherished locket, told her to take care of her younger brother and sister, and promised to return someday. Since then, Kate, Michael, and Emma have spent ten years moving from one orphanage to another, never getting adopted, and never settling down for long. After the head of the Edgar Allan Poe Home for Hopeless and Incorrigible Orphans reaches the end of her patience with them, the P. children are sent to a remote orphanage in far upstate New York., so remote and far upstate that even at the end of the dock where a boat is supposed to pick them up, nobody seems to know where it is. The orphanage turns out to be a seedy mansion overlooking a miserable village where everything seems blighted and where there have been no children for the past 15 years. This is due to a certain tragedy that no one wants to discuss. There almost seems to be a curse about the place. Naturally, Kate and her siblings are the only orphans. Could it get any worse than this?

Book Review: “The Enchanter Heir” by Cinda Williams Chima
Book Reviews / February 5, 2014

The fourth book of the “Heir” chronicles adds a new dimension to the world of magic that now orbits around Trinity, Ohio. In addition to wizards, sorcerers, enchanters, seers, and warriors, there is now a new category of gifted that crosses the boundaries between these guilds: the Savants. Created in a disaster or massacre or mass poisoning that wiped out all the adults and most of the children in an experimental commune called Thorn Hill, each of the surviving kids has unique powers—as well as weaknesses. Some of them are profoundly disabled. Many of them are destined to die young. And those who die have a tendency to become wandering shades, possessing the bodies of the recently dead—and sometimes killing people just to take over their bodies.

Book review: “The Last Dragonslayer” by Jasper Fforde
Book Reviews / February 3, 2014

In a twisted alternate world, the Dragonlands are situated between the Kingdom of Hereford and the Duchy of Brecon, in the west of a balnkanized version of England and Wales known as the Ununited Kingdoms. It’s a world where magic is slowly dying out, its practitioners reduced to delivering pizzas on flying carpets and rewiring houses by spell.

Book review: “Brisingr” by Christopher Paolini
Book Reviews / January 30, 2014

Many things discouraged me from reading the third book of the Inheritance Cycle. There was the backlash against my mixed review of Book 2, “Eldest”—almost, but not quite, the harshest feedback I have received. There was the disappointment of the film based on Book 1, “Eragon”—a hint that there would be less pressure from fandom in general to stay on top of this series. And finally, there was the thickness of this book, which was supposed to be the finale of a trilogy—whereas, in spite of its length, it turned out to be the third movement in a quartet.

Book review: “Necromancing the Stone” by Lish McBride
Book Reviews / January 24, 2014

In this sequel to “Hold Me Closer”, “Necromancer”, college dropout, ex-fry cook, late-blooming necromancer Sam LaCroix begins to make sense of his long hidden powers, his network of strange and dangerous allies, his steamy relationship with the Alpha female of a werewolf pack, and the huge fortune left to him by the villain he recently vanquished. But he’d better hurry. More challenges are coming at him, as fast as he can deal with them.