Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Queen's Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner

I recommend this series for: grade 6 and up

I normally review each book in a series separately, but since I'm waaaay behind (who knew that little babies take up so much time? ;-) and I sped through these three books at lightning speed, I'll just do them all together.

In The Thief, Gen is a young man who is rescued from the king's prison by a royal advisor with a vitally important mission. The king wants to marry the queen of Eddis, the neighboring kingdom, and since she has refused him, he needs a gem given by the gods that bestows the right to rule her kingdom. As an extremely talented thief, Gen is ordered to steal it.

I can't say much about the two sequels without giving away major spoilers, but all three books are serious page-turners. There is a lot of political intrigue written on a level that even younger readers can grasp fully. Gen is bold, hilarious, and fallible, which makes him interesting and fun. As a reader, you don't get to see what he is thinking until he puts his plans into action, which makes for a lot of surprises along the way.

What else did I like about the series? The twists and turns, the relationship between Gen and his monarch, the Grecian-esque world, the myths that characters share with one another, the way that characters speak to the gods and receive their answers, romance in the most unexpected places, and how Gen always, always turns out to be smarter than you (or any of the other characters) think he is. This is a must-read series, particularly for fantasy fans, and it would be great for reluctant readers as well - there's a lot of action and some really funny moments. And there's more to come - book four is due in 2010!

Reviews for The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia. Beware of major plot spoilers in the reviews for Queen and King.

Mature content - there are a few instances of mild swearing, and a reference or two to "the king's wedding night" in book 3 that are never made more explicit than that.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

I recommend this book for: grade 6 and up

This is probably my favorite book of the summer so far. Matt Cruse was born in an airship, a giant blimp-like vehicle, and has never felt comfortable on the ground. Now a teenager, he works as a cabin boy on the Aurora, a luxury liner, to support his widowed mother and two sisters. He rescues an old man in a hot air balloon who claims to have seen some kind of fantastic winged animal. He nearly forgets about it until the man's granddaughter arrives on the Aurora. Kate deVries is rebellious, beautiful, and determined to find real evidence of her grandfather's creatures. Although they are from vastly different spheres, Kate and Matt are drawn to one another as he tries to help her in her quest. Then, the pirates attack!

This book has something for just about everyone - a wonderfully built fantasy world, a sympathetic narrator who just wants to follow in his father's footsteps, a rich and spunky heroine who does exactly what she wants, pirates, a mysterious desert island, the beautiful creatures, and all the swashbuckling you could ask for. A definite winner - and I've already put the sequels on hold!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

I recommend this book for: grade 6 and up

In this final volume of Percy Jackson's adventures, Kronos and the Titans make their attack on Olympus. With the gods tied up fighting battles elsewhere, it's up to the halfbloods to defend Manhattan.

This book had some great moments - but on the whole, I wasn't as impressed as I was with the previous four. Maybe I just have trouble when a good series comes to an end? It certainly had lots of good points - resolution of the Percy/Annabeth/Rachel love triangle, background on the Oracle and Luke's troubled past, clever chapter titles, and another quest for Percy that takes him down a path few heroes have been brave (and foolhardy) enough to travel. Definitely read it if you've enjoyed the others.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Specials by Scott Westerfeld

I recommend this book for: grade 7 and up

In this sequel to Pretties, Tally has become a Special. She's Shay's lieutenant in a unit under Dr. Cable's control, dedicated to destroying the Smokies once and for all. She is fast and strong, and completely dedicated to her mission - except for when she starts thinking. When she's forced to choose between Shay and the now-crippled Zane, she picks him - and chooses a path that leads her to a new city to prevent a war.

I absolutely loved Uglies and Pretties. This installment had all of the futuristic technology and ethical questions of the first two, but it didn't excite me as much even though it had hoverboard chases and explosions. It's definitely a worthwhile read for anyone who has enjoyed the series, but not as good as the first two.