Book Review: “Sky Raiders” by Brandon Mull
Book Reviews / July 25, 2014

When Cole and his sixth-grader friends troop down the basement steps to view a spooky Halloween house of horrors, they’re more worried about whether they’re too old to go trick-or-treating than about being kidnapped. But the basement is already nearly full of caged kids waiting to be forced down a ladder in the floor. Cole manages to hide until everybody has gone down the hole, wondering how anyone could think of getting away with kidnapping so many kids at once. Then he follows them. His plan is just to find out where the kids are being taken, so he can report back to the police. But the hole in the basement floor proves to be a portal to another world—and it’s a one-way trip.

Book Review: “Elantris” by Brandon Sanderson
Book Reviews / July 19, 2014

I’ve never read anything by Brandon Sanderson before, and I’m generally leery of thick fantasy novels that have the look of “Book One of a Punishingly Long Series.” Three things convinced me to give this book a try. First is the fact that, although it was his first published novel back in 2005, Sanderson hasn’t written any sequels to it… yet. I’m told he plans to, but so far all he has rolled out is a novella set in the same universe, titled “The Emperor’s Soul”, and a short e-book called “The Hope of Elantris”. It’s possible we may luck out, and this will be a standalone novel; that would be just about perfect. The second and deciding vote in favor of reading it is the fact that an audiobook, read by Jack Garrett for Recorded Books, was available at the public library. Third, and making it unanimous, is the list of other works by Brandon Sanderson, which includes a bunch of other stuff that I suddenly want to read.

Book Review: “Froi of the Exiles” by Melina Marchetta
Book Reviews / March 25, 2014

An “Adult Content Advisory” remains in effect for the second book of the “Lumatere Chronicles”, in which the fate of kingdoms depends on the actions of highly sexed young adults. Even more than in “Finnikin of the Rock”, in which the figurative and literal rape of a kingdom is involved in the tale of a nation divided 50/50 between captives and refugees. But now the people of Lumatere have been reunited; the curse has been broken that separated those within the boundaries from those without; their queen has returned to her people; and a new set of problems has arisen.

Book review: “Pegasus” by Robin McKinley
Book Reviews / January 26, 2014

She has won the Newbery Medal (for” The Hero and the Crown”). She has won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award (for “Sunshine”). She has entertained us with tales of vampires, fairies, dragons, and Robin Hood, as well as folk tales spruced up as novels. As the wife of Peter Dickinson, she dwells in a reactor-core of magic and beautiful storytelling that could reach critical mass at any time. All that being said, if she doesn’t produce a sequel to this book, I will be seriously miffed with her.

Book review: “The Crimson Crown” by Cinda Williams Chima
Book Reviews / January 12, 2014

Book Four of the Seven Realms series brings Han Alister, Raisa, and the Queendom of the Fells to the crisis of their age. And—just think of it—their age is scarcely eighteen! Readers around that age will be especially thrilled by the political intrigues, the deadly dangers, the perplexing mysteries, and the turbulent romance that swirl around these two main characters. He is a former street lord who only found out within the last year that he is a wizard, the heir of a so-called Demon King who has cast a shadow over Fellsian history for a thousand years. She is heir to the line of Gray Wolf Queens, yet she must fight an hourly battle to keep command of her own fate while the wizard council and the upland clans—mutually sworn enemies—make their own plans as to whom she will marry and how she will rule. Political pressure is one thing, but neither side is above using deadly force to get the result it wants.

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: “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: “Escape from Castle Cant”
Book Reviews / September 26, 2013

This book is a sequel to “The Secret of Castle Cant”, which I read many years ago. Like the sequels to many other books I enjoyed, I have had this one on my shelf for so long that I forgot what the original book was about and had to re-read my own review of it to refresh my memory. I understand there is a third book in the series, titled “The Black Arrow of Cant”, published in 2007.

Book review: “The Castle Corona” by Sharon Creech
Book Reviews / September 11, 2013

The first author to win both the Newbery Medal (for “Walk Two Moons”) and the Carnegie Medal (for “Ruby Holler”) here deviates from her general habit of depicting present-day kids in dramatic situations. Instead, she conjures a make-believe kingdom somewhere in medieval Italy, with a king and a queen, a princess and two princes, hermits, peasants, servants, and knights.

Book review: “A Tale Dark and Grimm” by Adam Gidwitz
Book Reviews / July 11, 2013

This book is what happens when a New York City schoolteacher stitches together nine fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm to form one coherent story—while, at the same time, restoring much of the original versions’ weird, scary, and bloody bits. And although the narrator often pulls the reader aside and begs him to make sure there are no small children in the room to hear the tale, the entire book demonstrates an amazing faith in kids’ guts, brains, and hearts—not only that they can understand and appreciate such strong stuff, but that they are brave enough to take it, worthy to enjoy it, and keen to learn from it