Category Archives: Fantasy / Scifi

The End of the Artemis Fowl Saga *sniff, sniff*

Artemis Fowl, The Last GuardianThe Artemis Fowl books were love at first read.  I loved the characters, the writing style, the world – and  I recommended the books to anyone and everyone.  Seriously, what was there not to love? There was a criminal mastermind / boy genius, fairies, a tech genius centaur and a bodyguard named Butler – and those are just the characters.  So I can honestly say, nothing makes me sadder than the fact that “The Last Guardian” is the final book of this eight book series.

In “The Last Guardian”, Artemis Fowl once again faces off against his arch-nemesis Opal Koboi who is out to destroy the entire human race and wreck havoc on the fairy community in the process.  So Artemis must once again use his superior intellect to try to save his family and save the world.

In this book, we are really able to see how far Artemis has come. He is no longer the petulant young criminal mastermind that wants nothing more than money and power.  He has grown a heart, so to speak, and it’s a progression we’ve been able to see throughout the entire series.  And I think this character growth is what makes Artemis so much more of a likable character than Harry Potter, for example.  Don’t get me wrong – I liked reading the Harry Potter series.  But to be honest, I never really liked Harry.  Time and time again he seemed to be Voldermort with nothing but his mother’s love and courage.  I didn’t feel like he was particularly good at magic, particularly smart or particularly crafty.  In fact, by book five I was almost ready to give up on the whole series – he was so whiny and frankly annoying.

This is not the case with Artemis Fowl.  Although he starts out the series as a clear anti-hero, he develops into a real hero, several times over.  He’s not a stagnant character, trapped in the same endless battle and approaching the problem in the same way – he grows and develops into a man (well, maybe not a man but a mature sixteen year old).  We also see him grow as a person, learning to form bonds with people, fairies and dwarves that are more about power and money but about friendship.

I also love how easy it is to jump back into the series.  It’s been several years since I’ve read the first seven Artemis Fowl books but I was able to just pick up this book and quickly re-immerse myself in the universe – without feeling like there was a lot of useless repetition and rehashing of past events.

The only critique I have about this book is the very end.  I won’t give anything away, but I do wish that the novel would have stopped two or three chapters earlier – I think the book would have been more powerful (although I suppose less of a children’s book then) .  I know why Mr. Colfer did what he did, but I still wish he had chosen another path.

 

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Oh Noes! The Robots are Coming!

I first encountered Daniel H. Wilson years ago at a small bookstore in Mountain View, CA.  At that time I had no idea who he was, but a friend had asked me to go to his book signing of “Where’s My Jetpack?” and get a signed book.  I remember being amused by this young, geeky robotics PhD student turned writer.  But that was the last I thought about him.  Until I saw the book Robopocalypse while I was surfing through Amazon’s “Best Books of the Month” and decided it pick it up.  I have to admit, when I first read the back cover I thought, “oh, this will be entertaining but probably a pretty standard ‘Oh no! The Robots are taking over the world what will we do!’ ” kind of book.  Which in a lot of ways it is.  But the book takes a very common premise and makes it something incredibly interesting.

Mr. Wilson traces several different people as they try to deal with  robot uprising.  By painting “history” in these vignettes, it gives you a better sense of the scope of destruction and the war happening between man and robot.  Some of his scenes between robots and man were so realistic, that for awhile I would gingerly step into elevators, afraid that they were out to kill me, even though I knew that the thought was ridiculous, at least for now.  He also throws in a few twists at the end that I was completely not expecting which definitely led to a better and more fulfilling finish (no spoilers, promise).

I hope to hear more from Mr. Wilson, although he might be busy the next few months / years working with Steven Spielberg to turn his book into a movie.  And I think it’ll be an amazing movie – I can’t wait to see it come out.  It’ll take a bit of careful treading to make sure the movie reflects the best parts of the book.

Dragons, Dragons Everywhere!

Book 4 of the Fablehaven series – “Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary” –  takes us to Wyrmroost, one of the most dangerous dragon sanctuaries.  Once again the Fablehaven team (along with assorted fellow adventurers) are on a desperate quest to beat the Society of the Evening Star to the five artifacts that, together, will release the evil demon Zzyzx.

Mr. Mull continues to develop the characters, giving Seth magical abilities to talk to demons and other shadow dwellers.  He also makes Seth a more likable character – making him a boy who takes calculated risks versus allowing his curiosity to get the better of him.   I find it great that Mr. Mull is able to develop such cool new characters with every new book.  My favorite new character in this book is, without a doubt, Raxtus, a not so big, and not so scary dragon.  Although he can be a bit of a whiner, he’s a comical character, capable of witty banter and flashes of courage.  I can only hope he plays a bigger and bigger role in the last and final novel, “Keys to the Demon Prison.”

The ending of this book, to be honest, seems to be a bit of a cop out, although I can’t come up with a better way for the book to end.  Although I’ve enjoyed the adventure up through now, I think I’m ready for them to end.  It is possible to have too much of a  good thing and I think this series is reaching that point.

I’m rooting for the good guys to win!

…And Continue! (The Adventures in Fablehaven that is)

These books just keep on getting better and better –  I can’t seem to put them down! I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical after the first book, but now I’m embroiled in the adventure and can’t wait to find out what happens next! (Good thing I have the rest of the series sitting on my bookshelf!) From now on I’m going to view the first book as a new TV show pilot – something you have to push your way through even though it’s often somewhat crappy.  The pilot is necessary, to set the scene and introduce the characters.  I’m hoping the Beyonders trilogy will follow the same trajectory.

So as I said before, “Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague” continues from book 2 as Kendra, Seth, and other members of Fablehaven continue their battle against the Society of the Evening Star.  Once again we meet a slew of new characters with cool new powers and interesting back stories.  We also get to take a journey to another of the super secret preserve and get a better understanding of the story’s universe.  The main plot of this book centers around further conflict with the Society of the Evening Star and Fablehaven’s fight against a mysterious plague that turns good things into evil ones.  And that’s all I’ll say about that (I don’t want to give anything away!)

What I do enjoy (and in a lot of cases dread) about this series is that Mr. Mull has no compunction when it comes to killing off characters. It reminds me a bit of George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Fire and Ice” series, but not quite as extreme.  I’m always a bit on edge every time the characters go on an adventure or face danger because I’m never quite sure who’s going to come back alive, and I think this gives the books a sense of….not urgency but reality that a lot of books (and movies) don’t have.  In a lot of ways, this makes the books far more complex than I originally thought – which also makes it far more enjoyable than I originally thought.  Back to reading!

The Adventures in Fablehaven Continue!

I have to say that I found “Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star” far more entertaining than the first book.  Mr. Mull remedied many of what I thought were the weaker points of book 1 in book 2.  The characters were less one dimensional having “learned their lessons” from the adventures in book 1, and the plot is much more, well, adventurous.

In “Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star” you get what the title promises.  The Society of the Evening Star, a somewhat amorphous behind the scenes group in book 1, takes an increasingly active role in book 2, although still in deviously mysterious ways.

Mr. Mull also introduces a slew of new characters that make the landscape of Fablehaven richer and more entertaining. You get to meet Vanessa, the mystical creature trapper, Tanu, the poison master, and Coulter, the magic relics collector – all characters that are featured prominently in book 2, and continue to have a presence in book 3 (at least as far as I’ve read – which isn’t very). These characters start off with more depth and intrigue than Kendra and Seth did, possibly because of their exotic professions but also because of their distinct knowledge and personalities.

What I find interesting in this book, as well as the Harry Potter series for that matter, is that in both cases the main characters are, well, not that interesting.  Take Harry Potter for example.  Sure he always defeats Voldemort (I know, spoiler, but seriously, if you didn’t know he defeats Voldemort over and over, have you been living under a rock?!) but his character is just not interesting.  It’s not because he’s a particularly great (or even average) magician, or because he’s wily and cunning with loads of street smarts – it’s because he’s protected by his mother’s love and he has a combination of luck and bravery.  Now don’t get me wrong, luck and bravery are very important in most adventure stories.  But the most interesting characters are so much more than that.

And I feel about Kendra and Seth the same way that I feel about Harry Potter.  They’re just not that interesting.  Luckily though, like for Harry Potter, the plot and the surrounding characters are more than enough to keep the story fun, interesting, and adventurous.

Flitting Around Fablehaven

After reading “Beyonders”, I decided I should backtrack and read Brandon Mull’s flagship series “Fablehaven”.   So far I’ve only read the first book, but I’ve found it enjoyable, although somewhat lacking in – something.  I enjoy the rich world that Mr. Mull creates – full of interesting creatures, wonderful environments, and formidable adversaries.

The one struggle I have with the book is that the main characters aren’t particularly likable.  Kendra, one of the two main characters, is too goody two shoes, although her character becomes more interesting as the book continues.  Seth, her younger brother, is also a bit on the one-dimensional side – always doing exactly what he is told not to do… just cause.   And the adventures are interesting but aren’t that gripping.  The world is, however, filled with many interesting side characters that make up for what the main characters lack.  One of my favorite characters is Lena, the housekeeper and former naiad.  Her back story is interesting, as is her role throughout the book.  I also really liked Murial, the evil witch who lives in the forest.

Overall I think this is a great fantasy / young adult book if you’re looking for a light, fun read.

The Throne of Fire

In case you haven’t quite figured it out yet, I’ve been on a bit of a YA fantasy spree, and what better follow-up to “Beyonders” than “The Throne of Fire” by Rick Riordan, the author of the Percy Jackson series.  Although I like the use of Egyptian gods in the Kane Chronicles, I have to admit that for whatever reason I just don’t find the story as engaging as the Percy Jackson books. I don’t think it’s so much Egyptian versus Greek as much as a difference in writing style.

The Percy Jackson books follow the normal prose / storytelling mode of most books.  The Kane Chronicles are a bit different. I appreciate what Mr. Riordan is trying to do, trying to change up the normal fictional narrative by writing as if you’re “listening” to an audio recording, if that makes any sense.  It’s an interesting narrative style, although it can be a bit clunky at times, but for some reason it just doesn’t work for me.  I do, however, like how the narrative swaps back and forth between two different perspectives – Carter and Sadie.  It gives you a better view of the events, since you read them from differing points of view.

The book starts a bit slow – I had a hard time getting into it, probably because it’s been so long since I read “The Red Pyramid”.  Once I got reading, however, I started to remember bits and pieces of the previous book.  And once you get past the first few chapters, the action begins to snowball, culminating – like any good movie would – with an action packed ending.

You also get to meet several new and interesting characters along the way.  My favorite new introduction? Bes – the dwarf god.  How can you not love a god  who’s main power is to literally be frighteningly ugly?  All in all I’m interested to see where Mr. Riordan goes with the third book (whenever it comes out) and look forward to a hopefully satisfying conclusion.