Archer Keaton is a dreamtreader.
He protects the dream world and the waking world from merging together. He keeps the things you dream from coming true and wreaking havoc. He mends tears in the dream fabric--tears Lucid Walkers keep making by breaking in to the dream--from becoming rifts that would take out the entire world.
And he's only fourteen years old.
I was surprised by how drawn in I was to this story. I am not a huge fantasy reader, and I expected to make it a couple chapters in and lose interest.
Dreamtreaders is an incredible allegory of spiritual warfare--with so many wacky and shocking twists along the way. It brings the reality of the importance of our choices to life in a fantastical way.
Archer and his friends aren't perfect. They're human (most of them). And the characters do experience real consequences for their choices--when they make a bad choice, they don't get off scot-free. They face up to what they've done and make it right--which is rare in young adult fiction.
*Light spoilers ahead*
I have mixed feelings about the ending. On one hand, it's a dramatic conclusion that didn't disappoint. But on the other hand . . . WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE OTHER CHARACTERS? It's an imperfect ending (again, due to choices the characters made). But maybe that was the best ending for it.
Even royal blood can't stop bullets.
Sorry, it was just such a great line I had to steal it.
Anastasia Romanov has been exiled with her entire family. But that's not even it. She's been exiled to a house with only a couple rooms reserved for them. She's been exiled away from any help or rescue. She's been exiled away from the guards she's befriended and into the hands of a bloodthirsty commander.
Did I mention the spell she's smuggling with her?
Romanov is the beautiful, tragic story of a family trying to stay together. It's the story of the daughter left behind and the soldier who tried to kill her. It a story of forgiveness for everyone . . . even the darkest, blackest villain.
The characters explode from the pages. Anastasia is a brilliant protagonist that draws us into her struggles and makes us smile with her pranks. Zash draws us in in his own way, too as he tries to escape his tortured past and the mistakes he's made. And Alexei--enough said. Best brother I've read in a book. Despite the fact that he is the weakest, that he hurts the most due to a genetic condition, he gives strength to Anastasia and Zash both.
Allow me a brief moment to compare Romanov to Fawkes, if you don't mind. That's the only thing I can come up with that is even remotely a complaint. In Fawkes (Nadine's other historical fantasy), the magic and the history blend together seamlessly, brilliantly. In Romanov, the magic and the history feel like two pieces to the a puzzle--forming the same picture, clicking together, but not blending together.
As I have mentioned before, one of the things I love about Nadine Brandes' writing is her view on mercy. The protagonists even hand second chances to the villain who killed Anastasia's family. As to how that goes . . . well, I won't ruin it for you.
Romanov is a book with many layers, not unlike Anastasia's spell doll. I, for one, will be re-reading it over and over to get to all those amazing layers.
Thomas Fawkes isn't ready to turn to stone.
Don't look at me. It's his own words. The Stone Plague has infected his eye and it's slowly working its way out.
Not to worry. He has only to pass his Color Test this evening--with the help of the mask his father promised to make him, just as every father in England does for his son. Once it's discovered he can command Grey (and please, please, please let it be Grey), he'll just command that plague to leave, and all will be right again.
Maybe then his father will care about him.
Except Father--Guy Fawkes himself--doesn't show up. Not a problem. Thomas will just track him down himself, get his mask, and get back on track. And maybe he'll set a few other things straight, too--like why his father hasn't even given him a letter all these years.
But when Thomas arrives in London, he finds he's a piece in something far bigger than he could have imagined--a plot to end the war between the Igniters and the Keepers. A plot to land a Keeper back on the throne where they belong.
But they wouldn't want to just do it in some easy way--a sniper from a distance, maybe poison, no.
They're going to blow up Parliament.
At last, at last! The day has arrived that I tell you about one of my new favorite books, Fawkes by Nadine Brandes!
First off. Thomas. A young man who just wants his father's approval, who so desperately wants to pass his Color Test and heal his eye, now trying to find confidence on his own on the London streets. Even in the worst of situations, his inner spunk never misses a beat. Easily the best character arc I've read this year. I liked him right away.
Next off, Thomas and Guy. The conflict was raw. I felt what Thomas felt. I understood Thomas' reasoning (whether or not I agreed with it). He's willing to do anything to get his father to look his way . . . even help plan the assassination of the king of England.
But as Thomas finds his way around London, he finds his way around what he's always believed and the views that clash with his. Not all the Igniters were good. Not all the Keepers were bad. Thomas had to dig to the roots of what he'd always been told . . . and readers will, too. In a world where young adults are pressured to take whatever the culture hands them, this book arrived just in time.
The allegory is powerful. God is not put in a box. However, in a most curious manner, God and Christianity are never mentioned in this book . . . but they are. God is referred to as the White Light--who helps save those who cannot save themselves, gives them power they cannot use or sustain on their own, and who guides them through the world they live in. Igniters believe they can have a relationship with White Light and He can help them navigate the other colors. Keepers believe White Light is only for the elite few, better left alone or in a box. And then there's a few who believe they don't need White Light at all--they can harness all the color powers themselves. It's a little mind-boggling, but creative--a fresh spin on it that I wouldn't have considered before.
Fawkes is not a book to rush head-long into. It's an explosive adventure that somehow still makes you stop and think--a rarity in young adult books. It has quickly made its way up my list of favorites, and is one of the first I will recommend to anyone.
Aye, and amazed I am that it's taken me this long to post this review, aargh.
Ahem. Please forgive the poor pirate imitation.
I AM, however, VERY excited to review Wayne Thomas Batson's Isle Chronicles: Isle of Swords and Isle of Fire today. These are some of my very favorite books of all time.
What's not to love? On one side, you've got Captain Declan Ross and his crew of misfits, who just want to haul catch enough to get them out of the not-so-sweet trade forever. Well, most of them anyways--except his daughter, Anne, who desperately wants to become a pirate herself.
On the other hand, you've got Bartholomew Thorne, the darkest pirate to sail the seven seas. He's looking to avenge his wife's death, and he's got Declan Ross in his sights. Maybe it has to do with how they put one of his greatest allies in Davy Jones' locker, I don't know.
And they've both got their sights on the same treasure.
In the crossfire is sixteen-year-old Cat, who was left nearly dead on a nameless island. Leave it to Declan and Crew to come save the day. That doesn't change the fact that he has no idea who he is. What he's done. Or what the clues he carries in a pouch around his neck could mean.
Explosive action scenes. Vibrant characters. Snapping humor. A chilling villain, one of the best I've ever read . . . or would that be the worst? The Isle Chronicles has it all. But amidst all the cannon fire, sword slashing, and treasure seeking, it's really a story about one young man's quest for identity.
Whether or not they ever find the treasure, Declan, Anne, Cat, and the crew discover something far deeper, something that will stick with a reader long after the fires burn out. Perhaps the God they've dismissed as uncaring all these years has a very specific interest in them. Perhaps Cat has a far deeper identity than he knows.
That being said, you know, they're pirates. And by the point that Catholic monks are hiring them to hunt other pirates, some of the morals in these books have to be called into question. Add to that a few torture scenes that could make you squirm just a bit.
Just a few waves before this duology catches the wind and sails out to sea. But even once it sails away, I doubt what the crew finds will leave their minds . . . nor the reader's. It certainly didn't mine.
*Note: Several years after the duology was released, a follow-up book was released, Isle of Stars. I've chosen not to include it here. While an okay read, the plot and characters were weaker than the original books. It was also an attempted crossover with some of Wayne Thomas Batson's fantasy characters, characters I was not familiar with, which made it feel oddly tacked on in waters it didn't belong in. Add to that the fact that several crew members that died in the first book were suddenly alive and well again? Therefore, I refer to it as a follow-up book and not part of the original duology.
I'm sorry. The number you have reached is not avail--
Sorry. That's the sound it makes when my mind has been blown.
And that's exactly what this series Dreamhouse Kings by Robert Liparulo did to me.
Before you start thinking Ken and Barbie, don't. Don't even go there. Because this Dreamhouse has doors to other periods in history all along its third floor. And the (mostly) unsuspecting King family has just moved in. One night, something comes out of one of the portals and steals Mom. That leaves it up to Dad, Xander, David, and Toria to navigate the portals and bring her home. And maybe to do something more than that--maybe, just maybe, to save the whole world.
No, literally. Save the whole world.
Of course, there is the matter of that freaky Assyrian guy hanging around town who enjoys killing and would very much like the Kings' house.
Dreamhouse . . . or nightmare?
My daddy was the one who stumbled across Dreamhouse Kings, mistakenly filed in the adult section of our church library--more specifically, book three. He recommended it to me. I ignored the skull and crossbones on the first page warning me to read books one and two first--after all, the library only had book three!--and blazed ahead anyway.
The result? Confusion.
Eventually, we begged our church librarian into purchasing the first two (thanks, church librarian!). My sister then amassed the entire series on her own. She graciously allowed me to borrow them. It may or may not have been because I annoyed her to death.
Family. At its core, Dreamhouse Kings is about family. In chapter one, we're introduced to a preoccupied dad, a moody teenager, a little brother who desperately wants his big brother back, the cute little sister that no one can resist, and the mom trying to hold them all together.
When Mom is kidnapped, the Kings have to work together to bring her back. Specifically Xander and David.
The brothers' relationship is one of the most real things in this book. They tackle, argue, hug, cry, laugh, and punch. As an older sibling, that was grabbed me the most. They clash. Xander wants to take action, and David just wants everyone to be happy. But as the series goes on, they change from two boys with the same last name to two brothers who would take anything for the other. Even re-work time.
This book is fast-paced. I could not put them down. Literally. I was so immersed, when I set the book down, my heart was pounding and I had to take a few deep breaths--before I scrambled through the house for the next book. This book yanks you into a portal alongside the characters.
Do make sure you read all the books in order, though. This series is chock-full of great Christian and family themes, but they don't come out right away. At first, the themes may seem like a weak crossover. The family recites a Bible verse, and Mom insists they find a church after the move. But it goes deeper as the series races on, as a character suggests God put the Kings in this house at this time for a reason. Not only are the Kings awakening to family, they're awakening to God and His purpose for them.
Consider yourself warned, though: there's a creep factor to this series. Rarely does a portal come that doesn't want to kill the Kings. The house seems haunted at first. That Assyrian guy doesn't mind talking about killing people . . . in creative ways, shall we say. There's one or two gross moments, usually involving dead bodies. But rarely does anything go beyond a shiver down your spine.
These books are often mistaken for Christian horror books. They're not. A creep factor? Yep. Some death, destruction, and mayhem? Yep. But horror? Nope.
These books aren't designed to create fear. They're designed to suck you through a portal of your own into the epic of a family trying to overcome fear (as well as assassins, time travel, and leftover spaghetti, for starters). It's a fast-paced thriller. And every thriller comes with some creeps.
Would I hand this to any random twelve-year-old? No. I know some kids who would fearfully check every door in their house should they be allowed to read it. But it shouldn't be anything that will keep teens and adults up at night--unless they're trying to finish the book, that is.
There's a few other bumps in the portal, too. Xander's nods to horror movies can get a little old. While meant to paint vivid and sometimes humorous word pictures, they fall rather flat coming from a fifteen-year-old. Especially when the reader hasn't watched said horror movies--and doesn't plan to, I might add.
A few time-travel descriptions left my head spinning. Not everything the Kings do is exactly, um, shall we say, legal or recommended to try at home. Xander also throws out a word or two from time to time, that, while not curse words by any stretch, aren't words you'll want a kid (or anyone else for that matter) repeating.
But those bumps are few and far-between and do little to slow down this brilliant story about a family trying to save their mom, each other, and the world.
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!