2003.04


Aerie: An unnecessary and disappointing sequel

Aerie by Mercedes Lackey

Aerie is the fourth and final book in Mercedes Lackey’s DRAGON JOUSTERS series. This review will spoil some of the plot for the previous three books, Joust, Alta, and Sanctuary, so it’d be best to not read further in this review if you haven’t read those books yet.

I’m convinced that Aerie exists only because Lackey left a thread dangling in the third book, Sanctuary. After the bad guys were defeated and Alta and Tia were at peace, we kind of expected tha... Read More

The Diamond of Darkhold: A satisfying, but not thrilling, conclusion

The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau

When the Roamer, Maggs, drives her carriage into the small town of Sparks, she finds a desperate people with nothing to trade. Sparks used to be reasonably flush for a post-apocalyptic society, but absorbing the refugees from Ember just before winter has used up almost all of its resources. People aren’t starving, but they might be soon. Maggs is about to leave when Doon and Lina spot an old book in her carriage. Doon wants the book, but Maggs has been using the book as fuel for her fires, so she insists that Lina pay at least one match for it.

The book turns out to have been written by the Builders for the people of Ember — probably to help them after they return to the surface, reasons Doon. Only eight pages remain, but they inspire Doon to return to Ember in order to find whatever the Builders left for them — and to scavenge any food that might still remain in the subterranean cit... Read More

Forest Born: A good choice for girls who struggle with confidence

Forest Born by Shannon Hale

Everyone thinks of Rin as her mother’s shadow. She belongs to a large extended family that all live near each other in the forest and, until recently, Rin has always been her hard-working mother’s helper. She cooks, cleans, fetches the water, helps take care of all the kids, etc. When she needs a little peace, she communes with the trees of the forest. She doesn’t really “speak” with them, but just feels their love and the constant harmony they provide.

But then Rin did something bad and the trees have withdrawn their love. She feels their disappointment and disgust with her. Now Rin feels unworthy and unloved and begins to sink into depression. In an attempt to help, her big brother Razo invites her to join him and his new wife at the Bayern court. There she meets Queen Isi and admires her strength and confidence. As Rin tries to find her place at court, she manages to tag along on a quest to... Read More

Hex and the City: Nightside is terrific on audio

Hex and the City by Simon R. Green

Hex and the City is the fourth novel in Simon R. Green’s NIGHTSIDE series. I’ve been listening to  NIGHTSIDE on audio lately  because I’ve been doing a lot of home improvements, especially painting, and NIGHTSIDE is such an easy read that I don’t ever have to stop and rewind, which is something you don’t want to do when you’ve got paint all over your hands. Audio readers know what I mean.

In Hex and the City, John Taylor is moving on to his next case in the seedy and decadent Nightside where it’s always 3 AM. This time Lady Luck has hired him to discover the origins of the Nightside, something Taylor wanted to do anyway. During his investigation he meets some people/creatures who were fundamentally involved in the establishment of the Nightside. He begins to confirm his suspicion that his own mother, whom he doesn’t even remember, is someone ... Read More

Command Decision: Delivers what I was expecting

Command Decision by Elizabeth Moon

Command Decision is the fourth installment in Elizabeth Moon’s VATTA’S WAR series. Things are starting to look up for Kylara Vatta, her cousin Stella, and their Aunt Grace. Ky, who has proven herself a skilled military commander and is gaining respect, still has to deal with a lot of bureaucratic silliness, but she sees more action in this book. Stella has (thankfully) rebounded from her pity party and is now the capable CEO of Vatta Enterprises. Young Toby turns out to be a genius with the on-board ansibles and is able to provide engineering skills. Grace has destroyed the corrupt Slotter Key government and put herself in a high-level position.

However, the pirates who destroyed the Vatta family are still a major threat to the entire universe — they’re knocking out ansibles and taking over planetary governments and nobody is doing anything about it. That’s because 1. There is ... Read More

The Mischief Monster: Read this one in print

The Mischief Monster by Bruce Coville

The Mischief Monster is the fourth book in Bruce Coville’s delightful MOONGOBBLE AND ME series for ages 9-12. I’ve been listening to this series of short books on audio with my girls who are 6 and 9 years old. Each book is about an hour long and dramatized by Full Cast Audio, which means there’s a cast of readers playing parts rather than just one narrator.

In The Mischief Monster, Edward, Moongobble, and their friends try to return a mischievous monster princess named Snelly to her home in Monster Mountain. As usual, there’s a surprise twist at the end. The plot of The Mischief Monster is cute and funny (especially when Urk the toad gets turned into a fluffy pink kitty). My girls loved the story.

Though I’ve been recommending Full Cast Audio’s versions so far, I can’t do... Read More

Odysseus: A straightforward adaptation

Odysseus by Geraldine McCaughrean

This, the forth and final book in Geraldine McCaughrean's stories of Greek heroes, (preceded by Perseus, Hercules  and Theseus) is the only one based on actual literature: Homer's Odyssey. As such, McCaughrean does not have to pick and choose aspects of convoluted and often contradictory myths; her source material has already been written, providing a fairly linear sequence of events. As such, the stories concerning Odysseus have always been more straightforward than those of his peers.

The retelling begins well after the Trojan War, with Odysseus sailing home with his fleet of ships to his small kingdom of Ithaca, where his wife Penelope and son Telemachus await him. He has not seen them in ten long years, and the voyage home is a dangerous one. Meanwhile, int... Read More

The Ring of Solomon: Bartimaeus is back!

The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud

Fans of Jonathan Stroud’s fantastic Bartimaeus Trilogy, which began with The Amulet of Samarkand and ended with Ptolemy’s Gate, will be happy to know that the title character — the wise-cracking fourth-level djinn who has long-standing issues with authority — is back and funny as ever in The Ring of Solomon.

Rather than continue the story of the first trilogy, though, or give us a typical “here’s what happened just before” prequel, Stroud has chosen to set this new story thousands of years earlier during the time of, well, Solomon (the title’s a bit of a giveaway). Luckily, when your main character is basically immortal, that isn’t a problem. Bartimaeus’ favorite bête noi... Read More

Alector’s Choice: Shampoo-rinse-repeat

Alector's Choice by L.E. Modesitt Jr

There's no longer any doubt — Modesitt has fallen into the "shampoo" mode of series writing: rinse-shampoo-repeat. Alector's Choice, while not a bad book if read on its own (which it can be), is, for fans or former fans of Modesitt's other work, merely a rehash of the same old same old. Same old plot. Same old characters. Same old conflicts. Same old resolutions. Only the names have been changed to protect the profits (and a possible plagiarism suit if one could sue oneself).

Reading the above criticism, those who've followed the Corean series can predict what's coming here. A good character of middling military rank is placed under an incompetent superior and given multiple impossible tasks. Employing his still-developing "talent" and his tendency toward original and independent thoug... Read More

Sir Thursday: Challenging and thought-provoking reading

Sir Thursday by Garth Nix

By now the basic premise of Garth Nix's seven-part The Keys to the Kingdom series is well established. Arthur Penhaligon has been thrown into an extraordinary world: the epicenter of the universe, known as "the House". Ruled by the treacherous Morrow Days (named after the days of the week and each personifying one of the seven deadly sins: Mister Monday/sloth; Grim Tuesday/greed; Drowned Wednesday/gluttony and now Sir Thursday who appears to be pride), Arthur has been given the task of reassembling the missing pieces of the Will that will strip these characters of their power and return it to the Rightful Heir — himself!

Perhaps a bit more exposition is needed: the Will is the written word of the creator of this world; a mysterious female-deity known as the Architect. Each piece of the Will takes the form of an animal befo... Read More