Friday, December 27, 2013

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy


Title: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
Author: Karen Foxlee
Series: N/A
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House)
Publication Date: January 28 2014
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads Summary: A modern-day fairy tale set in a mysterious museum that is perfect for readers of Roald Dahl and Blue Balliett.

Unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn't believe in anything that can't be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia's help.

As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy's own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.

A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.

My Thoughts
           The Snow Queen: The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen is one of my favorite fairy tales. At the beginning of the story a group of demons make a mirror out of ice which when looked into twists reality and shows them as evil and unsatisfactory. The demons have a great time with this mirror and decide to fly it to the top of the world so that they can see all of humanity reflected in it. Unfortunately they are having such a good time that they drop it, and it shatters. Pieces of the glittering ice float through the air mixing with the snow until they are indistinguishable. One of these pieces pierces the eye and heart of Kai, the best friend of Greta. Soon after it pierces him he encounters the Snow Queen and flies away with her to her castle in the snow. Greta is heartbroken. She cannot live without her Kai, so she embarks on a dangerous journey to find her friend and bring him back. The journey is a string of challenges and events, each more dangerous than the last which test Greta, until finally, long after she began, Greta finds Kai deep within the Snow Queen's palace. He has almost frozen solid attempting to write the word eternity, the Snow Queen has promised that once he writes it he is free to leave, but he cannot remember no matter how hard he tries. It is then that Greta finds him, wraps her arms around him and cries. The tears fall upon his heart melting the piece of ice away, and he recognizes Greta it is then that he begins to cry which washes out the piece of ice in his eye. It is only then that unbeknownst to the children the ice blocks have formed themselves into the word, and Kai is free. The children then leave and return home, hand in hand.
                So, that's The Snow Queen in a nutshell. I was intrigued by this book, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, and found that it was quite good and brilliantly written. The characters were fantastic, but they were still children, and the author made that evident throughout the story. For the rest of this review I will focus on how the novel although seemingly very different from The Snow Queen incorporated elements of the fairy tale into its plot.

********WARNING SPOILERS********

            Ophelia is brave, but she's not perfect, much like Greta. She knows what is right, but knows that sometimes it can be hard to find the courage to do those things. When she meets the Marvelous Boy she is confused by his story and not sure what to believe, it is hard for her to understand that the museum curator is the Snow Queen, when she seems so nice to those around her. This is much like Kai and the Queen, in fact throughout the story Kai is not one character specifically, but rather a mixture of characters, Kai is The Marvelous Boy, Alice and even Ophelia's father. These are the people that Ophelia will save if she does as the Marvelous Boy asks. The tasks he sends her to do are hard and very scary. One of the first tasks involves walking through a room full of ghost girls they are thieves who want Ophelia's memories to make them stronger. At first Ophelia is terrified, this is totally unfamiliar to her and more than a little alarming, but one ghost girl stays by her side and helps her through. This is similar to the part of the fairy tale when Greta encounters bandits. At first the bandits seem terrible and completely evil, but one of them befriends Greta and protects her before sending her on her way better than she left. This episode illustrates that appearances can be deceiving. Next, Ophelia has to cross a room full of jaguars in order to get a key in the next room, the jaguars are terrifying, but a ghost girl fends them off in order for Ophelia to reach the key. This can be compared to the part of The Snow Queen when Greta must face a terrible army of snowflakes that guard the palace. Just when it seems all is lost angels appear in front of Greta and fend off the forces of evil. 
               Just as the journey to the Snow Queen's palace stretched Greta to her limits, and further, the quest to stop the Snow Queen from taking over the world stretches Ophelia farther than she ever thought she could go. One of my favorite scenes in the novel was when Ophelia finally found the Marvelous Boy, frozen in a snow drift where the Snow Queen had left him, much like Greta had done for Kai, Ophelia saves him from the bleak world of the Snow Queen. But, Ophelia goes one step farther and battles the Queen in order to stop her plan for world domination. In the fairy tale the queen does not seem to care if Kai leaves, as long as he finishes the puzzle first, it always seemed strange to me that the queen would let her prisoner go without so much as a fight. I enjoyed how Foxlee thought so too, and so she created a battle between the powerful forces of evil, and the simple yet brave forces of good, where the queen was defeated once and for all. 
             I loved this book, and read the whole thing in one sitting. I loved the guidance that Ophelia's mother gave her, and how Ophelia was willing to put others before herself. I loved how this novel stressed the importance of family and how Ophelia didn't just stop the world from falling apart, she stopped her family from falling apart. By acting instead of being acted upon Ophelia brought her small family back together, and saved the world.


The High Druid's Blade by Terry Brooks

The High Druid's Blade


Title: The High Druid's Blade (The Defenders of Shannara #1)
Author: Terry Brooks
Series: The Defenders of Shannara (Shannara #32)
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group - Del Ray Spectra
Publication Date: March 11, 2014
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads Summary: Legend has it that Paxon Leah is descended from the royals and warriors who once ruled the Highlands and waged war with magical weapons. But those kings, queens, and heroes are long gone, and there is nothing enchanted about the antique sword that hangs above Paxon’s fireplace. Running his family’s modest shipping business, Paxon leads a quiet life—until extraordinary circumstances overturn his simple world . . . and rewrite his destiny.

When his brash young sister is abducted by a menacing stranger, Paxon races to her rescue with the only weapon he can find. And in a harrowing duel, he is stunned to discover powerful magic unleashed within him—and within his ancestors’ ancient blade. But his formidable new ability is dangerous in untrained hands, and Paxon must master it quickly because his nearly fatal clash with the dark sorcerer Arcannen won’t be his last. Leaving behind home and hearth, he journeys to the keep of the fabled Druid order to learn the secrets of magic and earn the right to become their sworn protector.

But treachery is afoot deep in the Druids’ ranks. And the blackest of sorcery is twisting a helpless innocent into a murderous agent of evil. To halt an insidious plot that threatens not only the Druid order but all the Four Lands, Paxon Leah must summon the profound magic in his blood and the legendary mettle of his elders in the battle fate has chosen him to fight.

Praise for Terry Brooks: The Sword of Shannara is an unforgettable and wildly entertaining epic, animated by Terry Brooks’s cosmically generative imagination and storytelling joy.”—Karen Russell, New York Times bestselling author of Swamplandia!
“If Tolkien is the grandfather of modern fantasy, Terry Brooks is its favorite uncle.”—Peter V. Brett, New York Times bestselling author of The Desert Spear

“I can’t even begin to count how many of Terry Brooks’s books I’ve read (and reread) over the years. From Shannara to Landover, his work was a huge part of my childhood.”—Patrick Rothfuss, New York Times bestselling author of The Name of the Wind

“Terry Brooks is a master of the craft and a trailblazer who established fantasy as a viable genre. He is required reading.”—Brent Weeks, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Angel Trilogy

“The Shannara books were among the first to really capture my imagination. My daydreams and therefore my stories will always owe a debt to Terry Brooks.”—Brandon Mull, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Beyonders and Fablehaven series

My Thoughts
         Plot: Paxon Leah lives a relatively boring life taking care of his late father's business. He is descended from the Omsfords and Leahs of legend, and yet he feels there is nothing special about his life, that all changes when his sister, Chrys, is kidnapped by Arcannen the sorcerer. Paxon knows he will need a weapon to go against the sorcerer, but all he can find is the ancient sword that hangs over the fireplace. With the help of Jayet, his sister's friend he sets out to regain his sister.
                  However, it isn't his sister that the sorcerer wants, it's the sword, The Sword of Shannara. But if Arcannen thinks that getting the sword will be easy, he's in for a big surprise. There's more to Paxon than meets the eye, and it's a fatal mistake to underestimate the power of the sword.

                This book is about Paxon's journey to understand the power of the sword, and to become a protector of the Druids. It's a story of intense loyalty and love. It's a story about understanding who people really are, and realizing just how much everyone is capable of. Gifts can be hidden deep inside, and sometimes it takes quite a lot to bring them out.

********WARNING SPOILERS********

         FEELINGS!!!!!!!!!!: As a reader of the first few Shannara books, I have a lot of feelings about certain things including but not limited to: the Sword of Shannara, the Wishsong, the Elfstones, the Stiehl, Walker Boh, Minion Leah, really, I could keep going, it was like a montage of all my favorite elements!!!!! AND IT WAS BEAUTIFUL!
                     Okay, moving on. I most of the characters in this book. They were very likeable and most of them experienced growth, in other words they weren't the same character at the end of the book as they were at the beginning.
                    Paxon Leah: Paxon is annoyed by his younger sister, sure sometimes he wishes she had turned out differently, or maybe even that he didn't have to deal with her, but she is his sister, and he would protect her with his life. I loved the loyalty and trust that Paxon and Chrys have for each other. Paxon will do anything for his sister, even if it means facing down Arcannen a second time. It is because of his love for her that Chrys has total faith that no matter who kidnaps her, or how well they hide her, her brother will come, and he will get her back. One of my favorite things about Paxon was that no matter how dark things seemed he always had hope and pity. Even when he was attacked by the girl who happened to be a wolf, he kept his pity with him. That is what makes the Leahs different from the druids: the druids have distanced themselves too much from the human world and the emotions that it holds, which is why they often need common people to accomplish their tasks for them. Not because the "regular people" are stronger or more powerful then them, but because they're not. Because they haven't distanced themselves from the world and can use the emotions that the druids so often condemn to save themselves and others. Yes, Paxon's loyalty may not be the best quality in the view of the druids because he will always put his family above the order. But it is because he puts his family first that he is such a great man.Yes, Paxon is impulsive, but it is his quick thinking and ability to throw himself in front of the enemy that saves Chrys and her rescuers from the creature that the witch creates. It is because he is only human that he is such a fantastic protagonist and hero.
                   Chrys Leah: Chrys has practically been raised by her brother, and she has complete faith in him. Even when she has been captured by the witch, has no idea where she is, and thinks she will die, she never for a moment doubts that Paxon will find her. Yes, she wonders what is taking him so long, but she never once thinks he won't find her. I loved the bond that Brooks created between the siblings. Another thing I admired about Chrys was how strong she was. Arcannen and the witch thought that Chrys would be easy to break but they had underestimated the power of the stock of Leah and the gift of the wishsong. I think the character of Chrys teaches the reader that you should never underestimate those around you.
                  Grehling: Grehling was awesome. I loved how much he fooled Arcannen and even the witch. No one would ever imagine just how powerful Grehling is. Sure, he doesn't have magic, or even a weapon, but he still manages to rescue Chrys and escape the witch and her creature. Grehling is brave and clever. Grehling illustrates, just like Paxon does, that common folk should never be underestimated when dealing with things seemingly out of their control.
                  Arcannen: Arcannen is the mastermind bad guy of the story, but he doesn't seem to learn from his mistakes. Arcannen's fatal flaw is that he only sees the outside of people and judges them on that. Upon seeing Paxon he thought him only a stupid farm boy who would willingly give an old sword for his sister. He never imagined that Paxon would stand up to him and survive, or that he would manage to escape him time after time. He had forgotten that Paxon was a Leah, and that was a serious mistake. When kidnapping Chrys the second time he thought she would be easy to break and wield as a tool, but he underestimated the magic that flowed through her veins. Arcannen sees Grehling as the boy at the airfield, not as someone who could outwit him repeatedly. And then there's Loef. She's his daughter, and yet she has made her own decisions in life and decides to side against him. Arcannen's downfall will come about because he underestimates his enemy.

So, yeah I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the next two in the trilogy!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Witch Finder by Ruth Warburton

Witch Finder


Title: Witch Finder (Witch Finder #1)
Author: Ruth Warburton
Series: Witch Finder
Publisher: Hachette Children's Books
Publication Date: January 2 2014
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads Summary: London. 1880. In the slums of Spitalfields apprentice blacksmith Luke is facing initiation into the Malleus Maleficorum, the fearsome brotherhood dedicated to hunting and killing witches.

Luke’s final test is to pick a name at random from the Book of Witches, a name he must track down and kill within a month, or face death himself. Luke knows that tonight will change his life forever. But when he picks out sixteen-year-old Rosa Greenwood, Luke has no idea that his task will be harder than he could ever imagine.

My Thoughts
       Content: Although there was some swearing in this book, the only thing that really bothered me was the intense detail of animal cruelty, and human cruelty. 
       Plot: The plot of this story was good, but I felt like it had two endings. At one point the story slowed down and pretty much wrapped itself up, and I expected it to end. It didn't, it kept going. There was another rising action, climax and falling action, and then the book actually ended. So that was a little weird. Otherwise I felt like it really moved along well, and had a very interesting storyline.

********WARNING SPOILERS********

       Character Growth: So, I must admit I really didn't expect the characters to go through much growth, maybe a little but not a lot. Well, I'm happy to say that I was wrong.
                       Luke: At the beginning of the story Luke is completely gung-ho about killing witches, he wishes to get revenge on the man who killed his parents. When he picks Rosa's name he treats her only as an assignment that he must finish in order to get what he really wants. Upon meeting Rosa he sees her as a rich spoiled witch capable of evil, and probably using it too. Then he gets to know her. He learns just how drastically different her life is from what he thought it was. And then he falls in love with her, of course. But I thought it was interesting that the moment he realizes he really loves her is as he's fulfilling his mission. And then of course his act of real love is when he runs into the burning building even though he knows he's probably going to die, in order to save Rosa.
                      Rosa: Rosa's life is terrible. Her brother is a jerk and an abuser, her mother cares for nothing but getting money, and Sebastian is a horrible person. Then Luke comes along. He's just there. Always. He doesn't pressure her to do anything. One of my favorite scenes was after Sebastian killed his dog. I love how for that one moment Rosa isn't a witch, and Luke isn't a witch hunter, they're just people. I also loved how Luke thought only of comforting her, I think that that really showed how Luke wasn't meant to be a witch killer. Instead of killing her when she was most vulnerable, he helped her get back up. Rosa's first act of real love isn't when she decides to let Luke keep his memories in the barn, or even when she takes his memories away so that Sebastian won't kill him, her first act of real love is when she leaves Sebastian's factory, even though he has forbidden her to do so. And then when she used the last bit of her strength to save them both as they fell really showed the power of love. Rosa had been totally weak only moments before, but just seconds after seeing Luke she was able to perform a feat of great magic in order to save his life. 
        Overall: Yeah, I liked this book. Sure, there were some parts that I didn't like. I didn't like how everyone except Luke and Cassie treated Rosa like dirt and wanted her only for what she could do. She was just a tool or object. Mama and her brother saw her as a way to get back their wealth. Sebastian saw her as a trophy wife, and someone he could use for his own pleasures in the bedroom. 
                       I thought the scenes in the factory were very interesting. It made sense that the workers were enchanted so that they would produce the maximum amount of matches, without ever thinking about themselves. I really liked that Luke tried to help them all escape. That once again showed the compassion and love that Luke has, and how in the end his love is his greatest weapon.
                       Oh, and the fact that Sebastian's dad was the black witch??!!! HOLY CRAP did not see that coming. Yeah, I liked that twist, because I really hate Sebastian, and whoever made him and his mom how they are. It makes sense that his father was off his rocker.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013