April 12 - I picked up an advanced reader copy of this book by Darren Shan when I was in Portland for PLA. I wanted to blog some ideas about it as I read it. It's fairly good sized, but has a decent pace to it. Technically, a YA book, I'm finding it hard to put down. Not the best I've read, but enough to keep me interested.
Quick synopsis- Skinny boy's dad is the local executioner- Dad is going to retire- Dad hopes it's his other sons who take his place, not his skinny son who shows no promise- Skinny boy is shamed and quests to homeplace of a god to gain invincibility to win the competition to win the Executioner post, thus restoring his name and proving to his dad that he is worth something. Okay, not the best description, look it up on Amazon, I'm sure their's will be better ;]
The clincher is that Shan has borrowed much from Huckleberry Finn (It's no secret- it says it on the back of the book) That gave me something to think about. The real story is turning out to be about friendship, growth, and eventually, I think we'll see a message of walking a peaceful path rather than violent. Some allusions to Huck Finn are just too apparent, and grant me license here. It's been..what? 20 years since I've read Finn. I remember little parts and the basic story.
Right now, I'm 1/3 through and it's turned into a travel book. What started at a good pace has slowed somewhat and turned into another Tolkien book. I think I see what will come, but it's not overly predictable.
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April 16 - My goal is to finish this book this weekend. It slowed in the middle with a lot of "hobbit-type" traveling (for fans of Tolkien. Once I got past the middle of the book, it started to get more interesting. The main characters Jebel, the boy, and his slave, Tel Hesani have been spearated, rejoined, and now with about a quarter of the book to go are separated again. There are some great passages I'll have to post. Tel is the voice of reason, compassion, and maturity. Jebel is growing through the book from his impulsive and spoiled temperment to more maturity as the two are tested by some pretty extreme situations.
This mildly fantastic world has so many cultures to study and understand, so far Shan has done an excellent job of walking us through little villages and meeting with strange,unusual peoples, all with different religions, that it seems like a book of anthropology mnore than a novel.
Major focus in the story has been an acceptance of differences and questioning beliefs. Are we loyal to our beliefs because of where we were born? or who we really are?
The lessons are nothing new, but for a Young Adult novel, these messages at the correct time in a teen's life might just chnage their thinking for the better.
An interesting story, a bit of adventure, an homage to Mark Twain, and a few lessons to learn create a somewhat quick paced and fun read.
Darren Shan is probably better known for his "Cirque Du Freak" and "Demonata" series for Young Adults So, he is not a stranger to unveiling a dark fantastic world. Maybe I'll try those series next.