Note: The first paragraph of this review contains minor spoilers for The Merchant of Death.
The Lost City of Faar is the second novel in D.J. MacHale’s popular 10-book PENDRAGON series for teens. In the first book, The Merchant of Death, 14-year old Bobby Pendragon discovered that he is a Traveler — a person who represents a planet and is able to travel through space and time to visit other worlds. The Travelers are trying to stop an evil shapeshifter named Saint Dane from creating chaos in Halla, which consists of everything that exists in all times and places. In that first book, Bobby saved a world called Denduron. When he arrived back on Earth, he found that his family had ceased to exist. His Uncle Press, who is also a Traveler, promised that someday Bobby would see them again. Bobby is sharing his adventure with his best friend Mark, a geek, and Courtney, the girl he’s had a crush on for years. He has a magic ring which allows him to send journals back to Earth. It’s these journal entries that we’re reading.
After Bobby foiled Saint Dane’s plans in Denduron, the villain went to a world called Cloral, so now Bobby and Uncle Press are following him there. Cloral is a beautiful planet of water. Everyone lives in cities that have been built on floating barges. Bobby loves Cloral and thinks it seems like an ideal society — everyone is happy there and Bobby finally feels safe. But not for long. Saint Dane is planning to throw this world into chaos, too. Bobby and Press will get help from a local named Spader, who doesn’t yet know that he is also a Traveler. Their adventure will involve sharks, speedboats, scuba diving, genetically engineered crops, and a legendary city that supposedly sunk below the ocean generations ago. The climactic scene is spectacular, but Bobby suffers a huge loss.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Mark is dealing with a bully named Andy Mitchell who found out about Bobby’s journals and is blackmailing Mark. The police are wondering what happened to Bobby and these journals could get Mark and Courtney in trouble because they haven’t turned them over. Mark doesn’t want to admit to Courtney that he let Andy find out about the journals. Can Mark outwit the bully without Courtney’s help?
Like the first book, The Lost City of Faar is mostly a fun teenage adventure, but D.J. MacHale takes the opportunity to do a little bit of teaching about scuba diving (explaining the gear and the bends, for example), to offer gentle warnings about the dangers of genetic engineering, to point out that even boring work can be very important, and to subtly highlight the types of personality characteristics and behaviors that successful and popular people display (e.g., working hard, saying nice things about others, etc.) This never feels teachy.
There are a few minor issues that didn’t detract much from my enjoyment of The Lost City of Faar. As I mentioned in my review of The Merchant of Death, the villain is laughably over-the-top, the plot is not water-tight, and things often happen too conveniently for Bobby. For example, when Bobby wonders why there is always a pile of perfectly fitting clothes and gear when they arrive on a new world, Uncle Press explains that there are unseen acolytes who provide what they need. Some action scenes go on too long with too much explanation of exactly what Bobby did to, say, get the boat going, but teens are less likely to find these moments as dull as I did. And, of course, there’s the problem of knowing that Bobby has survived the dire straits he’s in because he lived to write the journal that we’re reading. You could argue that since there are ten books in this series about Bobby Pendragon, we kind of knew he’d survive anyway, but somehow knowing that we’re reading a journal entry diminishes the tension more than usual.
Just one more thing. There are far too many exclamations such as “Amazing!” and “I couldn’t believe it!” which are a little annoying, but this seems to be toned down in the next book, The Never War, which I have already read and enjoyed even more than this book.
None of these little issues are likely to bother the target audience at all. My son flew through these books when he was 13 and I can see why. They’re fun and exciting with likeable characters. I’m listening to William Dufris narrate the audio versions. Dufris gives Bobby’s voice the enthusiasm that the author intended. The Lost City of Faar is just over 12 hours long.
Pendragon — (2002-2009) Young adult. Publisher: Bobby Pendragon is a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy. He has a family, a home, and even Marley, his beloved dog. But there is something very special about Bobby. He is going to save the world. And not just Earth as we know it. Bobby is slowly starting to realize that life in the cosmos isn’t quite what he thought it was. And before he can object, he is swept off to an alternate dimension known as Denduron, a territory inhabited by strange beings, ruled by a magical tyrant, and plagued by dangerous revolution. If Bobby wants to see his family again, he’s going to have to accept his role as savior, and accept it wholeheartedly. Because, as he is about to discover, Denduron is only the beginning…
Pendragon: Before the War — (2008- ) A Pendragon prequel with Carla Jablonski and Walter Sorrells. Publisher: Before Bobby Pendragon. Before Saint Dane. Before the war… Every territory of Halla has a Traveler. They lived for years — some even for decades — before learning of their true destiny. What was life like for Bobby Pendragon’s fellow Travelers before they joined him in the fight to save every time and place that has ever existed? What led up to their becoming the guardians of Halla? The answers are here! In this first of three thrilling Pendragon prequels, read about Vo Spader’s death-defying adventures in the underwater world of Cloral, Gunny Van Dyke’s race to find a murderer in 1930’s Manhattan on First Earth, and the tough challenges Kasha faced on Eelong well before Bobby Pendragon arrived…
The Guide to the Territories of Halla — (2005) Publisher: All there ever was; all that will be. For the first time, see the amazing sights of Halla as only Bobby Pendragon has. From the watery depths of Cloral to the rugged mountain ranges of Denduron to the jungles of Eelong, from the Earth territories to the decaying fantasy world of Veelox, it¹s all here. So are the Travelers: Uncle Press, Vo Spader, Loor, Aja Killian, Alder, Gunny, and Kasha, and of course, Bobby Pendragon and Saint Dane. This is your private flume to Halla. Enter and discover old friends while you learn new secrets. But remember one thing: This is only the beginning.