Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

I’m going to try something different and review this as I read it. So warning. Spoilers!

Why I Picked It Up

Basically because book snobs complained about it for being “over the top”. And because some people loved it because it was precisely that.

Ya, so I basically picked it up to annoy people who were annoyed by the book. I have issues.

Page 25

  • Some pretty hilarious opening pages.
  • It is no secret that Grandpa was a pirate. I have cast Jim Carey as Podo.

Page 50

  • The two brothers are so much like my oldest two boys it is ridiculous.
  • At one point Janner freaks out that Leeli isn’t there and has anxiety over how bad it would have been if they had been separated. I fear for Leeli’s safety.
  • The story continues to be told in a humorous tone, but the stakes are pretty grim.

Page 75

  • We learn how Leeli got in trouble with the Fangs, and it is awesome. She kicked him! That’s amazing.
  • Learn that the Ibigy’s are wealthy. Or rather they were until recently. Loved how it wealth was explained and the dynamics between those who are considered wealthy and those who are not. Wealthy live out of town and have these status symbols. Or rather they had them. And then the Nia had them in abundance.
  • I have now cast Elizabeth Banks as Nia.
  • Again the humorous tone doesn’t really fit with the stakes. We’ve learned that nighttime child abductions by the government are routine and everyone has accepted this as part of their existence. Now we see, that three children being arrested (or being escorted to jail) in front a public setting with everyone knowing they will either be abducted, tortured or both and no one does anyting. This is terrifying. When I was in about 5th grade I read The Figure in The Shadows, which was a sequel to A House With A Clock In It’s Walls, which is a tale about dark magic that borders on horror. But the thing that terrified me was that there was an adult constantly trying to attack a child. That same terror is present in this book, but its amplified because the violence is being perpetrated by authority. I’m not complaining that the tone and the stakes don’t match, but I am definitely noticing it.
  • I had assumed this would be a nautical adventure, but I’m beginning to doubt that.

Page 100

  • The last 25 pages have essentially been a recovery of the ordeal that took place between pages 50 & 75.
  • I have cast Jack Black as the book seller.

Page 125

  • A treasure hunt

Page 150 – to the end

  • Whoa

Goodreads

The book has a 4.26 rating on goodreads with 5,601 ratings. That is incredibly good considering that the target market isn’t old enough to use the site. There are also 722 written reviews.

BookTube (spoilers)

There is a surprising amount of content on youtube for this book. I am impressed!

This first one involves lego animation and a song that will probably be trapped in your head for at least one week or possibly all of eternity. Coincidentally the song is by the author.

An elementary school student does a better review than me. Even uses the word “perilous” which is by far the best description of the plot. It was also a word I did not use until I was in my mid 20’s.

This next one is an animation that was produced by the author. It is a 15 minute short that takes you roughly through the first 75 pages. The soundtrack to the short is also available on amazon music and includes the song I mentioned in the first video.

The last one is the author and animator talking about the animated short in this kickstarter video. It provides a little more insight into how the author approached the story. While a movie might sound fun, I don’t think the stakes can be as high or the plot as dark as the book.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think I’ve read a book quite like this, where the narrative is so contrary to the tone of the story. There are some heartbreaking consequences in this book and the narrator offers no consolation to the characters or the readers. Personally, I enjoyed it. But I know a lot of people wouldn’t. I will be reading the sequel: North! or Be Eaten.

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Review: Thrones And Bones

One size does not fit all in this nordic like adventure.

Why I Picked it Up

One of my sons has been really into books about Dragons. For over a year I suggested Frostborn (the first book in the series) and each time he said, “meh”. Then one day he comes home with it from the school book fair.

Not long after he began pushing me to read it. I did. And it was glorious! It had a slower start than I prefer but the last 100 pages were worth the wait.

Then I checked out the second book (Nightborn) from the Library and it was one of the most entertaining fantasy adventures I read. This won’t be true for everyone, but I definitely feel that a study could be made of how to write sequels using this book.

In particular, I enjoyed that we essentially join a story that is in progress. Its instant drama. Which is a sharp contrast to the prolonged opening to Frostborn. Additionally we are introduced to new characters that have stories of their own.

Shortly after reading Nightborn, I followed it up with the last book in the series: Skyborn, which was a solid conclusion to the series.  This is faster paced than Frostborn, but a little less urgent than Skyborn. Which can pretty much be said for the third installment of any trilogy.

My only critique for this series was really that in the third book the plot is centered around dragon eggs hatching… all on the same day… at the exact same time. Viewed on its own, it is as absurd as it sounds. However, in the context of the story it works. It doesn’t strengthen the fantasy, but it doesn’t weaken it either.

Although this series could be considered a trilogy because it has 3 books in the series, and it there are elements that are introduced in the first book that appear in the third. But it didn’t feel like a it told one story in 3 installments because all of the conflicts in the first book. For me it told two great stories over three books. I only mention because you don’t really need to read book 2 immediately after book 1, but I highly recommend reading book 3 right after book 2.

BookTube

There was only one review on youtube for Frostborn and I’m guessing none exist for the whole series.

Review: A Fire Upon the Deep

If Lassie was an episode of Game of Thrones in Space, but even better.

Why I Picked it Up

Mainly, I was looking for a long space opera and this kept popping up as recommendation.

My Impressions

It was not the space opera I was looking for, but that didn’t stop it from being all sorts of amazing.

My first impression was nightmarish. The book opens with a conversation between two sentient AI’s talking about a third sinister AI. I happened to be working on a project at work that involved machine learning which also contributed to my nightmare.

Nightmare’s aside, everything else went smoothly. There are times in the book that are physically stunning and other times it is emotional. Yes, I may have shed a tear over a book with a spaceship on its cover.

What really struck me was the amount of time spent on examining the effects of a propaganda campaign that was published on “The Net”. This topic is relevant for today and so you might be tempted to think this was published recently. But it wasn’t. It was published in 1992! A time when most people didn’t have access to the Internet.

There were a number of other things that amazed me.

  • The concept of a shared consciousness as an identity.
  • The number of times characters underestimate the threat.
  • The medieval political maneuvering.
  • The degree the level of distrust rises among the cast.

In short, the ideas and concepts in this book are big, beautiful and amazing. On top of that they are expertly delivered.

My One Draw Back (it doesn’t really matter)

The only thing that disappointed me was that in the first few chapters it appeared to be a family sci-fi adventure, and it turned out not to be. I’ve read so many stories and seen so many movies where the children the story is centered around are orphaned. And that was before Harry Potter. Since then, it has gotten to the point where I consider it unoriginal and get frustrated when I see pages and time dedicated to it.

It is now a joke in our family before we watch one of these movies for me to ask if the Mom and Dad make it out alive. They almost never do.

Why it doesn’t really matter

It doesn’t matter because there are multiple children in this book who are part of the main cast and this is not a children’s book! Most publishers would force an author to rewrite the story into either a mid-grade or YA format. But that didn’t happen and its amazing.

Goodreads and Booktube

As of this writing the book is rated 4.13 stars, with over 44,264 ratings!

 

Review: The Long Way To a Small Angry Planet

A bunch of reasonable people on a spaceship talking about their feelings.

Why I Picked it Up

Like The Paper Magician, I picked acquired this ebook and its sequel because it was heavily discounted on Amazon. The audio was also reasonably priced so I snagged that as well.

Before I acquired it, this book by Becky Chambers was on my radar because of the rave reviews and that it appeared on several space opera lists (none of which I can remember, so they are lost to the Internet).

My Impressions

For the first half of the book, I was let down. I was expecting a thrilling adventure with death defying feats and maybe a romantic sub plot. Pretty much my expectations for a hyped up space opera.

It was none of those things.

At one point they are boarded by space pirates, and I was like “Yes! the adventure is beginning!” But they turned out to be really reasonable space pirates, so everything turned out ok.

At that point I read a few more reviews, abandoned my expectations and started to appreciate the book for what it is. Contemporary fiction set in outer-space. With lots (I really mean lots!) of aliens.

There is a plot too, but that is secondary to the character development. A distant second. So far a distant second that spoilers don’t really matter.

Things I liked

  1. Each chapter is essentially its own story
  2. Lots of aliens and alien cultures
  3. It is accessible to readers who don’t read science fiction
  4. I’m guessing on this one, but I think the title is a reference to A Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

Things I didn’t like

  1. Almost all the characters you encounter are reasonable
  2. The plot isn’t as strong as I would have liked
  3. Romantic life plays a large part of each characters story
  4. I have a hard time believing that most of humanity adopts pacifism

Actors I would Cast if I Made Movies

If this was a movie (please don’t make a movie) 90% of the characters would be CGI.

Ashby – Jason Mantzoukas

Corbin – One of the guys from Blue Man Group.

Goodreads and BookTube

I gave this 3 out of 5 stars, which in goodreads terms means “I liked it.” I would totally hangout with this crew if I could. Just maybe not for a long hall.

It currently has just under 35,000 ratings on good reads for a total rating of 4.18. Only 4% of those ratings are rated lower than 3 stars. Over 6000 people wrote an actual review. Ya, this book has fans. Even its own wikia.

Finally, here are two BookTubers with different opinions on the book:

 

And probably my all time favorite BookTube review…

 

Review: Virus on Orbis (The Softwire #1)

If the Matrix were a Space Opera written by Franz Kafka, it would come close to Virus on Orbis.

Why I Picked it Up

Eerily, I don’t remember reserving this book from the library, but I was informed it was there for me to pick up. I think there was a day several weeks back where I was looking for sci-fi books that one of my sons and I could read together.

Taking a book home from a library, doesn’t always mean I’m going to read it.  Honestly, I started reading this because I was reading another book that intensely confusing ( Ninefox Gambit ) and I could only handle it in small doses. So Virus on Orbis filled a void for me.

My Impressions (spoilery)

The book is full of despair. I originally told people it was dark, but on reflection I think despair is a better word to describe it.

The book begins with about 200 kids on a spaceship and all their parents died before they were born (yes, you read correctly). They are raised by a computer they refer to as Mother… who also dies early on. On arriving at their destination they learn that they will essentially be slaves. As the book progresses we learn more and more about the ways the society on Orbis is designed to oppress the main characters.

Oh did I mention that this is a Mid-Grade Novel?

It is important to acknowledge that just because there is so much despair, it is not a reason to not read it. We don’t always need to read books that make us feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Things I liked (still spoilery)

A few of the things that I like are what is not in the book.

  1. There is no chosen one. The main character has an exceptionally rare and special ability. We learn more about why he may have those abilities, but its not
  2. This is not a portal story. We still learn about this stunningly complex world through the eyes of the main character.

The I liked the most is that the main character frequently finds a way to choose his own path, even though he is continually boxed in by several parties.

The book touches on conspiracy on different levels. First, in the sense of how conspiracy theories can cause a society to misuse its justice system out of fear. Contributing to that are two rival organizations The Keepers and The Trading Council which distrust each other. And second, an actual conspiracy (secret plot).

We briefly and cryptically learn about “Space Jumpers” which are pretty awesome. I hope there are more of those in the other books.

Things I didn’t like (also spoilery)

The main character is bullied throughout the book. And largely the bullies get away with it, or suffer any real consequences. I mean there are some instances where the bully suffers the consequences of being short sighted, but not for the cruelty he causes others.

There are plenty of other books and movies that have a depressing setting, but offer thrilling adventures. The Mos Eisley cantina scene from Star Wars comes to mind. Newcomers are welcome there, heck not even droids are. But there is an intangible quality to it where if I had a chance to go there, I’d take it. With this book, I don’t have that same feeling. I wonder why anyone would want to go there.

There aren’t any moments that lighten the tone of the story. Small moments of humor while insignificant to the plot can be a relief to the reader when the setting is so heavy.

The villain reveals the plan to the main characters.

Parents die. This complaint isn’t limited to this book. It’s directed at most mid-grade adventure stories (regardless of medium… ie movies). The parents almost never make it out of these stories alive. It makes it seem that in order to have an adventure your parents must meet some terrible fate.

Goodreads and BookTube

I didn’t find any BookTubers reviewing this book (possibly because it was published in 2006).

At the time this post was published the book had a 3.79 rating on Goodreads. 4 stars on goodreads is a rating of “I really liked it”. Most of the written reviews are also favorable. Some of the less favorable ones thought that the descriptions of Orbis and its inhabitants was much to be desired. I also noticed this, but it wasn’t a deterrent for me.

Final Thoughts

The ending had enough hope for me to be happy with the read, but the next one looks similar in tone from the synopsis and a few reviews.

I may continue to read the series (especially if my children read the book), but it won’t be soon.

 

 

Review: The Paper Magician

Can magic bound to paper overcome the twisted magic bound to blood? Can a budding romance between an apprentice and a master not be awkward or creepy?

Alternate Victorian London is running low on the number of paper magicians have been in decline. To help their numbers, a magical academy forces one of its graduates (Ceony Twill) to become an apprentice of paper magician (Mg. Emery Thane).

That’s the premise of the first book, The Paper Magician, in this trilogy.

Why I Picked It Up

First off, Amazon had a deal on the first three books of the series, both in ebook and audio formats. Second, the covers (someone in marketing is getting their wings) drew me in and sparked my curiosity. And finally, I was at home for a week’s staycation and I figured I could knock the trilogy out before I had to go back to work.

Things I Liked (spoilery)

Simply put, I like the parts of the book that are off the wall bonkers. There is a part in the book when a villain, who had not been mentioned previously, appears and attacks Mg. Thane. The attack is nearly fatal, and all of the formal magicians are bummed because aparently saving him is out of the question. They decide to make him as comfortable as possible, and then most of them leave. But Ceony, doesn’t give up and for a large part of the book travels through the four chambers of his heart. Yes. She travels into his heart. Certainly not mind blowing, but (as I said before) it is bonkers.

It is through this adventure that we learn about the villain and she is legitimately bad.

The magic system itself is interesting, and in the second book we learn that it may not be as strict as we were once lead to believe.

Surprisingly, this is not a portal story. We learn about the magical system through Ceony. Since she did not really pay attention to paper magic in school (because who wants to be a paper magician?) she doesn’t really know what one can do.

On the more technicaly side, I’m usually very critical of flashbacks in any type of story telling. The first book clears the high bar I have for flashbacks and I don’t remember any in the second. The third book, well… is a different story for me (see the next section).

And finally, the author was courteous enough to keep all three books in series are roughly the same length. (Wondering why this important? Read my post about life as a Slow Reader).

Things I Didn’t Like (again spoilery)

There are way too many scenes involving food. I just don’t get it. Very few writers pull it off well, and everyone else just doesn’t and I really wish authors would stop including this.

The second book in the series is less bonkers. Which was disappointing for me because that was what I enjoyed most about the first book.

We are introduced to new characters in the second book. I found these additions to be clunky and it would have been helpful to have at least heard some of them mentioned in the first book.

The third book (The Master Magician) was too much of a romance for my tastes and I stopped reading it rather quickly. There is a fourth book (The Plastic Magician) and I think at least 2 more to follow, but it is really unlikely that I will pick them up.

GoodReads and BookTube

About 11% of the 48,620 ratings on goodreads are 1 or 2 stars. This surprised me. The reviewers that elaborated on why they gave a low rating centered on 2 themes. I’ve summarized them below and offer my opinion as well.

1) The dialogue is too modern for historical fiction. I don’t pretend to understand this frustration. I can easily suspend disbelief for the existence of magic in early 1900 London, I don’t see how a few contemporary phrases takes a person out of the moment. But clearly it does.

2) It felt rushed. I felt it was appropriately paced for novel that is around 200 pages. The author tells a complete story where a lot happens. It’s different and sometimes challenging. But that is pretty standard for a fantasy novel of that length. It will be different reading experience compared to a 400 page fantasy, which is different from a 700 page novel.

I gave both The Paper Magician and The Glass Magician 3 stars on goodreads (which translates to “I liked it”).

Here are what BookTubers are saying

Reviewers who liked it (focus on romance, no mentioned of bonkerishness):

A reviewer that didn’t like it (Pretty much didn’t like the part that was bonkers):

Review: Ninefox Gambit

Star Wars meets Star Trek meets Silence of the Lambs.

Ever wonder what would happen if a Star Trek engineer was able to channel the force into technology and come up with exotic weapons like amputation guns?  Ever imagine a Star Fleet captain being advised by the force ghost of the most hated war criminal of all time?

Let’s be real. I haven’t. You haven’t (unless you’re Yoon Ha Lee and then I’ll put you down as a maybe). So the real question is can something like this actually work as a story?

The answer is Yes and it is titled Ninefox Gambit. But fair warning, every page will have something you don’t fully understand about this universe. This starts on page 1. My advise is don’t rush through it. Or if you do, make sure you reread it immediately.

This is going to be a longer review, because I’ve got a lot to say about it and frankly I am not alone.

Why I Picked it Up

I picked this up because someone on the internet included it in a list of sci-fi books that pulls you in from the first page and you can’t escape it until the last one.

It’s a good book, but I’ll be honest it shouldn’t be on a list like that. It is too confusing to carry that level of suspense on the first read.

Things I liked

Most characters have a distinct voice. Also, there are several characters, but since each of the 6 factions has it’s own identity. You don’t need to use up the mind space trying to memorize character details as long as you knew what faction they belonged to.

Also, this book is light on romance. Which was welcome, because many of the books I’ve read recently have been big on character hook ups, and that doesn’t really intrigue me.

Finally, this story is not cinematic. It leverages its medium extremely well and didn’t strike me as a not-so-subtle pitch to move studios. That said I mentally cast Scarlet Johansen as Cheris and Tommy Lee Jones (circa The Fugitive) as General Jedao.

Wait. One more thing. The cover! I mean did you see it? I know right!

Things I didn’t like

Some of the best parts of the story aren’t in the book. Meaning, if you want to understand the book while you are reading it, you have to go online and read what people posted.

The most interesting thing I read was a recent article on The Quill to Live

Is it a Space Opera?

Ninefox Gambit appears on a lot of Space Opera lists. Frankly, I don’t get it. It is a military sci-fi novel, but there is a bunch of weird math. I don’t know any operas (space or otherwise) that involve so much math.

A Spoilery Summary of the First Few Chapters

The story begins in the middle of a battle. We follow a commander who, due to technical issues, joins the battle late. She quickly assesses the situation and determines that if they fight the way they have been trained they will all die. But if she orders her troops to fight like the enemy fights, they may live and achieve the mission objective. This second option, is considered disgraceful and she knows it. The consequence for herself and all of her troops will be to have their mind wiped (or some sort of brainwashing punishment).

The fact that she is able to come up with this battle plan on the fly is remarkable in two ways. First, it involves crazy weird math and math is not the domain of her military order. Second, her military order, brainwashes soldiers to the extent that it becomes instinct. So the fact that she found a window within that instinct to commit a disgraceful act is truly out of the ordinary.

After she issues the command one group begins to question the order and the commander cuts them out of the company without hesitation. Shortly after that company is wiped out. The others obey the command and accomplish their objective. Which is eventually abandoned by her commanding officers.

That’s the first chapter. I’m going to pause from the summary and just mention that I always appreciate an ethical dilemma. The fact that the book opens with one so pressing and consequential really gripped me.

Shortly after she has to inform her soldiers that they are all to be brainwashed / mindwiped because of her orders. Everyone, except for herself. She has been tapped to advise a military council on a critical situation.

She doesn’t know it yet, but she is being manipulated into volunteering to merge her mind with the greatest general and traitor of all time (who has been dead for several hundred years).

At the time of his treachery, the general’s battle record posed the government with a conundrum. How do they keep his ability to win battles but punish the treachery. The treachery is frequently described as that the general went mad. So the government decided to preserve his consciousness so that it could be consulted for critical military operations, while they try to figure out either what drove him mad or what made him such a remarkable general.

We learn that the general has been used before and this is an important detail in the book. Since the book is intentionally confusing it is easy to miss the detail.

The fact that this is not the first time the general has been ‘anchored’ to someone suggests that this time will be significantly different in some way for the general. Which makes the story about the military campaign and about what happens to the general.

To me this is the more understandable part of the book. I don’t really understand the importance of the fortress, nor all the different parts of the seige.

But I can understand that the general’s fate is completely unknown. Will he go mad again? Will he find a way to escape the black cradle (his undead prison)? Will he experience his first military defeat? Or will he become irrelevant?’

These were the questions that kept me reading this book.

What do BookTubers think?

Like I said before, there are a lot of opinions about Ninefox Gambit. Pretty much everyone says that there is nothing wrong with dropping the book if you aren’t enjoying it.

Reviewers who liked it:

 

A reviewer who didn’t like it:

Anyone else read it? What do you think?

Review: The Palace Job

A magical heist where no one is who they first appear to be. Except Pyvic.

The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes [GoodReads] is a detailed story with a large talented cast, a floating city and a heavy dose of magic. There are a lot of plot lines that get introduced midway through the book. This confused me as I lost track of the central plot. But I was enjoying myself too much to irritated by the confusion.

It is an approachable story for people who enjoy Fantasy. It is heavier on the magic side. Pretty much every convenience is the result of magic and not technology. And the book has plenty of humorous scenes and dialogue to make life a little brighter.

Why I Picked it Up

I was trying out Kindle Unlimited and this was appeared in the Fantasy genre. Plus, it offered read along audio as well.

That got it on my kindle, but what got me to read it was a review on GoodReads (also available on her blog) that mentioned this more what they had in mind when they read Lies of Locke Lamora.

Favorite Characters

My favorite character is the narrator and that is only because of the amazing job Justine Eyre did on the audio version.

Otherwise, I think every character on the crew was unique and really engaging. If I could tweet at them this is what I’d say (not limiting myself to character limits because that is stupid, unlike tweeting at fictional characters on wordpress which is totally cool).

@Loch – You are filled with secrets and knowledge. Can anything take you by surprise? Not that I want it to. Your ability to out maneuver your opponent is captivating. Remind me to stay on your good side.

@Kail – Any other person and the “Your Mother” jokes would get old.

@Tern – I’ve noticed you seldom work by yourself and don’t shy away from a confrontation with your colleagues. Ever pulled any solo jobs?

@Icy – You execute inconceivable physical feats effortlessly. Have you considered becoming a fitness trainer? Hope I learn more about your circumstances in the sequels.

@Ululenia – Your motives are humorous, but they make me a little uncomfortable. I never thought I’d read about a unicorn that had problem with self control.

@Desidora – You are the one I look forward to the most in the sequels. Part mischief. Part death. And all heart. Don’t tell anyone else, but I’d totally dig a standalone novel where you are the main character.

@Ghylspwr – The character I would most like to hang out with.

@Hessler – You’re talented, but I feel like there is more you can be capable of achieving. Don’t let getting thrown out of the university derail your studies!

@Diary – You are fooling no one!

Things I Didn’t really Enjoy

Romances. I’m becoming aware that “shipping” is a big appeal for a lot of readers, but it doesn’t interest me.

BookTubers and Other Reviewers

There weren’t any reviews from BookTubers, but I found this gem on YouTube. It’s an online bookclub of 4 people who were broadcasting live at the time. People were sending messages during the broadcast. Check out how stunned they are when Patrick Weekes starts sending them messages after one of them calls it “A poor man’s Disc World”.

YouTube: Literally Geeky Book Club

While I didn’t get a chance to see their whole discussion, it convinced me to read the next book in the Rogues of the Republic series sooner rather than later.

Gotham Academy #14 is like…

…American Idol. Wait am I dating myself? Would America’s Got Talent be more timely?

In either case, the January issue of Gotham Academy reads like a talent show with 3 unique stories from 3 different teams (and the main story to tie all of it together). It appears this format will continue for two more issues.

Quick disclaimer: My posts are usually minimally edited drafts which may have a kernel of insight or humor. If I waited until I had a perfect draft, I wouldn’t find the time and it would stay in my drafts folder hidden away from the world.

I still feel new to comic books, but not so new to know that these types of issues are common practice for comic books. So familiar enough to know what it is; new enough not to know what everyone calls it. I’m going with ‘3 story format’.

After losing two of the three all stars who brought the idea to life, I’m convinced this is the best course for Gotham Academy. Since it’s beginning the art of Karl Kershl has been front and center. Most reviewers love it (including me) or others can’t stand it. But everyone notices it. Still, the series itself is story driven and full of drama, mystery and obscure characters from Batman story lines. It is a fun series from Kershl, Brenden Fletcher and Becky Cloonan.

But now Fletcher is the proverbial cheese that stands alone and the series will need to find an artist to fill Kershl’s spot. Or fans will have to accept a different style.

Gotham Academy #14 showcases 3 very different styles. This is an important distinction from the other time the 3 story format was used, in Gotham Academy Endgame. That was part of a tie-in to a story for a different Gotham character, but #14 (15 & 16) aren’t tied to any other story. I imagine that 15 & 16 will continue to challenge fans with bold and unfamiliar artistic styles.

Cloonan’s influence on the dialogue was missed (or what I imagine her influence is). Olive and Maps are certainly close friends, but Olive is a complex character and shoulders all the emotional weight that comes with that complexity. Maps is a virtuous, imaginative and excitable superfan. The dialogue fell a little short of what we normally see from these two. But then again, it isn’t a normal issue.

It’s worth mentioning that in both 14 & Endgame, the story featuring Isla MacPherson was my favorite.

I’m grateful that this interlude is taking place in between arcs and not being shoe horned into the middle of an arc.

One final note about the artwork of Karl Kershl. Gotham Academy tells the same story in print or digital. But the medium is different and Karl Kershl’s art (more than any other artist) is clearly intended for print. Gotham Academy was one of the titles that convinced me to buy print copies, instead of digital. I was already buying 1 or 2 print comic books a month, but it was the first time I actively tracked down back issues that were not in the store. Meaning… it was the first time I bought comics from ebay. It’s a thing that can’t be undone.

 

Review: The Quantum League #1 (Spell Robbers)

Quantum League 1

There are two types of books I read to my children. The ones I read to them and the ones I will read on my own after they’ve gone to bed (abandoning my normal mix of comic books and genre fiction).

The fact that I’m bringing this up should tell you what camp Spell Robbers (the first of three installments of Matthew J. Kirby‘s Quantum League) is in.

I’ve only recently been exposed to Middle Grade level novels. Not to be confused with grades in middle school. For those of you who don’t know it targets readers age 8 -12. From what I remember from the writing group I periodically attend this has historically been a hard group to break into because parents always have their go to favorites, which often times were there parents favorites.

But recently going through GoodReads it seems that there has been a lot of growth in recent years. I’m guessing because the target market still buys physical books. In any case, these books seem to be taking the space that comic books used to fill… when they were primarily sold to children in that same age group.

So getting back to the book and why I thought it was amazing. In a word: Drama. A lot of the elements can be found in other stories (regardless of their medium). Sorcery, Jedi Mind Tricks, Leagues of Superheros and Villains…. but these elements are surrounded by a well defined and imaginative context which makes them feel original and not at all a distraction from the continual escalating tension between the characters.

Personally, my favorite stories are ones where a virtuous hero faces an ethical dilemma on top of whatever other thing they are facing. Spell Robbers raises challenging questions about authority, power, good and evil, and collateral damage. These are grown up themes which makes it incredibly engaging for an 8 year old (my 5 year old did not share our enthusiasm).

An exciting story like Spell Robbers will usually result in fans craving for a movie. Surprisingly, I’m against that. The story is best told in a novel because what makes the familiar elements feel original can’t be translated well to film. And therefore a movie will seem derivative and sadly detract from an excellent story.

The book does not conclude with a cliff hanger, but it leaves plenty to be resolved in the next two installments. According to the author’s website the second book is completed, but it seems the publisher (Scholastic) hasn’t announced it’s release date.

If you, dear reader, know the release date then please  let me know in the comments.