Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Really cool book review

I was going to post a link to my book review of J. Scott Savage's soon-to-be-in-stores book, Water Keep, but I decided to just post it on this blog in its entirety. It has a pretty good story, and an explanation of why I suspected J. Scott of reading my mind.

After you read the review, then click here to read the interview I had with J. Scott while hiking up to the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, complete with a contest on how you can win your own ARC of the book, so you can have it before anyone else--even Barnes & Noble. Autographed even. And it's really easy to enter. You just have to leave a comment. That's all! So, without any more ado...

The Review:
I’m going to do this a little different and start off this review with a story. The main character—we’ll call her Jaime—had a problem. (*Note: This is purely a work of fiction. All people or events are also make believe, and any correlation with real life is purely coincidental). Not a big, life-changing problem, but a small problem that grated in her normal life like sand in an oyster. You see, her son goes through books faster than her crappy lawn goes through water (which is pretty darn fast, as her water bill can attest).

The day of our story, her son had once again burned through the stack of books she checked out from the library two days ago, and had already read all the books in the house that even vaguely interested him at least 4 times. So, he was *bored* and getting downright twitchy. All book addicts will sympathize with the horrible-ness of it. Jaime was shaking her head in dismay (she didn’t really want to go the library again – twice a week really is plenty) on her way to check the mail. Inside the mailbox lay a manila envelope, with something inside that weighed suspiciously like—could it be?—a book

Jaime happened to write books herself and volunteered to be part of a blog tour of a children’s fantasy coming out in September. She knew that inside the envelope was an ARC of a book. A book her son hadn’t read yet. In fact, a book almost no one had read yet. Oh yes, solutions to problems can come in the most innocent ways.

Her son happened to be nearby so she called him over. She told him a book she guaranteed he hadn’t read yet was inside the envelope. He took off in a cloud of 10 year-old size dust, and by the time Jaime walked back in the door, he was camped on the couch with a box of Cheez-Its, bits of ripped manilla envelope littering the floor, and was fully engrossed in Water Keep, the first book of J. Scott Savage’s Far World Series .

*Just an aside—you may have guessed there is some truth to this story after all. If so, you guessed correctly. My son read the book in under 24 hours, and about 10 seconds after he read the last page he was asking me when I’d get the next one in the series. “Uh. Honey,” I replied, “This one isn’t even technically out yet.”

About a month later I finally sat down and read the well-worn copy (he read it two more times). And here’s my review: It was really good. Dang It!

Let me tell you why I say that. A little over a year ago I went to lunch with J. Scott and some other authors. Interestingly, we discovered that four of the five of us were working on Children’s Fantasy projects. James Dashner was already working with a publisher for his 13th Reality Series (more about him here), and the other three of us were still writing. J. Scott mentioned his world was called Far World (Dang It No. 1 – eerily close to the name of the world in my book), he was either already finished or mostly finished (Dang It No. 2 – I was still near the beginning of the process) and he was submitting it to the same publisher as I was aiming for (Dang It No. 3). Then, one of J. Scott’s blog posts talked about his magical system being based on the four elements (Dang It No. 4 – so is mine). After that I was half expecting him to be writing practically the same book. And I really wanted to be happy for J. Scott because he is a genuinely cool guy.

I am thrilled to announce that he did not steal my story (we will ignore the technicality that he wrote his first), and I was able to enjoy Water Keep without anything but the normal “Gosh, I hope I can do this, too” author-type jealousy.

From the back cover:
Other people may see thirteen-year-old Marcus Kanenas as an outcast and a nobody, but he sees himself as a survivor and a dreamer. In fact, his favorite dream is of a world far away, a world where magic is as common as air, where animals tell jokes and trees beg people to pick their fruit. He even has a name for this place- Farworld.

When Marcus magically travels to Farworld, he meets Kyja, a girl without magic in a world where spells, charms, and potions are everywhere, and Master Therapass, a master wizard who has kept a secret hidden for thirteen years, a secret that could change the fate of two worlds. But the Dark Circle has learned of Master Therapass's secret and their evil influence and power are growing. Farworld's only hope is for Marcus and Kyja to find the mythical Elementals- water, land, air and fire- and convince them to open a drift between the worlds.

As Kyja and Marcus travel to Water Keep, they must face the worst the evil Dark Circle can throw at them- Summoners, who can command the living and the dead; Unmakers, invisible creatures that can destroy both body and soul; and dark mages known as Thrathkin S'Bae. Along the way, Marcus and Kyja will discover the truth about their own heritage, the strength of their friendship, and the depths of their unique powers.

Sounds pretty cool, huh? And it is. The thing that sets this series apart from many others is a hero with serious physical disabilities. And I loved the main characters the most. (Well, the Unmakers were pretty cool, too.) Even though you may wonder if Savage did that on purpose to distinguish his book as “different” from the rest of the children’s fantasy pack, the characters are so well done that you don’t even care.

Water Keep has everything you want in a fantasy: a prophecy, evil bad guys with creepy minions, alien creatures that don’t even think like us, reluctant heroes with no clue what to do but they do the best they can anyway, cool means of transportation, magic, and world-hopping. It is a little long for the normal children’s fantasy out there, but I don’t know what I would have cut out.

Overall, applause to J. Scott, and I look forward to the next installment. Far World is an exciting addition to the genre and a must-read for kids and adults who like their fantasy and magic in easy-to-read doses. Water Keep will be in bookstores in September.

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