Skip to main content

Shorter Musings: MG Fantasy Series Starters

Here are some shorter musings reviews of several first books in new MG fantasy series that started this year. Ummm....most of them I'm not too excited about-two I outright hated.

The Blood Guard by Carter Roy

The Blood Guard will certainly have a vast amount of kid appeal, and I can see why. It is fast-paced, adventure packed, has both male and female protagonists, and a lot of twists that are going to take child readers by surprise. There wasn't much in it that set it apart from a lot of series starters I've read lately. It has a very video game type feel to it. There is quite a bit of violence, but none of it really matters because of plot twists. There is a dehumanizing factor to that I didn't like personally. Also the whole concept of the novel had me rolling my eyes quite a bit. 36 "pure" people who are just deep down good hearted and don't know it keep the world in balance and God from destroying it? What even. ETA: The what even is that this is based on the Tzadikim Nistarim-a belief that comes from the Kabbalah. It is actually a part of a mythology then and wasn't just reached arbitrarily. Good to know, but I really wish it had been expanded a bit more. The way it was thrown in there had me so skeptical and unable to buy the world-bulding at all. 


Shipwreck Island by S.A. Bodeen
I probably wasn't the best reader for this book in the first place. I loathe The Swiss Family Robinson. Loathe. It. But this looked so short I figured it might be a better, more fun update of the same concept. It's only short because it is the first in a series. (If I had known that, I wouldn't have read it.) That in itself is not enough to make me dislike a book as much I disliked this one. So what are my reasons? It begins like one of the WORST made for Disney Channel movies. The parents are ridiculously clueless. The kids, newly brought together by their parents' marriage, are self-absorbed and obnoxious. It even has the famous two boy and one girl formula that Disney uses for everything and each of them fit into some caricature-the smart snotty one, the super geeky quirky one, and the stoic brave level headed one. There is little to no character development done beyond that. The plot trips along in an absurd manner until halfway through the family is stranded on an island after the boat begins to sink in a storm and the Captain dies. The island is all kinds of mysterious, but we can't tell exactly what kinds yet. It is hinted in just a few short pages that there are possible ghosts, weird people-chasing-weather-phenomena, and animals the likes of which one would find residing with Dr. Moreau. Then the book ends. Just. Like. That. Like this is a TV pilot and they want you to be sure to tune in again next week to see what happens next. I know that works great for TV shows, when you only have to wait A WEEK. But nothing makes me angrier than when books do it, because the next book isn't coming out next week. It's an even dirtier trick to pull when you do it with a book. The parents, being the type of people they are, haven't clued in to the strangeness of the island yet. So what is the sensible thing for the kid who has experienced the strangest aspects to do? Lie about it, of course! Even when it means contradicting his step-sister and making her look like an idiot. Needless to say, despite the best efforts to get me to read the next book with that cliffhanger ending, it will not be happening. 

Sky Raiders by Brandom Mull
This is the beginning of a new series by Brandon Mull who is particularly good at cranking out series sure to entertain MG students everywhere. This one kicks off to a particularly dark beginning. A group of 5th-7th graders kidnapped en masse and sold into harsh slavery in a world not their own is some serious stuff. That sense of peril never lessens making it hard to put down. The world building is interesting, and I like all the main characters. Mull has another good one on his hands with this. 

The Thickety by J.A. White
When I first read this, I had several issues with it, most of which I don't care to get into. After discussing the book with a friend, I realized I had overlooked a MAJOR issue that I don't have any trouble getting into. This is why I love the book and blogging community. Because discussions with friends help me find strengths in books I had not previously seen, and they also open my eyes to my own privilege and how I could allow a serious issue to slide by without commenting. The villain in this story is a girl born with a disability, a disability that she uses to manipulate other and be generally mean, spiteful, and specifically plot awful things toward the protagonist. While her environment can be blamed for how she turned out, the way she is portrayed ties her disability too closely to the evil machinations of her mind. Also, the word "cripple" is used to describe her, which is not acceptable in anyway. 
Do I understand that evil and cruel intentions are something that people with disabilities can have? Of course! I'm not naive. However, kids with disabilities see themselves so little in books as it is. When they do have the opportunity to see themselves in a book, do we want them to see themselves as the villain? That is worse than them being the sympathetic sidekick (looking at another popular MG book from this year). We need more books like [book:Handbook for Dragon Slayers|13624404] where these kids get to see themselves as the heroes. 
This combined with the issues I already had means I can't endorse this book in any way. Upon further thinking of the book, I've also decided that the writing isn't of the quality enough to save it from it's weaknesses. 

Comments

I wonder if the "pure people" in The Blood Guard might have been inspired by the Jewish tradition of the Tzadikim Nistarim ("hidden righteous ones")?

And I also had issues with The Thickety! I could barely make it past the opening torture scene.
Brandy said…
Thanks Anamaria! I had no idea that was even a thing. I know next to nothing about Jewish mysticism so thanks for informing me. It is nice to know that there was a basis for that beyond a "hey what if..." meeting and a dart thrown at a random number. I will add your info to the review. Just out of curiosity, do you happen to know if there is a belief that these same 36 are continuously reincarnated? That's part of this too. I think it would be really interesting to have a novel based on this mythology that fleshed it out more and showed its derivation. This book epically failed at that as it just had me blinking in confusion and leaving unable to buy into the world-building at all.
Thanks Brandy! I'm not well-informed on the subject either, but your description of the 36 rang a bell. Definitely agree that if the Jewish tradition was the inspiration, there needs to be some context for it!

Popular posts from this blog

TTT: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by  The Broke and the Bookish  and now hosted at  That Artsy Reader Girl . This Week's Topic: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List From Most Recent to Least: What books have recently caught your eye?

Favorite Kissing Scenes

When thinking of a favorite things post I could do for February I decided it would have to be kissing. I've already done couples and I was feeling in the mood to do something fluffy and Valentine's related. So kisses it is. I read more MG than YA, and the YA I read tends to not focus on romance so this was actually harder than I expected it to be though a few jumped into my head right away. (And one of my choices does actually come from a MG book. One is adult. Gasp!) The actual scene from the book is quoted followed by my thoughts. The king lifted a hand to her cheek and kissed her. It was not a kiss between strangers, not even a kiss between a bride and a groom. It was a kiss between a man and his wife, and when it was over, the king closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the hollow of the queen's shoulder, like a man seeking respite, like a man reaching home at the end of the day . - The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner Turner doesn't write the

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black Cloak  by Robert Beatty is a thrilling tale of mystery and adventure set at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC in 1899. Having lived in Asheville and visited the house several times, there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to read this. (Also it's MG fantasy, always a bonus for me.) Serafina lives in secret in the basement of the Vanderbilt's spacious vacation home. She has lived there most of her life. Her father worked on the house as it was being built and is the mechanic who runs the massive generator and keeps the electricity going. Serafina is the chief rat catcher, slipping through the halls of her massive home secretly and quietly. She is light on her feet, sees well in the dark, and is quick enough to catch the vermin and keep them out. Serafina knows she if different and strange. Her father insists she stay hidden. But all that changes when one night Serafina witnesses a horrible crime. A little girl, a guest in the house, is fleein

Shadowshaper

Shadowshaper  by Daniel José Older is everywhere. Best of lists. Award buzz. Blogs everywhere. It's one of those books everyone is reading and talking about. I had it on my TBR but decided I definitely needed to read it before the year was out just so I could weigh in on one of the most talked about books of 2015 if asked. It is deserving of every good thing said about it. Every. One. Sierra was looking forward to a relaxing summer break. Her plans involved hanging out with her friends and painting. They did not involve being chased by zombie like creatures and threatened by a magical power connected to her family's heritage she has never heard of. When murals begin fading all over her Brooklyn neighborhood, Sierra is perplexed. When her grandfather, who had a stroke, begins to apologize and starts repeating strange phases and insisting Sierra get the help of a boy she barely knows to help her finish her mural, Sierra is concerned but mostly about her grandfather. Then at a

YA Book GIVEAWAY!!!

On Tuesday I posted my Top Ten Books Read so Far in 2013 and promised to highlight more of this year's favorites and offer them in giveaways. This is the YA giveaway. This is open to anyone who lives where Book Depository ships for free . Book Choices: TO ENTER: Leave a comment below saying which book looks most interesting to you and leave a way I can reach you if you are the winner. (email address or twitter handle-If you are using Twitter it would be helpful if you followed me, @brandymuses , in case I need to DM you.) Entries after Monday, July 1 8:00 PM EST are invalid. The winner will be drawn as close to 8 as possible.  Yes, I still do my giveaways the old fashioned way.