Summer of Redwall: The Rogue Crew

The Rogue Crew is the twenty-second book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was published in 2011 by Philomel, and I believe it was done so posthumously. The Redwall wiki (spoilers!) can be found here, and info about Brian Jacques can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

 “Redwall Abbey has never seen a creature more evil or more hideous than Razzid Wearat. Captain of the Greenshroud, a ship with wheels that can sail through water as well as the forest, this beast is a terror of both land and sea, traveling Mossflower Country, killing nearly everything—and everyone—in his path. And his goal? To conquer Redwall Abbey.

From Salamandastron to the High North Coast, the brave hares of the Long Patrol team up with the fearless sea otters of the Rogue Crew to form a pack so tough, so rough, only they can defend the Abbey and defeat Razzid Wearat once and for all.”

Thoughts:

Unfortunately, the last Redwall book is also a forgettable one. Characters remain the same and are indistinguishable from each other, the villain is flat and boring, the plot is exactly the same as numerous other Redwall plots (and not even as good as others that deal with invasions, such as The Long Patrol) and the first three-quarters of the book are set-up for the last quarter, which makes for an anticlimactic invasion and end. It was sad to end the series on this note, especially since The Sable Quean was such a nice departure from the monotonous regularity of Redwall.

However, how Razzid is defeated is pretty unique for the series. It reminded me a little bit of the demise of Zwilt the Shade in The Sable Quean. It’s definitely not how the reader expects Razzid to be killed. Also, speaking of uniqueness, Lady Violet is not the typical Badger Lord, which is refreshing. Sadly, she only appears twice, at the beginning and at the end.

Poor Swiffo! I mean, it was pretty obvious what was going to happen to you, but still. Jacques seems to like making the genuinely likable characters die so that everyone is sad, including the reader.

 Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Violence/fighting, death.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Tapestry by chichapie. Featuring many of the heroes from Redwall.

Passages/Quotes:

Skor rose, hefting his massive battleaxe. “So, what think ye, Nightfur? We number three an’ a half score—that’s mine an’ Ruggan’s crew with yore Long Patrol warriors. Are ye game t’go up agin’ a shipload o’ vermin?”

Rake needed no second invitation. “Ye have mah paw, mah blades an’ mah heart on it, Skor. Taegether we’ll find ‘em. ‘Tis guid tae be with a Rogue Crew again. Sergeant, form up the column tae march!”

~Jacques 193

Overall Review:

The Rogue Crew, despite being the last book, is not a good finish for the series. Granted, all the books have separate arcs, but I would much rather have the last book in Redwall be The Sable Quean then The Rogue Crew. The Rogue Crew is too formulaic, too predictable, too indistinguishable from other Redwall books to be a good Redwall book.

You can buy this here: The Rogue Crew (Redwall)

Johnny Tremain: Wow, Character Development

Johnny Tremain is written by Esther Forbes. It was first published in 1943 by Houghton Mifflin. Find out more about Esther Forbes here.

Summary/Blurb:

“The year is 1773; the scene is Boston. Johnny Tremain is fourteen and apprenticed to a silversmith. He is gifted and knows it. He is gay and clever and lords it over the other apprentices until the tragic day when a crucible of molten silver breaks and Johnny’s right hand is so burned as to be useless. After a period of despair and humiliation, Johnny becomes a dispatch rider for the Committee of Public Safety, a job that brings him in touch with Otis, Hancock, John and Samuel Adams, and other Boston patriots, and with all the exciting currents and undercurrents that were to lead to the Tea Party and the Battle of Lexington. There, on the battlefield, he learns from Dr. Warren that his maimed hand can be cured so that he can use a musket and some day return to his trade.”

What I Liked:

So, this is probably one of the best historical fiction novels I’ve ever read for young people (although I haven’t read that many; most of the historical fiction that I’ve read consists of Dear America). Not only that, but it’s also a wonderful story of pride and humility, and it’s got some incredible dimensionality to its characters.

At the beginning, I strongly disliked Johnny because he was so arrogant and proud. Then I wanted to give him a hug, and then by the end all I could do was sit back and think, “Now that’s how you do character development.” Not many authors intentionally make their protagonist so unlikeable at the start, but I wish they would because it’s so fantastic to see that change in the protagonist from unlikeable to likeable.

I loved the portrayal of the British. I thought it was incredibly realistic that Johnny both liked and disliked them, that while he wanted them gone he realized how hard it was to make them go, that while the British had their “bad” moments there were also good ones, as well. There’s a great passage where (I think) Johnny and Rab are talking and while Rab is eager to start the fight, Johnny is more hesitant because he can’t see the British as targets yet. I loved that Forbes strayed from the “The British are EVIL AND MEAN” one-dimensionality that can be found in a lot of middle grade “villains.” I have to say, there was something about children’s authors who wrote in the 40s and 50s that just got realistic dialogue and scenes. Enright has it, Forbes has it, Pearce has it, Nesbit (early 1900s) has it. I love it.

This book made me want to see 1776 again.

What I Didn’t Like:

Johnny was so aggravating at the beginning. Really, he can only blame himself when he goes to Lyte a second time after everyone warns him not to and gets his cup taken away from him. Then again, he was still proud at that point.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Violence, war, death.

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

Passages/Quotes:

He was utterly unprepared for the sight of his hand when finally it was unwrapped and lay in the midwife’s aproned lap. Mrs. Lapham, Madge, Dorcas, all had crowded into the little birth and death room. Cilla and Isannah were in the kitchen, too frightened to go near him.

“My!” said Madge, “isn’t that funny-looking? The top part, Johnny, looks all right, although a little narrow, but, Johnny, your thumb ad palm have grown together.”

This was true. He bent and twisted his fingers. He could not get the thumb to meet the forefinger. Such a hand was completely useless. For the first time he faced the fact that his hand was crippled.

“Oh, let me see!” Dorcas was leaning over him. She gave her most elegant little screech of horror, just like a great lady who has seen a mouse.

“My!” said Mrs. Lapham, “that’s worse than anything I had imagined. Now isn’t that a shame! Bright boy like Johnny just ruined. No more good than a horse with sprung knees.”

~Forbes 35

James Otis was on his feet, his head close against the rafters that cut down into the attic, making it the shape of a tent. Otis put out his arms.

“It is all so much simpler than you think,” he said. He lifted his hands and pushed against the rafters.

“We give all we have, lives, property, safety, skills…we fight, we die, for a simple thing. Only that a man can stand up.”

~Forbes 180

Overall Review:

Johnny Tremain has such wonderful character development and portrayal, and there’s a realistic air to it that, so far, ranks it at the top of my historical fiction list. It has wonderful historicity and does a great job of showing both the Tory and the Whig side. The British are portrayed as humans rather than monsters and the ending has a great hopeful-bittersweet note. Fantastic all around.

You can buy this book here: Johnny Tremain

Burn: Too Many Unanswered Questions

Potential spoilers!

Burn is written by Julianna Baggott. It was published in 2014 by Grand Central. It is the sequel to Fuse. Baggott’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“With his father now dead, Partridge has assumed leadership of the Dome, one of the last few refuges from the ravaged wastelands of the outside world. At first, Partridge is intent on exposing his father’s lies, taking down the rigid order of the Dome, and uniting its citizens with the disfigured Wretches on the outside. But from his new position of power, things are far more complex and potentially dangerous than he could have ever imagined.

On the outside, a band of survivors faces a treacherous journey to the Dome. Pressia carries with her the key to salvation. If she can get it to the Dome, the Wretches could one day be healed and everyone might be able to put the horrors of the past behind them. Bradwell, the revolutionary, cannot forgive so easily. Despite Pressia’s pleas, he is determined to bring down the Dome and hold its citizens accountable for leaving the rest of the world to burn. El Capitan, the former rebel leader, wants to help Pressia save as many lives as possible—but he’s struggling to reconcile his new found compassion with his vicious past.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

I absolutely love that, for once, a dystopian series has actually had its characters express their thoughts about God, the afterlife, etc. Most dystopians tend to either ignore religion completely, or give it some cultic form. Burn has the cult (the Dome Worshippers), but it also has Bradwell, El Capitan, and Pressia discuss and struggle with the concept of God. Especially poignant was El Capitan’s struggle in the chapel, and his feeling of freedom after saying “I’m sorry.”

Speaking of El Capitan, he’s still awesome (and sweet). And now, given Bradwell’s ending (which I totally called back in Fuse), I have hope for El Capitan/Pressia.

And Pressia is awesome, too, mostly because she marches into the Dome and does to Partridge what every single reader wanted to do to him during his chapters.

What I Didn’t Like:

Partridge. PARTRIDGE. It’s uncomfortable to read about adults manipulating teenagers, but it’s aggravating when the teenagers know, can do something about it, and yet ultimately don’t. Partridge was so passive in this book that I wanted to step into the book and shake some sense into him. Partridge, you can’t just let people walk all over you like that! And you especially can’t think, “Oh, I’m letting them walk all over me,” and then continue to do nothing about it! And Partridge made such stupid decisions—like with Hastings and Bradwell, Partridge what were you thinking—but the worst decision he made was to follow Iralene at the end. You can’t just pick and choose what’s real or not, Partridge, and wishing or thinking that you’re in reality doesn’t mean you are.

El Capitan and Helmud (by anawin)

The plot threads left dangling at the end of this trilogy are so massive I’m surprised that there is not going to be a fourth book. Does Weed succeed in making a cure? Do the Pures survive in the wild? Does Pressia find her father? What about Lyda’s baby? What about the babies in the tubes? What’s up with the baby clone at the end? Okay, I get it that it ends with Pressia moving on and stepping into a new world, blah blah, but there’s absolutely no indication of what that new world is going to be like and that’s upsetting. For all we know, Pressia and El Capitan could be blown up by a spider grenade thrown by the mothers or shot down by Special Forces in the next minute. That’s hardly a satisfying ending. I’m not asking for an “X amount of years later” epilogue, but some closure would have been nice.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Violence, disturbing and graphic images, swearing.

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult

Passages/Quotes:

And then it hits him, and he looks around the room again—this time seeing it the way she sees it. Is this all for show? His father must have worked on this for years—long before he’d planned to use Partridge’s body to move on. Is this room some kind of prank? Are all of these photos and stupid letters an attempt to wrench Partridge’s heart? Or maybe it was originally designed to mess with Sedge He was the rightful heir.

Is this all fake? A ploy to garner sympathy? A final power grab at love?

~Baggott 61

He whispers, “Saint Wi.” He tries to imagine who she was. Did she help chidlrne? What were her miracles? He thinks of her face. HE doesn’t have to look at her. Her face is locked in his mind—her way of gazing. She’s waiting patiently. For El Capitan? For him to say what he needs to say?

Say it, he hears the words in his head whisper. Say it.

He takes a breath. He feels sick. Say it. He gulps air.

He knows he should ask for forgiveness. The thought is there in his head.

Say it. Say it.

He opens his mouth, but instead of saying I’m sorry, he says, “We got to go.”

~Baggott 214

Overall Review:

Burn has some good dialogue between its characters and an overall excellent world and expression of that world through the characters. El Capitan is amazing, and Pressia has her moments. However, the questions left unresolved at the end of the trilogy are entirely unsatisfying, and throw a bad light on the book as a result.

You can buy this here: Burn (Pure Trilogy)

Summer of Redwall: The Sable Quean

The Sable Quean is the twenty-first book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was published in 2010 by Philomel. The Redwall wiki (spoilers!) can be found here, and info about Brian Jacques can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“He appears out of thin air, and vanishes just as quickly. He is Zwilt the Shade, and he is evil. Yet he is no match for his ruler, Vilaya, the Sable Quean. Along with their hordes of vermin, these two have devised a plan to conquer Redwall Abbey. And when the Dibbuns go missing, captured one by one, their plan is revealed.

Will the Redwallers risk the fate of their Abbey and all of Mossflower Wood to save their precious young ones? Perhaps Buckler, Blademaster of the Long Patrol, can save the day. He has a score of his own to settle. And fear not, these Dibbuns are not as innocent as they appear. After all, they’re from Redwall.”

Thoughts:

Unfortunate title aside (“Quean” means a “disreputable woman,” but specifically a prostitute. Not sure why the publishers let that through, unless Jacques was aiming for the Scottish, which means “a young or unmarried woman”), The Sable Quean is a really refreshing Redwall book. There’s a competent, smart female villain who doesn’t go mad and who mourns the loss of her counselor; a sinister, albeit inferior threat that has an awesome death scene; a mole warrior; and a fairly realistic side-plot about what’s it like to travel with a bunch of infants and young children.

Vilaya and Zwilt the Shade are very good Redwall villains; two of the best, in fact. It’s rare to have competent villains, and both are. Vilaya’s plan just makes so much more sense than the usual “Let’s go attack Redwall Abbey” villain plan, and it probably would have worked very effectively if our Plucky Heroes hadn’t interfered. While Vilaya’s death is very quick, Zwilt has a prolonged fight with Buckler, and the end of that fight is one of the more striking scenes in the series.

I don’t know why it took Jacques twenty-one books to introduce a mole warrior, but there is finally one in this book and he is awesome. Moles are too good to be sidekicks. They deserve to swing massive hammers like Thor and kill all the enemies with just the help of a badger. Wow, if Axtel is Thor, then that means Ambry is, I don’t know, the Hulk? Redwall Avengers, assemble!

The most refreshing thing about this book was the absence of any Puzzle/Fetch Quest. Jacques tends to switch between Fetch Quest and War/Invasion with each book, but for some reason I feel that the last few books have been heavy on riddles. There were no riddles in this book, and, actually, very few songs. More time was dedicated to things like plot and development, which is a good thing.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Violence/fighting, death.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Passages/Quotes:

“Woodlanders with families, relatives and friends. The young ones, their babes, their kindred, are the hope of the future, the very lifeblood of peaceful creatures. They would do anything to protect their brood, even fight. But how can they fight what is not there? The worry, the grief and sorrow at the loss of their dearest treasure. Where are their young ones? Are they alive or dead? No woodlander or Abbeydweller will know until I speak to them on my terms. Give me what I want, and your families will be allowed to live. They will, believe me, because the alternative would be too awful for them to image. That is my plan, Zwilt.”

~Jacques 49-50

Overall Review:

I enjoyed reading The Sable Quean and I would deem it one of the better Redwall books. I do think the war books are better than the riddle ones in general, and this one has smart villains and some new character types (such as a mole warrior!). It came as a welcome relief after the last few bad Redwall books, and I’ll be honest, it’s nice to know there’s only one book left.

You can buy this here: The Sable Quean (Redwall)

Tom’s Midnight Garden: Come Into The Garden, Maud

Tom’s Midnight Garden is written by Philippa Pearce (random note: if the author’s dead, should that be “was written”? I like the present tense, but I’ve always wondered if it’s actually correct to use it that way…). It was published in 1958 by HarperCollins. More information about Pearce can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Tom was a cross and resentful boy when he was sent to stay with his uncle and aunt because his brother, Peter, had caught the measles. As soon as he joined his relatives in their small apartment, he knew he would be bored and lonely. He would miss Peter as well as the garden at home where they used to play. Now he had no friends his own age, and, instead of a garden to explore, there was only a paved yard and a row of garbage cans outside the back door.

When the time came for Tom to go home, however, he did everything he could to prolong his visit. For he had made a strange and wonderful discovery—a discovery that he could share with no one, except Peter. And Peter believed it all, and even, for one brief moment, came to share in Tom’s fantastic midnight adventure.”

What I Liked:

Another classic children’s book that I read as a kid. Seeing the cover was like meeting an old friend that you haven’t seen in a long time and are excited to get to know again.

I love the fact that Pearce doesn’t dumb down the material or waste time mincing words. Tom’s Midnight Garden has quite a complicated plot and mechanic, and it’s handled wonderfully. It’s hard to believe, after reading it, that you just read about one boy’s adventures in a garden, and that was the entire book, because so much is packed in that you feel like you’re getting so much more (I actually thought, around chapter 5 or 6, “Is this whole book about Tom’s garden adventures? Because that sounds a little boring.” I promptly forgot about that in the next chapter because I was so immersed). It’s a coming-of-age story, except it really isn’t, but it is about growing up—but not Tom. It’s about life-long friendship, and a boy’s time-traveling (time-slipping?) adventures in a garden. Seriously, Pearce makes gardens seem like the best places to be and to play.

I love the fact that the premise of the time-slipping is partially based on Revelation. I love the references to Biblical verses and stories and the inclusion of people like Abel that is so few and far between in today’s lit (and when it is included, it is usually mocked). I wondered while reading why Abel could see Tom, since the revelation at the end shows exactly how Tom managed to get into the garden in the first place. Since it was all Hatty, how could Abel see him? Maybe it was because Abel was the type of person he was.

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing! Well, actually, I felt Tom was a little annoying in places, mainly because I thought he was a bit dense and uncaring at times.

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+ (only because I don’t usually go lower than age 10; but most of the time 10+ also means 8+)

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy (sort of), Realistic, Children’s

Apparently someone made a movie/show/play about it!

Passages/Quotes:

Tom opened the door wide and let in the moonlight. It flooded in, as bright as daylight—the white daylight that comes before the full rising of the sun. The illumination was perfect, but Tom did not at once turn to see what it showed him of the clock-face. Instead he took a step forward onto the doorstep. He was staring, at first in surprise, then with indignation, at what he saw outside. That they should have deceived him—lied to him—like this! They had said, ‘It’s not worth your while going out at the back, Tom.’ So carelessly they had described it: ‘A sort of backyard, very poky, with rubbish bins. Really, there’s nothing to see.’

Nothing…Only this: a great lawn where flower-beds bloomed; a towering fir-tree, and thick, beetle-browed yews that humped their shapes down two sides of the lawn; on the third side, to the right, a greenhouse almost the size of a real house; from each corner of the lawn, a path that twisted away to some other depths of garden, with other trees.

~Pearce 19-20

He jumped to his feet and shouted: ‘I’m not a ghost!’

‘Don’t be silly, Tom,’ Hatty said. ‘You forget that I saw you go right through the orchard door when it was shut.’

‘That proves what I say!’ said Tom. ‘I’m not a ghost, but the orchard door is, and that was why I could go through it. The door’s a ghost, and the garden’s a ghost; and so are you, too!’

“Indeed I’m not; you are!’

~Pearce 106

Overall Review:

Tom’s Midnight Garden is not only a classic children’s story, but also a classic “time story.” Time-travel stories are some of my favorites, and this one is done so well. Somehow Pearce makes the story of a boy playing in a garden exciting, heartwarming, at times heartbreaking, and most of all memorable. These sorts of books are ones that every child needs to read.

You can buy this book here: Tom’s Midnight Garden

Fuse: O El Capitan, My El Capitan

Fuse is written by Julianna Baggott. It was published in 2013 by Grand Central. It is the sequel to Pure. Baggott’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“To be a Pure is to be perfect, untouched by Detonations that scarred the earth and sheltered inside the paradise that is the Dome. But Partridge escaped to the outside world, where Wretches struggle to survive amid smoke and ash. Now, at the command of Partridge’s father, the Dome is unleashing nightmare after nightmare upon the Wretches in an effort to get him back.

At Partridge’s side is a small band of those united against the Dome: Lyda, the warrior; Bradwell, the revolutionary; El Capitan, the guard; and Pressia, the young woman whose mysterious past ties her to Partridge in ways she never could have imagined .Long ago a plan was hatched that could mean the earth’s ultimate doom. Now only Partridge and Pressia can set things right.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

As in Pure, the technique, the world, the craft of Fuse is fantastic. It’s beautifully written, the plot elements are incorporated in such a way as to keep people reading, and the world itself feels dystopian, down to the interactions between the characters. In a world like the one Baggott has created, everything is distorted and tainted, and the characters go through and do difficult things. Case in point: Lyda and Partridge, and their parting actions. Really, Partridge’s storyline itself is the epitome of what I’m trying to get at here: hard decisions, hard choices, in a world gone mad. It drives home, again, that dystopian feel.

El Capitan is probably my favorite character, and this book is what did it. I thought he was interesting in Pure, and then in this book he and Helmud come out of absolutely nowhere and are totally awesome. Also, I keep thinking he’s older than he is, but I think he’s actually only slightly older than Bradwell.

Speaking of Bradwell, I find it interesting that of the group, he is the only one who never has a point of view. I find this significant, and not in a way that spells happy endings for his character. He’s totally going to die. Ah, well. That will just clear the way for El Capitan/Pressia, which I totally ship now.

I love the fact that all the characters think differently about things, and express those differences through their thoughts and actions, especially apparent in Bradwell and Pressia’s arguments about the Dome. And none of the characters are technically wrong, either, they’re just focusing on different ways to handle the situation. And I absolutely loved Bradwell and Pressia’s conversation about God.

As a final note, I love the cover art, even though I knew from seeing it what was going to happen to one of the characters.

What I Didn’t Like:

Lyda is called “the warrior” in the blurb, but she definitely doesn’t seem like one when she becomes the viewpoint character and you get inside her head. She seems pretty fragile and unstable, really, especially towards the end.

Partridge is shaping up to be one of those characters that you want to shake for making such poor decisions, and his memory loss doesn’t help. Memory loss almost immediately screams “character change.”

Really, the only viewpoint I really liked was El Capitan’s, and Pressia’s near the end. The rest of them just got on my nerves for some reason or another.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Violence, swearing, disturbing and graphic images, sex

Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Bradwell

Passages/Quotes:

“No!” She’s angry now. “We have to focus on what we can do here, now, today, for these people. They’re suffering. They need help. If we let ourselves get pulled into the past, we’re turning our backs on the survivors.”

“The past?” Bradwell is furious. “The past isn’t just the past. It’s the truth! The Dome has to be held accountable for what they did to the world. The truth has to be known.”

“Why? Why do we have to keep fighting the dome?” Pressia has given up on the truth. “What could the truth possibly matter when there’s all this suffering and loss?”

~Baggott 38

“Helmud!” El Capitan says, realizing his brother is armed. “Give me your whittling knife.”

Helmud shakes his head. No, no, no.

“Hand it over now!”

No, no, no.

El Capitan reaches over his shoulder and whaps his brother on the head, one side and then the other. “Give it!”

No.

“Maybe he wants to do it himself,” Bradwell says.

“Are you crazy?”

“Crazy!” Helmud says.

~Baggott 273-274

Overall Review:

I had trouble putting Fuse down, mostly because of El Capitan and his awesomeness. As in Pure, the writing, the world, and the plot elements are all wonderfully done. The characters get annoying, especially Partridge, but the decisions they have to make resonate with the state of the world in the book.

You can buy this here: Fuse (Pure Trilogy)

Summer of Redwall: Doomwyte

Doomwyte is the twentieth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was published in 2008 by Philomel. The Redwall wiki (spoilers!) can be found here, and info about Brian Jacques can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Who stole the jeweled eyes of the Great Doomwyte Idol long ago? What horrors dwell in the caves beneath the wooded hill—the realm of the fearsome Korvus Skurr, the black-feathered raven?

Young Redwallers and their friends find themselves in the grips of adventure, solving mysterious riddles and battling villainous foes in daring underground forays. Join them in the quest, the feasts, the songs, and the fray. Unite with tribes of the Guosim and Gonfelin against vermin, carrions, and the dangerous Wytes. Discover why the black avenger haunts the wooded slopes. But most of all, beware of the dreaded Balis!”

Thoughts:

[Quick note: There is no What I Liked/Didn't Like because I'm experimenting with a new form of review writing. I'll just be combining my thoughts, positive and negative.]

We’re almost at the end, thank goodness.

This book was refreshing in terms of plot elements: some of the Fetch Quest Items were outside the Abbey, rather than hidden inside; the villain and his cronies were fairly unique; and Tugga Bruster was a mean and nasty Log a Log that nobody really mourned. I wish Balis hadn’t been given the Mad Villain Treatment so early on, but the threat he made even going mad was at least legitimate unlike Korvus Skurr, who didn’t actually do much besides throw snakes to the catfish.

I do think the Redwall books with one main hero and his/her sidekick are better than the group hero books because the former can focus more on development. Bisky and the others (I can’t even remember their names) were pretty flat and even Bosie, who carried the Sword of Martin, was forgettable. I did like Zaran, though, because even though she filled the “warrior wants revenge” trope, I did think she was quite sweet (as in charming) as a whole, and she managed to put the past behind her and move on with a new life.

Also, I did like the inclusion of the Gonfelins, even though we’ve never heard of them before, and some of the new places found in the Abbey. This book was heavy on exploring for much of it, and I enjoy exploring.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Violence/fighting, death.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Passages/Quotes:

“Outside in the rainswept, clouded night, across the water-logged lawns and dropping beds of daffodils, late snow-drops, early periwinkle and purple pasque blooms, a single, silent, pale light floated in over the threshold wall. It was soon followed by a second. Between them they slid back the well-greased bar of the main gates. With scarcely a creak, the outer gates opened a mere fraction. That was enough. At ground level, and slightly higher up, the eerie lights shimmered in, half a score of the mysterious flames, undimmed by the downpour. The Wytes had come to Redwall Abbey.”

~Jacques 75

Overall Review:

Doomwyte, while still not a great Redwall book, and still too reliant on past archetypes, at least subverted a few things, such as with the character of Tugga Bruster. Balis was pretty threatening and made up (mostly) for Korvus Skurr being a weak villain, although I think Jacques relies on the “going mad” trope too much with his villains. While a lot of the heroes were forgettable, Zaran was sweet and the search for the Doomwyte Idol gems was better than some of the other Fetch Quests.

You can buy this here: Doomwyte (Redwall)

Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze: Clue Hunt!

Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze is written by Elizabeth Enright. It was first published in 1951 by Henry Holt and I’m still reading the 1997 Puffin version. It is the fourth and last book in the Melendy family quartet. Learn more about Enright here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Nothing is the same for Randy and Oliver after their sister and brothers go away to boarding school. The days stretch on, with nothing to do except think about how much fun they used to have. Then, one morning, a light blue envelope comes in the mail. It’s for Randy and Oliver, and it contains the first clue in what turns out to be the most unexpected mystery ever!”

What I Liked:

Probably my favorite Melendy book, simply because of the clues. I love treasure hunt books! And Randy and Oliver solve them with just the right mix of sheer dumb luck and skill that makes it seem like an actual, real-life hunt (again, I love Enright’s ability to make everything seem quite realistic). Enright also continues to include characters’ stories, which is what helps make her books so good.

One thing I never noticed is that this book was published seven years after the previous Melendy book, which probably means that Then There Were Five was meant to be the last one, but popular demand led Enright to write another. Or it took her seven years to come up with all those riddles (which were quite wonderful, by the way. Not dumbed-down or silly ones, but proper, actual riddles for a clue hunt!).

I also enjoy the fact that Enright is not afraid of aging her characters. Each book has had them getting older (usually by a year or a few months), and this one continues that, although I don’t believe it says how long it’s been, unlike the others (usually she mentions their age or the month so you know how long it’s been; this one she does not). I also like the fact that even the cover illustrations (of the 1997 Puffin versions) show them getting older with each book.

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing!

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Mystery, Realistic

Passages/Quotes:

Named for a jewel, named for a bird,

Asleep for threescore years and ten,

First find my resting place, and then,

Stepping toward sunrise, find the third

Strange clue that marks the secret way

To rare reward and a fair summer day.

“A summer day!” exclaimed Oliver. “Gosh! Does that mean we’re never going to get to the end of this thing till summer? Why it’s only just begun to be October now!”

“I know,” said Randy slowly. “But I wonder—I think it’s been invented, this game or search or whatever it is, by somebody who understands the way we feel with all the others gone; someone who wants to give us something pleasant to think about instead of just groaning around the house and missing them all the time. I’m glad it’s going to last a long time.”

~Enright 44-45

“Dave! Dave! Can you get me that nest? Please can you? Please? I just have to have it!”

“First tell me why?” demanded Dave, not unreasonably, and Oliver was forced to launch into the same lame explanations that he and Randy had given to Cuffy and Mr. Titus and the others.

“Oh, so that’s why they were so interested in that nest that day—” Dave stopped short.

“Who? Who was interested in it?” Oliver implored, but Dave just shook his head.

“Listen, brother, if it’s a secret I’m not going to spoil it. Here Daphne, you hold Mitch. We’ll have to get up to that thing somehow, and a ladder won’t do; there’s nothing to lean it against; the branch stretches out from the trunk too far. We’ll try a table.”

~Enright 100

Overall Review:

Spiderweb for Two is my favorite Melendy book in the quartet. It’s quite different from the others, but not so much as to seem completely distant from the rest of the series. It’s still got the charm, the humor, and the inner stories that make Enright’s style so distinctive and which keeps me coming back to these books over and over. Seriously, I’ve read them maybe six or seven times each.

You can buy this book here: Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze

Pure: The Most Realistic Dystopian I’ve Read

Pure is written by Julianna Baggott. It was published in 2012 by Grand Central Publishing. Baggott’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost—how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers…to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as solders or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss—maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it’s his claustrophobia: his feeling that this home has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his lie to leave the Dome to find her.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

Technically speaking, this book is very well-written and incredibly thought-out, from the world to the plot elements to the characterization. I loved the little reveals scattered throughout and the path Baggott decides to take her characters. I thought from the summary that it would be one of those “Two people from opposing groups meet and fall in love, blah blah blah” but Baggott doesn’t go that route. Pressia and Partridge don’t fall in love, which is incredibly refreshing even though the route Baggott goes with them isn’t exactly that original, either.

I also enjoyed watching Pressia’s growth, from her hiding her hand to openly showing it. Although YA tends to hit you over the head with things like that, rather than subtly interweaving it, I thought Baggott dealt with it more subtly than most.

This book is definitely not for the faint of stomach; there are numerous parts and descriptions that left me feeling squeamish and the results of the Detonations themselves are disturbing to picture. This book definitely doesn’t water down or numb the realities of nuclear warfare (Baggott is definitely basing this world after Hiroshima and Nagasaki), and the results are that this book feels like a post-apocalyptic world even more so than most dystopians. Most dystopians have a quasi-fantasy, alternate reality feel, but not this one. This one just feels real.

What I Didn’t Like:

The tense was very difficult to get used to; third person present tense is hard for me to read. As a result, it took me a while to get into the book.

I’m a bit confused as to what exactly happened to Sedge. I don’t think Baggott explained very well how that worked (I know I’m being vague, but I want to avoid spoilers since this book is built around little plot reveals).

Is there some point to Pressia and Partridge’s romances? I felt like Baggott just put those in there to pair them off with people since they aren’t actually paired with each other. There doesn’t have to be romance in every YA book.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Swearing, disturbing and graphic images, violence

Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Pressia

Passages/Quotes:

It’s darker in the ducts than he expected, and louder. The system is on, vibrating manically. He crawls as fast as he can. He has to make it to the first set of filters by the time the system stops. At that point, he’ll have only three minutes and forty-two seconds of downtime to make it through the first filter, the tunnels and the rows of fans, and at the end of that, the second barrier of filters. He’ll have to cut his way out into the world. That is, if he’s made it in time and the blades haven’t chopped him to death by then.
~Baggott 78-79

Pressia turns to El Capitan. “Why did you show me this?”

El Capitan stands up, stares at his boots. “Ingership sent your emergency orders.”

“Who is Ingership exactly?”

El Capitan gives a grunting laugh. “He’s the man with the plan.” He squints at Pressia. “I never got orders like this before—to take some runt and send ‘em up to officer, just like that. And a girl at that. Ingership wants to meet you—in person. And then there are these creatures, coming around. It has something to do with you,” he says accusingly.

“But I don’t know how it could have something to do with me. I’m nothing. A wretch, like everybody else.”

“You know something. You have something. They need you somehow.”

~Baggott 207

Overall Review:

I had a few small issues with Pure; I’m a bit confused on some of the plot details, and the pairing off of Partridge and Pressia doesn’t feel authentic to me, but overall I thought the world, the writing (minus the tense used), and most of the characterization was great. I’m not sure where the series is headed in terms of plot, but Pure had that hook that has me wanting to read more.

You can buy this here: Pure (The Pure Trilogy)

Summer of Redwall: Eulalia!

Eulalia! is the nineteenth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was published in 2007 by Philomel.

Summary/Blurb:

“Across the seas comes Vizka Longtooth, with a scurrilous crew of Sea Raiders bound for plunder and conquest. Aboard, a young badger lies captive. The aged badger Lord of Salamandastron sends forth a haremaid, questing for his successor. A young thief is exiled from Redwall. A Brownrat Chieftain, with his savage horde, ravages Mossflower Country. The fate of all these creatures, both good and evil, is caught up in this sage of war and destiny.”

What I Liked:

I had the unfortunate pleasure to read this book during a very hectic week of my life, when I was getting ready for school and moving to a different apartment. Because of that, a lot of Eulalia! was very forgettable to me, partly due to the story itself and partly due to the distractions I had while reading it.

The one character that stood out to me was Maudie, mainly because I thought it humorous whenever (the Hon.) showed up in her name. I think she was most likely modeled after Dottie or Hon Rosie (or both), since both characters are fairly popular.

Oh! And Gorath learning not to rely on his Bloodwrath was a nice circumvention of the norm.

What I Didn’t Like:

It’s not that anything in this book I instantly disliked, it’s just that everything was so entirely forgettable. It was just plain “meh” through and through. It wasn’t as funny as some of the Redwall books can get, nor was it as original as some of them. The characters weren’t memorable; neither was the plot nor the lore. In fact, it was so “meh” that I can’t even think of anything to elaborate on.

Rating: 1/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Violence/fighting, death.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Passages/Quotes:

There was not a single cloud on Maudie (the Hon.) Mugsberry Thropple’s horizon. The young haremaid did not even feel the weight of the haversack on her back as she skipped blithely along the dunetops. She, among all other hares at Salamandastron, had been chosen to go on this most important quest. Once more, she went over the instructions, which had been drummed into her by Lord Asheye and Major Mullein.

“Find a bloomin’ badger. One who knows not his own strength. A beast from the simple life, who shuns armour, an’ knows not the sword. Er, what else? Oh, yes, he’s got destiny marked on his blinkin’ brow, an’ er, what’s next?”

She paused on one paw, wrinkling her nose. “Er…er…gottit! He walks with a banished one, an’ a flame, that’s it. Find him an’ haul the blighter back to the jolly old mountain. Oh, well remembered, that, maid!”

~Jacques 44

Overall Review:

Eulalia! was, regrettably, highly forgettable. I don’t know whether it was the book itself or just my state of mind while reading it, but since this is Redwall, and Redwall lacks originality within its own framework, I’m going to say that it was the book that was forgettable.

You can buy this here: Eulalia! (Redwall)

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