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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

The Sapphire Flute

The Sapphire Flute

The Sapphire Flute is the first book in the Wolfchild Saga by debut fantasy author Karen E. Hoover. It is a wonderfully original story and an exciting reading experience.

The book follows the separate stories of two teenage girls (Ember and Kayla) in a magical world called Rasaan. In this first installment of the series, there is no apparent connection between the two girls except for a shared enemy – an evil female mage called C’Tan — who, along with her minions, is desperately hunting both girls.

Ember is C’Tan’s niece and the daughter of a powerful mage. She is the prophesied Wolfchild — hidden by her mother since birth from C’Tan, since she could be a potential threat to C’Tan’s power.

Kayla is a supernaturally gifted musician who has been given stewardship of the Sapphire Flute, a powerful relic from the days of the Guardians, the creators of Rasaan. C’Tan wants the flute — and its power — for her own use.

What is particularly refreshing about Hoover’s story is that both protagonists and the antagonist are all female. High fantasy is a genre dominated by strong male characters. It is always a welcome change when powerful female characters take center stage. Robert Jordan accomplished it in his Eye of the World series, Brandon Sanderson created a compelling female hero in the Mistborn series, and now Karen Hoover has done a masterful job creating a triad of female lead characters, both good and evil, for the Wolfchild Saga.

Hoover has a very appealing writing style that pulls the reader effortlessly into the story. Her descriptions are vivid and emotional. The reader will feel what the characters feel, and thoroughly enjoy the experience.

The dialogue was smooth and natural, but at times seemed a bit informal and modern for high fantasy. Since this book is primarily targeted at young adult females, I imagine that the choice of language was intentional by the author, so that her readers could better relate to the characters. There were a handful of times in the story that I found the use of modern colloquialisms somewhat distracting, because they jarred me out of the story setting. Of course, I probably picked up on it only because I am an adult. The YA readers targeted by this series are much less likely to notice such things. On the contrary, they may find the usage of modern language comforting and familiar.

I loved the book. Although I am a man – not a YA girl – it kept me engaged and turning pages the whole way through. My ultimate test of the quality of a YA book is whether I would recommend it to my teenage daughter. In the case of The Sapphire Flute, the answer to that question is a resounding “YES.” I can hardly wait for the second book in the series. Karen Hoover deserves congratulations for a wonderful debut.

Price: $19.95
Publisher: Valor Publishing Group, LLC (March 16, 2010)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Binding: Hardbound
Pages: 370 Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1-935546-07-8
Karen’s blog: http://karen-hoover.blogspot.com

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The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Publisher: Delacorte Press

The Maze RunnerThe Maze Runner is a tremendously gripping work of young adult science fiction. Dashner pulled me into it in chapter one and never let go.  In terms of literary parallels, I would say that The Maze Runner could best be described as Ender’s Game meets Lord of the Flies.

The character arc of the protagonist Thomas was brilliant. The story begins with Thomas entering a dystopian civilization (called “The Glade”) populated by  unsupervised teenage boys.  Thomas has no memory of anything prior to that moment.  He soon learns that each of the other boys had arrived the same way over a two year period. The Glade sits at the center of a massive and unsolvable maze filled with horrifying and deadly creatures called grievers.

Throughout the story, Thomas’ character is slowly revealed to the reader as it is being revealed to himself. It was very effective. Throughout most of the book, neither the reader nor the character himself really know whether he is the hero or the villain.

The story moves at a blistering pace, barely leaving the reader time to breathe.  Dashner has a very crisp and enjoyable writing style, filled with vivid description that puts the reader directly in the middle of the sights, sounds and action.  The plot twist at the end took me by surprise.  I had thought I had it all figured out…

Parents will like the fact that there was no sexual content and the violence did not achieve the level of gore.  The fake profanity was somewhat excessive, though.  Instead of using real swear words (which of course would have been worse), Dashner made up a brand new lexicon of fake profanity.  He then used it fairly gratuitously, which was a bit distracting at times.

The Maze Runner is a truly great work of YA science fiction – the best I’ve read in a while.  I would be very surprised if this book does not become an instant classic of the genre.

James Dashner’s Site

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