Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Two Reviews for Middle Grade Fantasy Lovers

The Spring Reading Thing is just past the halfway mark. I'm making good time on my fiction list; not so good on the non-fiction—and behind on the reviews. I read Season of Sacrifice, but won't post my review until May 21st, when Tristi visits my blog on her virtual book tour. But I do have two books for a quick review.

Red Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham (aka Rebecca Shelley, who I met at a writers conference in March; she is very nice) is part of the Dragonlance series for middle graders—readers ages 9 to 12. Inspired by A Practical Guide to Dragons by Lisa Trumbauer, the codices are written by fictional character, R.D. Henham, "a scribe in the great library of Palanthas. In the course of transcribing stories of legendary dragons, the author felt a gap existed in the story of the everydragon: ordinary dragons who end up doing extraordinary things. With the help of fellow scribes, R.D. had filled that gap with the Dragon Codices." There will be a total of ten books, one for each color of dragon. Cute idea and I think it will be well received by its intended age group. The Bronze Dragon Codex and Black Dragon Codex will be released later this year.

Mudd and his sister, Hiera, race to find a key to open a door that will lead them to the silver dragon, who will hopefully help them rescue their friend and teacher who was kidnapped by the evil red dragon. They are aided on their journey by a young dwarf named Drakecutter (who seeks to save his father's life by retrieving a magical ax stolen by the red dragon), Iroden (a possibly enchanted elf who seeks to be returned to his natural state), and Kirak (who may or may not be human).

I liked the basic plot and storyline of this book. I thought it had a lot of potential but I felt the characterization was a little weak. There needed to be more foreshadowing of the characters' attributes—for example, partway thought the book, Mudd decides he needs to break into a library. We suddenly discover he's got a passion for picking locks and carries lock pick tools with him everywhere. This should have come out much earlier in the story.

Also, the author (or perhaps the editor/publisher) is part of an evil group of people determined to delete all the irregular verbs from the English language. (This is a pet peeve of mine and I can rant about it for several minutes at a time without taking a breath.) When I read that the dragon dived (DOVE), and leaped (LEAPT) and pleaded (PLED), it's worse than fingernails on a chalboard.

I rate this book a 3.75 out of 5. Perfect for 4th though 6th graders, but older teens or adults will find it a little lacking in depth.

Professor Windsnicker's Book of Proper Etiquette for Well-Mannered Sycophants, by Clover Ernest/Obert Skye, is a support book for the Leven Thumps series of books by Obert Skye (beginning with Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo). This is the "training manual" for sycophants, like Leven's friend, Clover, and Winter's, Lilly. It won't make a lot of sense unless you've read the series.

Written in the style of a textbook, Professor Windsnicker lectures the sycophants-in-training on how to properly do their jobs. Chapters include "Grooming and Robe Maintenance," "Dealing with Name Changes," and "Appropriate Places to Sit" (as in, sitting on your 'burn'—the person you are helping.) At the end of each chapter, we have Clover's notes on the Professor's topics—we learn things about him that aren't in the regular books, such as his developing feelings for Lilly, Winter's helper.

The humor in this book comes from the exposed ignorance of Professor Winsnicker. For example, a sycophant (as Windsnicker refers to his pupils) is "a self-seeking, servile flatterer; fawning parasite" (see which is exactly what Windsnicker is revealed as, while Clover and Lilly and others of their ilk are actually altruistic helpers to those trying to save Foo. I loved Clover's doodles which are scattered across nearly every page.

I rate this book a 3.75 out of 5. If you are a Foo fan and own every book in hardcover, then this is a must for your collection. You will love this little book as well. If you're a casual reader of Foo, check it out from the library. It's good for an afternoon of chuckles.

Although I've already reviewed both of Stephanie Black's books, Fool Me Twice and The Believer, I want to just brag for a moment. I met the gifted and talented, albeit twisted, Stephanie Black this past weekend at a book signing in Orem.

It was great to meet her in person and spend a few minutes one-on-one with her. I had intended to take photos to prove I'd met someone so brilliant and auspicious, but I forgot—so you'll just have to take my word for it.

If you haven't already read her books, put them at the top of your reading list. They are both wonderful. Unfortunately, you may have to find The Believer at the library because it's currently out of print, although a few bookstores may have one or two copies still on the shelves. I have two copies of this book. Maybe I'll use one as an upcoming prize for my Summer Reading Challenge (to begin on June 20th).

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