August 20

Lamplighter by D. M. Cornish (Monster Blood Tattoo : Part 2)

monsterbloodBe warned, this is a very thick book and it will take some time and dedication to read. Not only the size will make many potential readers hesitate, but the unfamiliar language use will also make many stop before they get started. But let me encourage you to be brave, and tackle the beast.

This continuation of the Monster Blood Tattoo series picks up soon after book one finished. Rossamund is now in his final months of apprenticeship and with the rest of his prentice-watch is allowed to light the lamps on the section of road nearest the fortress of the lamplighters. But the monsters are growing in strength and determination and one night the watch is attacked at the very doors of the fortress. But evil monsters are found inside the walls of the fortress as well and when Rossamund tries to warn the others, he makes a politically powerful enemy. All is evil and evil is everywhere.

It is certainly the role of the middle book in a trilogy to be very dark and foreboding. Look at many of the classic fantasy series and you will quickly discover the truth of this statement. Lamplighter maintains that tradition. The monsters are all powerful and the Lamplighters organisation is corrupt, leaving their world without any organised force to fight back. Rossamund, a powerful monster fighter, is driven out of the Lamplighters in the very end, clearly weakening the force.

I found some light and hope in the book, however. Certainly Rossamund is growing up and starting to realise that the world is not simply black and white. He has the courage to befriend the weak and unpopular, especially Numps and Mama Lieger. He earns the respect of many including the Lamplighter-Marshall, Doctor Crispus and the Wormstool Watch. But most of all, he learns to think for himself.

This is a long read. There is no doubt about it. There are 600 pages of complex language and invented words. Personally I think it is better read aloud. I can see this series as ‘story-time’ material for months and months. Especially in this second book, there is enough action to hold the interest of good readers who can cope with the big words. But it does need to be read in large doses. It takes time in each session to adapt to the author’s style.

August 18

Into White Silence by Anthony Eaton

IWS_Cover_PRINT_4-7.inddThis is a book that has been short-listed by the Children’s Book Council for this year’s awards, but unfortunately I don’t see any child reading it willingly. The plot is stunning, the characters all too human and fallible, but somehow I don’t see 21st century children comfortably reading an 18th century personal journal. The language use is just too foreign. And we all know that very few generation Y or Z will put up with discomfort without some external pressure.

But first the plot. Anthony Eaton, a well known author for young adults is thinking about writing a boys’ adventure novel set in Antarctica. As part of his research the Australian Antarctic Division offer him space on their summer research voyage. While in Antarctica, Anthony discovers a dusty journal hidden away in the base library. He takes that journal home and uses it to write a very different story from the one originally planned.

You see this journal is from the lost exploration vessel Raven and the team who set out in 1922 to cross Antarctica. Never heard of it? Well that is because all plans were made in strictest secrecy to avoid another exploration party stealing the idea and with more funding, getting there first. But now Eaton can tell the story.

This book is very much a psychological thriller. The reader needs to take time, reflect on the motivations and behavior of the various characters. One would think that the enemy was the harsh environment, but in reality men without trust will turn on each other, and therein lies the story.

This book will be studied in schools for years. There are so many levels of complexity that it will stand re-reading, discussion and even the inevitable text responses. It is quality literature for young people.

I just don’t see any of them reading past page 10.

August 18

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

9780575085510The last time I was brave (or silly) enough to review a book by this author, it was only hours before her legion of fans from the States raised an outcry. Well, the mailbox is empty and here I go again.

Remember that Sookie is, or was, a lonely girl from Louisiana who had a special talent – the ability to read minds. This talent made it very difficult for her to be friends with anyone until the vampire Bill entered her life.

Dead and Gone is the ninth book in the series, and so the story has moved on. Bill is out, Eric is in. Sam is a Were, and apparently Sookie is part ‘faerie’. Got that? Well, in this book life gets a little more complicated when the Weres ‘come out’. Suddenly the humans in town are feeling very threatened and react in that good ol’ Southern style – kill them all. And then of course Sookie gets caught in the faerie wars!

I am sorry, but the Charlaine Harris fan club is going to be up in arms again. By book 9, Harris has lost all credibility with this reviewer. The plot is silly and contrived. It is not an imitation of the Twilight series, because Meyer knew when to stop. Harris is milking her series for all it is worth. She has dragged in so many different magical and mythical beings now that there are no humans left! Gee, even Buffy knew that the audience needs someone remotely normal to share their point of view.

How many more books are in this series? Too many more and I will be cheering for Katrina to come again.