Posts Tagged ‘Magic’

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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On the long list of British children’s authors is Jenny Nimmo. In 1986, she began The Magician Trilogy, which was completed in 1989. From there she wrote several miscellaneous works before starting The Children of the Red King. This series went on for eight books, beginning in 2002 and ending in 2009, with an extension written in 2011 called The Secret Kingdom.

Story overview:
10-year-old Charlie lives in a house with his mother, two grandmothers, and uncle. His father supposedly died in a car accident when Charlie was still an infant. With his father’s side of the family known for their dark and shady ways, Charlie prefers to be more like his mother.

In fact, Charlie is content with being an average boy. He wants nothing to do with his crazy aunts or their power. But when a magical ability surfaces from within him, he can no longer stay in the background. The label, endowed, is bestowed upon him as his tyrannical grandmother, Grizelda Bone, forces him to attend Bloor’s Academy—a school for the gifted. But not before Charlie learns of a missing baby, now a girl his own age. With determination, Charlie makes it his mission to find her.

At the school, he meets kids who wish to help his cause, while others go out of their way to create obstacles to interrupt his mission. Yet help from unexpected places aids him and his friends as they seek to save the lost girl.

My thoughts:
There are some books where it takes me a few chapters to get interested. Midnight for Charlie Bone wasn’t one of them; I was hooked after the first few pages. The characters are dynamic and believable, the plot development is flawless, and the story itself was an enjoyable read. It’s written in a mixture of third-person omniscient and limited. Where the author does switch character heads during a scene, it happened so smoothly that I didn’t find it jarring like so many other books I’ve read. I look forward to continuing this series down the road, and recommend it [so far] as a great read.

Things to consider:
I found nothing questionable in this story. No foul language or sexual scenes. There are a few violent situations, but not many and nothing I’d consider inappropriate for this age group—9 and up. Good for both boys and girls, but perhaps a little more geared toward boys.

Opportunities for discussion:
Charlie’s uncle, Paton, is a man who kept his head down. In a family with dominating—and wicked—women, all he wanted was to be left alone. It wasn’t until Charlie drew Paton out of his small world that his eyes began to open. And once they were, he finally made a decision to step into action. Ask your children if there was ever a time where a friend or someone they cared about was being mistreated. Find out what they did or didn’t do about it and how it made them feel. There are times when it’s best to leave things alone, but there are other times when one must make a stand against a wrong. Share Paton’s story with them, and remind your children that ignoring problems may seem like a good solution, but in the bigger picture, doing so will only makes matters worse.

I am pleased to announce Book For Youth’s first official book release. From the author of The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again comes a new and magical journey.

Story overview:
As the son of a great wizard, Traphis doesn’t understand why his mother and father have forbidden him from learning magic. Raised to tend fields, he often dreams of a bigger life–one in which he performs in front of an awe-stricken crowd.

A year after the death of his father, Traphis, now fifteen years old, spies his mother tossing a collection of magic books into a nearby creek. Unbeknownst to her, he is able to rescue them and read their contents hidden within his secret cave.

Opening himself up to the world of magic, a dark presence surfaces–one which has been seeking to track him down for years. Hidden secrets of the past unfold as Traphis joins with other trainees in hopes of learning the skills necessary to survive. The more answers he uncovers the more mysteries arise, sending him down the path of a true wizard, which is far more dangerous than he ever imagined.

My thoughts:
Ever since I can remember, I have loved the Narnia series, which was read to me at a young age. As I grew older, I was surprised at how little Christian Fantasies there were out there; the Christian bookstores had little to nothing of them. It was disappointing to say the least. Traphis, with a subtle/non-preachy Christian angle, targets fans of series like Narnia as well as secular ones like Harry Potter and Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle). It is not meant to compete with them, but to provide a new fantastical world in which youths can follow and come back holding onto messages of faith, hope, forgiveness, and redemption.

Things to consider:
Since this was written to appeal to teens and young adults, there are a few places that may be considered disturbing to younger children. No foul language or sexual situations, but there is action violence–done to enhance the story rather than shock the reader with sensationalism. Nothing inappropriate for the right ages (preteen and older). This should appeal to boys and girls; there are strong characters representing both genders–though the protagonist is a boy.

Opportunities for discussion:
Forgiveness is one of the leading elements in this story. Traphis’ need to forgive God for taking his father away, and his need to forgive his own failures. Skinny Jack learns he needs to forgive his abusive father, and Falin offers grace to his brother who rebelled many years ago. One thing this story also shows is the difference between forgiving and forgetting. Forgiveness is about releasing the power for vengeance and setting it into the hands of God, but one should not forget the past; we can learn from it and grow stronger as a result. Christians are not blind, they just learn to see with different eyes.

Availability:
Traphis: A Wizard’s Tale is currently available on the Kindle and Nook for $2.99 (which is a good price for a 155k word novel). If you don’t have either a Kindle or Nook eReader, don’t worry, you can download the story and read it on your computer, smartphone, or tablet using the free Kindle software.

Purchase the eBook at:
Amazon (Kindle – $2.99)
Barnes & Noble (Nook – $2.99)

What is an eBook? It’s an electronic book format that can be read on digital devices, removing the need for paper. Learn more about the story at: http://awizardstale.com.

In the first two novels, Emily and Navin lose their father and are forced to move to a mysterious house in a distant town. Emily comes across a magical amulet that opens a door to a new and unusual world. Having taken on the responsibility of the amulet, Emily finds that this new world is in need of her help as a powerful and tyrannical Elf King seeks to make life miserable for the residence of Alledia.

Story overview:
Having gotten her mother back to her old self, Emily is convinced by her fox companion, Leon, to seek out the lost city of the Guardian Council’s Stonekeepers, Cielis.

Learning that Cielis’ possible whereabouts is in the sky (from a book written by Emily’s great-grandfather), Leon seeks out an airship pilot to take them to the center of an unending storm.

With the Elf King’s son as an unusual companion, our group of adventurers seek to locate Cielis before the Elf King can put a stop to it.

My thoughts:
I enjoyed the Star Wars cantina parody. It was obviously intentional, even the reference to the captain’s ship being small and junky, but fast. At the end of the novel, it says that Kibuis finds inspiration in Star Wars and with Hayao Miyazaki. Perhaps that’s why I like this story so much; I’m a huge fan of both. The worst part is waiting for the next book to come out to see what will happen next.

Things to consider:
This series remains consistent in its rating. Good for preteens and older. Very little can be considered questionable or inappropriate.

Opportunities for discussion:
There’s a scene where the pilot is forced to land and refuel his airship on a platform owned by a woman he has issues with. After landing, it becomes evident that she too doesn’t want to see him. By the end, however they make up and restore a prior bond. We can take a lesson from them. It doesn’t have to be a thing just between men and women. This goes for relationships of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they suffer for one reason or another, but when given a chance at reconciliation, relationships can be restored and the feelings of relief that follow might surprise you. Consider Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Ask your children if there is anyone they need to work things out with. From there, try to see if there’s hope of reconciliation. Of course, if the relationship is destructive, then sometimes they are better ended than continued. That’s when Matthew 18:15-17 comes into play.

Past reviews in this series:
1) The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)
2) The Stonekeeper’s Curse (Amulet, Book 2)

I came across this book on Amazon and thought, wow, a cool looking Graphic Novel that isn’t a manga produced by Japan. After doing a little more research on it, I had to laugh. Where it is true that it was written as an American graphic novel, the author was born in Tokyo.

Note: There also looks to be a Warner Brothers movie adaptation coming in 2012.

Story overview:
Two years after having witnessed the death of her father, Emily, along with her mother and brother (Navin), move to a small town and into a broken-down house (once owned by her great-grandfather). Still dealing with emotions from her father’s death, Emily finds that her mother is also doing all she can to hold herself together.

When rummaging in her great-grandfather’s old room, Emily comes across a mystical-looking amulet. Shortly after putting it around her neck, an otherworldly intruder enters their home and captures her mother. When Emily and Navin chase after the creature, they find themselves transported to a different world.

Now Emily is faced with the burden of losing another parent. Only this time there’s something she can do to stop it. Having met some unlikely friends in this new world, Emily and Navin are given the resources necessary for chasing down their mother’s captor. Having activated the amulet’s power, Emily wonders if the cost of such help might end up costing her more in the end.

My thoughts:
At first, I wasn’t sure about the style of drawing. It was, different. But the longer I looked at it, the more it grew on me and I started to appreciate the artistic brilliance, particularly within the scenery–Kibuishi’s use of lighting is clearly his greatest strength. As far as the story goes, it hooked me right away. Heartfelt, mysterious, creative, and gripping are just a few of the words that come to mind. I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting; couldn’t put it down.

Things to consider:
It’s marked for grades 4-7 (which is basically children aged nine to thirteen). I can see that; there are a few elements that may be considered too scary for younger children. But, I think 13 is too soon to cut it off; teenagers of all ages and many adults would appreciate this as well (I’m in my 30s, and I loved it). No hit of sexual references. No gore or even blood for that matter. There is action violence, some disturbing scenes involving a spider-like bug creature, and a few deaths (including Emil’s father, which practically had me in tears–thinking as a father myself). This should appeal to both boys and girls alike.

Opportunities for discussion:
The voice of the amulet told Emily that there was no time for faith. Yet her great grandfather did tell her there was another way. As a reader, I’m glad she listened to the amulet; I wanted to see the adventure unfold and to see what would happen with the stone. But as a believer I completely understand the temptation to reach for a quick and easy solution rather than listen to the voice of faith. The author shows us that the amulet might not be in the right, but leaves that thought open–likely to resurface in a later book. Since I don’t know the final outcome, I can’t say if choosing the amulet was a good decision. For all I know the amulet might have brought the creature to capture her mother in the first place. Therefore, with the story, we have yet to see, but for our own lives, let us consider this Bible verse Prov 19:2 (NIV) “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” Ask your children about the last time they rushed into something, and what the outcome was. Challenge them to stop and assess the situation before jumping in next time. Sometimes trusting and having faith avoids worse consequences down the road.

When looking through the public domain, I came across The Enchanted Castle, published in 1907. Having never heard of the book (nor the author for that matter), I figured it was worth a try.

As a side note: it appears that this story was adapted into a BBC TV-miniseries in 1979. Unfortunately, it has not been released to either DVD or VHS. I think it is a shame when things like this get lost in the archives.

Story overview:
Three children—Gerald, James, and Kathleen—away on holiday, discover a country estate that resembles a castle. Having believed it really was a caste, the children were fooled by an enchanted princess. The princess, Mabel, turns out to be nothing more than the housekeeper’s niece. However, while in the mist of her performance, Mabel happens across a ring. A magical ring.

At first, the children believe the ring’s only power is to turn the wearer invisible. However, as their escapades increase (including detective work, a carnival show, and scaring the maid) the ring is found out to be a wishing ring.

After wishing more trouble upon themselves than good (such as turning clothes into real people), the four children learn of the ring’s true origins and the mysteries behind the place known as The Enchanted Castle.

My thoughts:
I’m surprised that I haven’t come across this book before now. Not that it is any great masterpiece mind you, but there are markings of a classic here. At first, I was fooled into thinking this was a typical fairy tale, but was happily surprised by the modern day twist (that is, modern day for 1907). There were places where I found the plot to move slower than I like, but overall the originality and freshness of the tale had me reading to the end.

Things to consider:
As mentioned, this was published in 1907. That means it is a few years shy of being a Victorian novel. With Victorian novels comes a style of writing not seen much in modern books. However, this one happens to be written fairly clear in comparison to many of its kind. The most difficult thing for some American readers might be the use of British slang, but overall it was easy enough for me to follow. Not much in the way of questionable content. No use of foul language, sexual situations, or violence. Good for both girls and boys in their teens. Perhaps younger if a parent were to read it to them.

Opportunities for discussion:
One theme throughout the book that kept popping up was that of telling the truth. The author went out of her way to show that even when the children were trying to cover their tracks, they made sure to speak nothing that could be seen as a lie. This may be related to the Victorian era, but even so, I appreciated it. Children of today (and adults included) find it excessively easy to tell a lie in order to get their way. Share with your children this verse: Proverbs 12:19 (NAS) “Truthful lips will be established forever, But a lying tongue is only for a moment.” Ask them what they think this means, and then ask them how they feel when someone tells a lie. From there you can help them to understand what others feel when they are the ones who lie.

In my review of the second book, I said “Sequels are often a disappointment, but The Golem’s Eye succeeds where others have failed.”

That statement is even more fitting for this third and final installment. I will go so far as to say that this book is the best of all three.

So far in the series, twelve-year-old Nathanial went from being raised by a petty and unloving wizard to defeating another rogue wizard who used the Amulet of Samarkand. A few years after that, Nathanial went on to take position at Internal Affairs, uncover yet another plot that involved a Golem and Gladstone’s staff, and found himself being saved by one of the last two remaining survivors of the Resistance. All with the aid of a sarcastic djinni named Bartimaeus.

Story overview:

Nathanial is now seventeen-years-old and has grown into a young man. With this come increased responsibilities as he is now the Information Minister. As prestigious as that sounds it mainly entails putting together pamphlets and other forms of propaganda to entice civilians to join the wizard’s war against America (one that is going poorly). In doing so he becomes even more cold and indifferent, especially to Bartimaeus whose essence is nearly depleted from having to stay in the human world for so long.

It seems that something deep inside of Nathanial cannot let go of Bartimaeus, who is one of the few reminders of the days when Nathanial used to be a caring lad. It takes a visit to his old school teacher and a face-to-face encounter with the supposedly dead Kitty for him to see what he has become. About the time he realizes this, Nathanial finds himself facing the man behind all the previous plots from the first two books.

The plan is to let spirits take possession of each wizard’s body. This way the wizard would have limitless power. The mastermind failed to realize that this only allowed the spirit to take full control, and soon the land finds an army of angry beings wanting revenge for hundreds of years of enslavement. Nathanial acquires a good partner in Kitty as they both attempt to find a way to save the people: Nathanial to obtain Gladstone’s staff and the Amulet of Samarkand, and Kitty to use Ptolemy’s Gate to enter the other-place and gain Bartimaeus’s favor as an ally of freewill.

My thoughts:

This story is candy for readers. I absolutely loved this series and this volume had me glued to the pages, filled with excitement, and not disappointed with the results (though I could have used a happier ending). I’m glad that Nathanial found his redemption, and that both he and Kitty developed a close bond. My only complaint is that this series has come to an end; I have grown so fond of it that this idea is a little depressing, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Things to consider:

There are some disturbing elements, but nothing beyond what is appropriate for this tale. The closest “inappropriate” situation is when Kitty summons Bartimaeus, who chose the form of a scary demon without clothing. Actually, this is done quite humorously and it is a laugh to see Kitty’s response, but the scene does have potential to be a little questionable. That is, if the reader takes it beyond the lighthearted intentions. Also, parents need to be clear that the “spirit” element of this story is fictional; they need to inform their children about the differences between these fantastical elements verses real-world ones. I can see some Christians holding picket signs and yelling accusations against this, but that’s the point of this blog: to thwart this kind of ignorant behavior. I stick to my series rating, preteen (tween) and older. Not gender specific.

Opportunities for discussion:

A main topic in this story is the risk of one losing their morals to the pressures of fitting into the mold of society. A Christian message you might add? Indeed so. Ask your children if they have ever compromised their morals for the sake of fitting in, then ask them how that made them feel.

Past reviews in this series:

1) The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1)
2) The Golem’s Eye (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 2)