Bobby Pendragon is a normal middle-school kid and life is good. He’s the most valuable player on the basketball team and he’s just found out that Courtney, the girl he’s had a crush on for years, has a crush on him, too! Life could not be better… until Uncle Press arrives while Bobby is kissing Courtney and drags Bobby away to a medieval world where some oppressed people need Bobby’s help. For Bobby has special powers and: A Destiny! When Bobby disappears, Courtney and Mark, Bobby’s best friend, get worried and start investigating. They can’t find Bobby, but they do receive a letter from him which details all that’s happening to Bobby in Denduron.
The Merchant of Death is the first novel in D.J. MacHale’s young adult PENDRAGON series. It’s fast-paced and exciting, it has a likable teenage boy for a hero, there are monsters and explosions, and there’s even a little bit of cussing and kissing. Perfect for a 14 year old boy.
You can’t help but like Bobby. He’s the athletic good-looking kid who everyone likes. He loves his family and his dog, and he’s noble enough to have an unpopular geek for a best friend. Mark is also a great character, and we get to see him mature a little over the course of the novel. Likewise, beautiful and popular Courtney is smart and competent. The three kids make great protagonists, though they’re a little shallow at this point in the PENDRAGON series. I hope that will get better.
The plot of The Merchant of Death, even though it’s exciting, isn’t anything new. It also won’t hold up to the scrutiny of adults and teens who don’t want to work too hard to maintain their suspension of disbelief. The villains are preposterous caricatures, Bobby and his friends accept bizarre occurrences too readily, Bobby solves problems too quickly and easily, everything he needs is conveniently at hand, and even his special powers are amazingly opportune. Furthermore, it’s hard to believe that Bobby’s uncle has never mentioned Bobby’s special skills or connection to other worlds before he whisks Bobby off to save the day, and it’s also hard to believe that Mark and Courtney don’t solicit help from adults. I’m also not sure why MacHale chose to have Bobby narrate most of the plot in the form of letters to Mark and Courtney — I had a hard time believing that Bobby is sitting down recording his adventure in this way, especially since he’s far more verbose than any teenage boy I’ve ever encountered.
But I’m not a 14 year old boy and I expect that many teenagers will be completely entertained by The Merchant of Death. It’s well-written and fun, and a promising start to a long series. One of my boys read and enjoyed PENDRAGON a few years ago (I remember fetching all the books for him at the library), so I can confidently recommend the series to teenagers.
I listened to William Dufris narrate Brilliance Audio’s version. He’s really good!
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.