Posts Tagged ‘Elves’

finding-angel-coverHaving written stories for several anthologies, Heckenbach launched her debut novel “Finding Angel” on Sep 1, 2011. As a homeschooling mother, fantasy lover, and self-proclaimed science geek, Heckenbach put her skills into creating the Toch Island Chronicles. There are currently two books released in the series, with Seeking Unseen (Book 2) published a year after the first. Finding Angle is available as a Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook.

Story overview:
Angel knows that her family isn’t related to her by blood, but she loves them just the same. Particularly her younger foster brother. Having been adopted at a young age, and lost her childhood memories, she often wonders what her birth parents are like.

Fascinated by the world of fantasy, whether books or pictures, Angel feels a close connection to otherworldly elements. Not only is she smart for her age, but her recent curiosity over a beetle that her brother found sets her to task. Her mission: to find out what type of beetle it is.

Before exhausting the library’s resources on the subject, Angel meets an oddly dressed boy by the name of Gregor. Little did she know that the beetle was magical, and the boy had been searching for her for years. But most of all, Angel was soon to discover that her love for magical worlds wasn’t based on fantasy at all.

My thoughts:
Cleanly written in the third-person limited narration, I quite enjoyed this story. Some elements of it made me think of Inkheart (by Cornelia Funke), with Gregor’s personality a bit like Farid’s. Only, instead of obsessing over Dustfinger, his eyes were fixated on someone else. Some reviewers likened this book to Harry Potter while others to The Lord Of The Rings. But, magical and elven elements aside, I thought it followed its own path fairly well–standing on its own two feet. If you like a good young adult fantasy, don’t hesitate to give this one a look.

Things to consider:
There is no foul language or sexual situations (considering two teens of the opposite sex live alone together for some time). No excessive violence to speak of, but there are a few scenes regarding death and a few that contain some gory elements. Overall, nothing objectionable that I could detect. I’d recommend this for preteens and older, with a slight emphasis toward girls as the protagonist is female, but boys should also come away feeling significantly satisfied.

Opportunities for discussion:
Like Angel, who dreamed of being in another world, Christians believe that we were created for something better. Something beyond what we see before our eyes. It is this longing that sometimes leads us into obsessing over fictional worlds. We know things have gone wrong, and we know they need to be fixed; therefore, many authors have sought to create environments in which they can express such struggles. Fiction is a wonderful place, a place where we can be more than who we are, and the world can be larger and better than the one we live in now. Yet these are only shadows of the true thing which is to come–as C.S.Lewis speaks to in Narnia’s The Last Battle. Remind your youth that the wonders of fantasy and fiction are an important part of a bigger picture, one with which we can all be a part of in the hereafter.

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Normally I like to start out with the first book in a series, and then move on to another series just to keep things fresh. At a later time, I often revisit the second book, but in this case I made an exception. Why? Simple. I couldn’t wait. I wanted to see what happened next.

In the previous story of Artemis Fowl, we have a boy with a sick mother and a lost (presumed dead) father. The family happens to have a history of thievery, and Artemis takes advantage of his position in the most peculiar way: by going after Irish myths, which just so happen to contain a certain amount of truth. One of which is the existence of elves and “LEPrecon” gold. Things didn’t go the way he had hoped, but in the end, Artemis was victorious.

Story overview:

Artemis is a year older and a little wiser. In fact, for a thirteen-year-old, his IQ has no equal, but he is still a child and the desire to find his father continues to burn. One day, while frustrating the school’s psychologist, Artemis receives a call from Butler, his faithful body guard and closest friend. Artemis learns that his father was captured by the Russian Mafia and is being held for ransom.

Thankfully for Artemis, several leagues underground, the LEPrecon is experiencing troubles of their own when goblins show up with outlawed weapons. Captain Holly Short suspects Artemis as their supplier, but soon discovers his innocence. The situation puts Artemis in a good position to offer aid to the LEPrecon in return for their help with his father.

Things go from bad to worse as the true minds behind the attacks are discovered by Foaly—the intelligent centaur in charge of technology—but a little too late, as Foaly is setup to take the blame for the incident. With help from the dwarf, Mulch Diggums; Artemis; Commander Julius Root; and Butler, put away their differences to try and save the Lower Elements and Artemis’s father.

My thoughts:

I was surprised that I actually liked this book better than the first one. The story took on an entirely different plot scheme from the last novel, and was even more exciting. Both are page turners and worthy of a good mention. I will for sure be putting the third novel on my list of must reads. As of now, a seventh book is scheduled to be released on July 20, 2010, so I have some catching up to do.

Things to consider:

There is very little I would consider questionable in this book. Safely share this with your twelve-year-old, teens, and even your peers. Enjoyable for all ages.

Opportunities for discussion:

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what that means to me.” The old 1967 song by Aretha Franklin touches upon an important theme in this book. Artemis happens to be a genius, and because of this, he finds it difficult to look up to anyone as his equal. Later in the novel, Artemis discovers that he has the utmost respect for Butler, who is able to perform tasks that Artemis can only dream about. This is a great time to ask your children who they respect and why. You may be surprised.

Past reviews in this series:

1) Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, Book 1) by Eoin Colfer

I came across this book a little while back at a used bookstore. I picked up a copy for my Aunt as a Christmas gift, but had not yet had a chance to read it myself.

Since I was thoroughly disappointed with The Alchemyst (which had practically nothing to do with alchemy), I was a little worried about yet another Irish novel. Thankful, like most biases, these were unfounded, and Artemis Fowl could not be anymore night and day.

This is the first book in a three book series (update: 04/13/10 – there are currently seven known books in the series), and I can say for sure, I will be adding the next to my list.

Story overview:

Artemis Fowl II is a twelve-year-old boy genius, who comes from a family with a long history of being professional thieves. With his father missing for some time and his mother not in her right mind, Artemis is free to roam about—with help from his abnormally strong manservant, Butler—and execute his latest scheme.

His current ambition is directed at the race of elves in an attempt to acquire their gold and restore his family’s fortune. To accomplish this, Artemis locates and tricks an elf into letting him make a copy of their (the race’s) secret book. After translating this book, the young boy genius plots out a way to find and capture another elf to use as a hostage.

We learn that Leprechauns are actually known as LEPrecon, who are a special recon force that live miles underground. Captain Holly Short, the first female member of LEP, had nothing but problems trying to keep her position with Commander Julius Root always breathing down her back. If this was not bad enough, she finds herself as Artemis’s captive. Commander Root makes this his priority case to (1) save Holly, and (2) protect the hidden identity of their race. Artemis may have gotten a little over his head on this one, but somehow manages to stay on target.

My thoughts:

I quite enjoyed this one. Normally I am not a big fan of constant point-of-view switches, but these are done smoothly and sensibly; not disjointing at all. The characters are great fun to follow along, and the story had me wanting to jump right back in to see what happened next.

Things to consider:

This is a pretty harmless tale. Good for boys and girls in their preteens and older. There is a gory scene when Butler fights a Troll, some slight mentions to curses (done with good humor), and crude descriptions of a Dwarf’s gas, but all are done tastefully.

Opportunities for discussion:

The moral question arises of how one should treat their enemy. As did Artemis, who struggled with the human-like appearance of his captured elf, Holly. It was Holly who showed Artemis how one should treat their enemies, as she tried to save Artemis and his crew. This reminded me of the Bible verse, Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This opens a good discussion for you and your children/child.

HobbitLike the Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit is a children’s classic, and perhaps even better known. With the release of the extremely successful “The Lord of the Rings” movies, we come to the book that started it all.
 
Tolkien is considered the father of modern fantasy literature, and it’s this world of Middle-Earth that started it all. A close friend of C. S. Lewis, Tolkien was part of the informal literary discussion group known as the Inklings. I can’t even begin to imagine all the creative discussions that took place there.

Also worth noting is that there’s a dramatized, audio version of this story produced by the BBC. Other than the terrible voice of Gandalf, I quite enjoyed it.

Story overview:

One seemingly peaceful day, a wizard named Gandalf shows up at the home of a plump, middle-aged, well-to-do Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Without really obtaining consent from the Hobbit, the wizard tricks him into throwing a party for a band of dwarves.
 
As the group’s chosen burglar, Bilbo reluctantly goes with them in search of a vast dwarf treasure, which had been stolen by a dragon named Smaug; who lives in the Lonely Mountain. Encountering trolls, giant spiders, goblins, wolves, elves, and–among other things–a mysterious creature inhabiting an underground lake, the team eventually makes it to the mountain.
 
With the help of the men at Lake-town (just below the mountain,) Smaug is finally defeated, but this is when the real problems arise. Everyone seems to want a piece of the treasure and the dwarves are not willing to give it up. Using his new found burglar status, Bilbo finds himself doing what he can to try and stop a war.
 
My thoughts:

This is another one of those books that was read aloud to me as a kid. To this day I can still picture my initial mental images of Gollum. There is no doubt that this is a classic, and a must read for all.
 
Things to consider:

Unlike “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit” was aimed towards kids. It contains a lighter atmosphere and isn’t nearly as dark as the rest of the series. There are still some elements which may be disturbing to some children–and the wording may be a little difficult to read here and there–but overall it’s fairly kid friendly and good for both girls and boys.
 
Opportunities for discussion:

Overcoming greed is one of the main points of discussion here. Talk to your kids about temptation and that giving into it often leads to terrible consequences. Whether an obsession over food, TV, video games, cloths, music, or any number of things that bombard our children today. As we learn in this story, obsession over treasure went far enough to cause a war. We also learn that a simple and selfless act can produce great change. Ask your kids if there is anything in their life that they can honestly consider an area of greed, and then have them do a small act of selflessness to counteract it. Challenge them to leave their comfort zone and explore deeper parts of their lives.

BrisingrAfter Eragon and Eldest comes the 3rd book in the Inheritance Cycle, Brisingr. Originally designed to be the final book in the series, Paolini decided to go a little further and plan on a fourth book.

Named after the first word Eragon learns in the Ancient Language, which means “fire,” Brisingr becomes a significant part of Eragon’s arsenal (I won’t spoil it, you’ll have to read to find out.) 

I question Paolini’s decision to break into four novels. Why? Because Brisingr is very slow in places and sometimes seems to just drag on, particularly towards the middle. It could have easily been cut down by deleting a lot of the unnecessary political stuff–this was written for kids right? I can see them easily getting bored with those parts.

Story overview: 

As mentioned in my review of the last book, Roran’s fiancé, Katrina, was captured. Brisingr starts out with Eragon and Roran infiltrating the Ra’zac’s fortress. After rescuing her and killing every last creature, Eragon is faced with determining the fate of Katrina’s father, who had who betrayed Carvahall.

Arya eventually meets up with Eragon (who was separated from Saphira (his dragon)). They return to the Varden where he reunites with Saphira, attempts to restore the curse on Elva, and tries to locate a new sword. After fighting off Murtagh and his dragon, Thorn, the Varden learn that the enemy is using an army that does not feel pain–A trick of Galbatorix. After the wedding of Roran and Katrina, Nasuada (the Varden leader) sends Eragon off on a mission of diplomacy to assist in choosing a new dwarf king, who is hopefully sympathetic to the Varden’s cause.

Eragon then goes with Saphira to Ellesméra to extend his training from Oromis and Glaedr. He learns the fate of his father, obtains a new sword, and rushes out to meet up with the Varden–whom Roran has been fighting with all this time–as they lay siege to a city that is under the control of Galbatorix. A new Shade arises in his path while his master fights a distant battle, and in the end, those left standing prepare to march to Belatona and from there the next city until they come to the fortress of Galbatorix.

My thoughts: 

Where I lost some appeal for the series between Eragon and Eldest, I lost a bit more between Eldest and Brisingr, but not enough to dissuade me from reading the fourth book when it comes out. I actually liked some of the slow political stuff, but as I said, it’s probably not so appealing to a younger crowd. There were times when I felt like giving up, and the beginning took me some time before I got into the story, but I forced my way through the thick waters just long enough for it to take shape. I liked seeing how the relationship between Arya and Eragon starts to take on a different shape, and how there still seems to be some redeeming hope for Murtagh.

Things to consider: 

If you’ve read Eldest, then you may think that Paolini insists on having Eragon become an atheist like the elves. However, Eragon is exposed to the culture of the dwarfs and sees some amazing things. The thought of a deity becomes a possibility in his mind. I don’t know how this will end, but it seems that there is some hope. Like the first two books I rate this for pre-teens +, with it leaning more towards boys. Lots of violence, but little to no swearing or sexual situations. The “Trial of Long Knives” may be a bit too disturbing for some kids.

Opportunities for discussion: 

Talk to your kids about free will. In this story, if a person possesses another’s true name, then they have control over them to make them do whatever they want. Murtagh, for example, is doing the bidding of Galbatorix by these means. Many people think that this is what Christianity is about, but it’s quite the opposite. God gave mankind a free will, free to follow or free to walk away. God wants us to chose to love and chose to follow, he is not a tyrant like Galbatorix that forces an unwilling heart. Share with your kids this type of freedom.

Past reviews in this series:

1) Eragon (Inhertitance, Book 1)
2) Eldest (Inheritance, Book 2)