July 2011

Septimus Heap: Darke

Fans of Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series have been awaiting her latest installment for over a year, and following the siren, jinn, and talking cat people in the previous volume, most of us were eager to see what she could come up with next. Unfortunately, Darke, though a fun tale on its own, doesn’t really measure up to any of the previous Septimus Heap volumes. (Spoilers ahead.)

There really aren’t many, if any, cool creatures or spirits in Darke. Instead, we are faced once again with a very limp villain—the boy who once thought he was, indeed, Septimus Heap, but was later discovered to be Merrin Meredith—and his somehow turning the entire castle askew with the power of DomDaniel’s ring.

This entire plot will seem ridiculous to some; I didn’t enjoy it, either. Meredith has never been a formidable villain, and he still wasn’t one this time around. Not only that, but we also barely had any Nicko, Snorri, Wolf Boy, Aunt Zelda, or other beloved characters this time around, either. Silas himself was nearly completely absent, as were the rest of the Heaps save for Sarah and Simon. Even Marcia Overstrand wasn’t as involved as she normally is.

Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell

The story of Henry V's victory over France in the 15th century, retold in formula by historical fiction's most prolific writer.

    

No one disputes Bernard Cornwell's dominance in the realm of historical fiction, just as no one refutes the fact that Shakespeare immortalized a stunning but somewhat insignificant battle in Henry V. However, after reading Cornwell's entire Saxon series, I'm on to his formula. In Agincourt, he manages to apply that formula rather unspectacularly to a story that Shakespeare already had fairly well cornered for the last 500 years. Nevertheless, Cornwell's retelling through the fictitious eyes of an English archer, Nick Hook is a sometimes-exhilirating romp through the the tragedies and religious fanaticism of the late Middle Ages.

     Cornwell employs the fictitious protagonist Nick Hook, uncannily gifted at archery, who is the victim of a family feud that forces him to flee to the British military. He ends up at a post in Soissons, an occupied city in France during the 100 years war, that is subsequently sacked by the French army. Hook manages to flee with the romantic interest, Melisande, the illegitimate daughter of a French noble who serves as (one of) the main antagonist(s) in the story. Hook is guided by voices, supposedly belonging to St. Crispin and St. Crispinian who were the patron saints of the city. They flee back to England with news of the devastation in Soissons, which prompts the King to mount another campaign. It is this campaign, guided by a fanatically pious King Henry V, that poses a near disaster after a prolonged siege in the port city of Harfleur, and a pompous march by the remaining army through France to English-held Calais; evidently a gesture by the English king that he could walk through France with impunity before the French nobles were too afraid to come out of their castles and fight.

Enter Brandon Mull’s Fantasy World in Beyonders

After waiting for what seems like forever on the library’s waiting list for it, I finally received my copy of Brandon Mull’s Beyonders: A World Without Heroes, and boy, is it a fun read! If you have read the Fablehaven series, or Mull’s The Candy Shop War, and you had a good time, chances are you’re going to really enjoy this new novel (and perhaps its subsequent two novels to come!), too.

Like his other works, Beyonders is centered around a hero and a heroine, something that I’ve always appreciated about Mull. He doesn’t exclude any sexes—though, in this book, you will encounter sexism, but it’s part of the plot. Unlike his other books, however, instead of having fantasy elements that take place within the world we currently inhabit, Mull takes us to a brand new world called Lyrian. Our heroes, Jason and Rachel, are both from our world and they find themselves in this new world. The two are strangers to one another but work together in order to first find a way home, but their quest soon turns into a much more heroic journey that will impact everyone in Lyrian.

Creatures, fights, and out-of-this-world elements all await you in Lyrian. Jason even enters the land in a very unconventional way—through the mouth of a hippo at the zoo! This series was harder to get into than the previous ones I’ve read of Mull’s; it took me a good sixty pages or so to really get into it. I wasn’t going to give up on it simply because he wrote it, and I’m glad I didn’t because it turned out to be a wonderful book (I still love Fablehaven more, however). I think the main reason it was harder to get into was due to the fact that, like the Leven Thumps series, it takes place in an entirely different world, and you have to sort of stop every page and mull over (no pun intended!) what is happening. Certain types of creatures are, unlike the ones in Fablehaven, completely made up (as far as I know) and unfamiliar to us, making us think a little harder to absorb the story. This novel may also be intended for a slightly older audience, accounting for less dialogue and more descriptive writing, which can take longer to read as well.

Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

... still more exciting than my real life

Choose Your Own Adventure novels were some of the best videogames before videogames were on TV.  Generally featuring somewhere between 20 to 30 endings, Choose Your Own Adventure novels were usually predictable—You die! You find buried treasure! You charm a snake!—but I haven’t met a single child of the ‘80’s or ‘90’s who cares.  Some of the titles, like “Secrets of the Pyramid” where you travel with your uncle to Egypt to see if the pyramid at Giza can be used as an energy source or “The Phantom Submarine” where you use your ESP skills to see why submarines have been disappearing at sea, make me want to scrounge them up and forget that the most exciting part of my day-to-day is a fresh-brewed pot of joe.

Shadows of Obsession by Kemy

 

 

Shadows of Obsession, An erotic novel that cautions us that sometimes one touch, one taste of undulated ecstasy, or one chance encounter, is all it takes to become the object of someone's affection, or the desire to become someone's obsessional affliction

 

An erotic psychological thriller that sets the heart racing, and the pulse pounding