The Vengekeep Prophecies, by Brian Farrey, was published in 2012 by Harper.
Jaxter Grimjinx is a born thief. Or at least, he’s supposed to be. The trouble is, Jaxter is also very clumsy. So clumsy that in his first solo heist, he sets the Castellan’s house on fire and lands his whole family in the gaol. Even Jaxter’s skill for breaking magical locks can’t get them out of this bind. Then a suspiciously convenient prophecy emerges naming the Grimjinx clan as the soon-to-be heroes of Vengekeep. It’s good enough to get his family out of gaol, but with a firestorm, a flood, and a host of skeletal beasts among the dangers listed in the prophecy, Jaxter is pretty sure a life in prison would be a better fate. Now—like it or not—Jaxter Grimjinx will have to become the hero he was truly born to be.
As I started reading The Vengekeep Prophecies, I was a bit put off by the world that Farrey was showing. Although I like when fantasies set you right in the world without much explanation, I prefer the likes of High Fantasy than the sort displayed here, which is like Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga: made-up words, strange names for strange species, etc. So that part was a bit distracting, only because I just prefer certain types of fantasy over others. I also got really confused over the ruling system of the world, and I wished there was a map at one point.
But the wit and charm of this book ultimately won me over. I loved Jaxter and I loved the Grimjinx family and their famous sayings, and even though a lot of the epigraphs didn’t seem to relate with what was going on in that particular chapter, I loved the inclusion of the sayings within the book itself. My favorite was “A dead hero is indeed a hero, but let’s not forget he’s also dead” if only because I can perfectly imagine the tone of voice and inflection Jaxter used when quoting it, which makes it even funnier. And Callie with her triumphant Ta-Da’s was great, too.
I also loved the twist on the “Prophesied One” trope that Farrey has in the book, as well as the inevitable discussion it causes about the nature of fate. Is fate, such as it is, stable or able to be changed? Do we make our own path or are we following the path fate has made for us? Farry doesn’t address these questions directly, nor are they particularly prominent in the book, but they were on the forefront of my mind throughout the book.
The plot wasn’t particularly spectacular or new, but Farrey developed it well and made the characters stand out so that the fairly simple plot faded into the background. Once I got used to the world, I really liked it, and that also helped detract from some of the more formulaic elements. I do wish, though, that more of the background behind Jaxter and Maloch had been explained, because that was interesting but not dwelled on enough.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Just then, we heard pounding at our front door. I opened it to find Maloch, in his training armor, flanked by two full-fledged members of the stateguard.
“Why are you shouting?” I asked, grimacing and poking my ear with my finger. “We’re right here in front of you.”
“And could you slow down?” I said. “Really, Maloch, it’s like you’ve got marbles in your mouth.”
Ma rolled her eyes. “Oh, please don’t make him go through it again, Jaxter.”