Book Review

Recent Reads: Wanderer by Roger Davenport and Bone Quill by John and Carol E Barrowman.

A round up of some of the books I’ve recently read.

Wanderer by Roger Davenport. Sky Pony Press.
WandererHere in a vast lost valley, society has split into two: the Wanderers, who team together to battle against the elements and each other in the harsh world of the desert, and those who live in the pyramid-city of Arcone, whose closed environment and tightly controlled society enable them to maintain a more civilized existence in the face of an environmentally devastated planet. Conflict is inevitable…

Kean is a Wanderer, adopted into a team that has protected him since he was a child. Essa lives with her parents in the pyramid, and chafes at the mental and physical restrictions the government enforces to protect its people. But when a rogue Wanderer plans an attack on the city to gain its resources for his people, Kean and Essa’s paths collide with an impact that will alter their lives forever.

This book was a really interesting read. Initially it grabbed my attention, then for a few chapters I didn’t feel like I was quite getting it, and then I settled into it and it flowed well.

As post-apocalyptic YA fiction goes this is pretty standard fare. The contrasts between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ are pretty stark, though for me at times the author held back a little in this respect. The ‘haves’, living comfortably within Arcone have some pretty despicable attitudes and operating practices. At times the reader has to put two and two together to realise how awful they can be – I felt sometimes the would have benefited from some of these aspects being spelt out a little more explicitly, this would add weight to them and allow the reader to really stop and examine the society (and in some respects compare it to our own).

I particularly enjoyed the sections focusing on the ‘have nots’ living in the wilderness outside Arcone. Their world is harsh, and challenging, I found it fascinating and would have gladly read lots more about it. I really liked the way this society of outcasts had formed a structure with rules, customs and routines. I cared more about this group of characters, particularly Kean.

Overall this was a good read, I’d definitely have liked a bit more from it, but I certainly enjoyed it.

Bone Quill by John and Carol E. Barrowman. Buster Books.
BoneQuillIn this thrilling sequel to Hollow Earth, Matt and Emily must stop someone from unleashing an army of mankind’s worst nightmares.

In the Middle Ages, an old monk used his powers and a bone quill to ink a magical manuscript, The Book of Beasts. Over the centuries the Book, and the quill, were lost.

Twins Matt and Emily Calder are Animare – just like their ancestor, the monk. The things they draw can be brought to life, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Now Matt and Em are being watched -hunted – because only they can use The Book of Beasts and the bone quill to release the terrible demons and monsters their ancestor illustrated.

And someone is tracking down the lost Book of Beasts, page by page, and reassembling it. Matt and Emily have no choice: They must get to the bone quill first… before somebody gets to them.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Hollow Earth so had high hopes for this book. Sadly by the end of the book I was sad and frustrated.

The beginning of the book worked really well for me, there is a quick recap of what has already happened in the story, and to help even more there is a glossary of some of the terminology used within the story. The adventure aspect of the book is also just as strong, there’s plenty of excitement and the scenes zip past quickly. A time travel element is added to the plot, whilst this did end up leaving me with unanswered questions it did bring some great scenes and ideas to the book.

Where the book did completely let me down was in the treatment of Em, the female twin. In the first book she played an equal part to the two main boys, something I was entirely refreshed by – too often the girl in such trios is in the background doing all the work and getting none of the credit. Sadly she did not receive such good treatment in this book, instead she is absent for a good proportion of the book and ends up virtually a damsel needing to be rescued. The final, major sequence of the book actually can be boiled down to the males doing and the females feeling.

I’m so sad about this, the very thing that made me so impressed with Hollow Earth was the thing that made this book such a disappointment. I will read the final part of the trilogy in the hope there’s some redeeming factor, but I’ll be going in to it with greatly reduced expectations.

Book Review

Recent Reads: Wishful Thinking by Ali Sparkes and Hollow Earth by John and Carole E Barrowman.

A round up of some of the books I’ve recently read.

imageWishful Thinking by Ali Sparkes. Oxford University Press.
It’s just a regular trip for Kevin, and he comes back with just the regular sorts of things. Some local fudge, a scented candle for his mum…and his own personal god. It’s Abandinus, a little-known Celtic deity, who has suddenly found a new purpose in his eternal life – sorting out Kevin’s.

With a god on your side, everything’s going to get a lot easier, isn’t it? After all, a god can get stuff done. The trouble is, it’s not always the kind of stuff Kevin has in mind…

This book is a fairly standard, middle grade fantasy infused adventure tale. Like others in the genre it features a lead boy character, Kevin, along with a pair of trusty supporting friends – one boy and one girl. Where it does differ is the fantasy element, Kevin accidentally summons Abandinus – a Celtic god, and once you’ve summoned one Celtic god a handful more will follow.

I enjoyed the fantasy element of this book, it was nice to learn a bit about these lesser known gods and goddesses. In places the book is quite moralistic, but this is written in such a way that it doesn’t feel heavy handed, and it may encourage young readers to think about what they would do in the situation. Overall the book is enjoyable enough, but I have read other similar books that I’ve enjoyed more, and I’ve enjoyed other books by this author far more.

imageHollow Earth by John and Carole E. Barrowman. Buster Books.
Imagination matters most in a world where art can keep monsters trapped—or set them free.

Lots of twins have a special connection, but twelve-year-old Matt and Emily Calder can do way more than finish each other’s sentences. Together, they are able to bring art to life and enter paintings at will. Their extraordinary abilities are highly sought after, particularly by a secret group who want to access the terrors called Hollow Earth. All the demons, devils, and evil creatures ever imagined are trapped for eternity in the world of Hollow Earth—trapped unless special powers release them.

The twins flee from London to a remote island off the west coast of Scotland in hopes of escaping their pursuers and gaining the protection of their grandfather, who has powers of his own. But the villains will stop at nothing to find Hollow Earth and harness the powers within. With so much at stake, nowhere is safe—and survival might be a fantasy.

This book opens with a chapter set in the Middle Ages. It grabs your attention and has you asking loads of questions and then jumps you forward to the modern day and adds more questions and introduces engaging characters – a few hours later you find you’ve powered your way through to the end of the book. Well that was my reading experience anyway, this book got its claws into me within a few pages and refused to let go.

I love the world that has been created for this book, it’s well described and thought out – I particularly loved that it links to our world through art, a few times paintings are mentioned that I knew, and a few made me look them up. I really hope that young readers will want to look up the paintings too and be introduced to some wonderful pieces of art.

I really liked the main characters, again this is a middle grade book featuring a trio with two boys and a girl, but in this book the three characters are far more equal and all have an important part to play. I very much liked that one of the main characters has a significant hearing impairment and communicates using sign language – he is written in a wonderfully manner of fact style, his deafness does not define him or become an important part of him, it’s just one facet of many that make up his character.

This is the opening book of a trilogy, it does a good job of balancing world building with action. I am really looking forward to seeing how the remaining books answer some of the questions left open at the end of this book.