Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Last Apprentice #1: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

This book is the first in The Last Apprentice series, and I gave it a rating of 5 out of 5. Young Tom Ward is the 7th son of a 7th son, so he is destined to become the apprentice to the Spook. The Spook's job is to protect the world from boggarts, ghosts, witches, and all things evil. Tom makes many mistakes as he gets started, which creates the conflict for this book.

Tom's told to not trust girls wearing pointy shoes, so he promises to help one in the future. He's told to stay away from the grave of Mother Malkin, a powerful witch of the first level who is still alive. He, of course, goes there at midnight to feed her. For readers just learning about foreshadowing, this book offers many easy examples to follow. I was not planning to give this book my highest rating, but there were some nice twists to the plot. The apparent solution to the first conflict actually creates a bigger problem for the rest of the book. As the climax approaches, Tom suspects one of his family members is possessed, but he can't figure out which one. His life, and the life of his one-week old niece, hang in the balance.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Last Apprentice #2: Curse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney

This book is the second in The Last Apprentice series, and I gave it a score of 5 out of 5. Thomas Ward is forced to take on the main duties of The Spook since his mentor is ill. He first dispatches a very dangerous boggart but later must face The Bane. The Bane is a very evil creature that has been trapped below Priestown for the past twenty years. However, it is gaining strength and is using the minds of people on the surface to plot its escape. In addition, The Quisitor, ruler of the land, is conducting witch hunts to kill off anyone suspected of consorting with the devil or using magical powers; this includes The Spook and Thomas. Alice, a witch from book one, returns, and the reader is still uncertain as to whether she is good or evil. The Spook wants to imprison her in a pit, but Thomas continues to defend her.

I enjoyed this book a little more than the first book. It still has the main battle of good versus evil, but the addition of The Quisitor adds a twist to the conflict. I also appreciate how the author keeps Alice's character mysterious. She continues to help Thomas and The Spook, but her methods are questionable. Her use of magic saves them from disaster, but it makes the reader suspect she is becoming a more powerful witch. The Spook wants to imprison her before she becomes too powerful. The reader also learns a little more about Thomas' mother. It appears as though she may be a witch too, but Thomas isn't certain. Readers who are more sensitive to religious beliefs may not like this book, because The Spook has an ongoing conflict with the priests. The afterlife, the souls of people, and the devil are discussed openly in parts of the book.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Last Apprentice #3: Night of the Soul Stealer by Joseph Delaney

This book is the third in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. The main conflict centers around Morgan. Morgan is a former apprentice to the Spook for three years, but he was too evil to continue his studies. Morgan is able to control the spirits of dead people to do his bidding. Now, Morgan plans to raise a powerful god to become the most feared person on Earth. Tom's father dies, and Morgan torments his father's spirit to force Tom to steal a book of spells from the Spook. The book is the key to raising the god. In addition, the Spook's winter home is overrun by lumia witches, once imprisoned in the cellar, who thirst for human blood. Tom may be forced to betray the Spook's trust in order to save his father's spirit and others he people he cares for.

This book is like previous books in the series where Tom has some training, but the Spook is not present when the antagonists show up for the conflict. He's usually at a disadvantage, and there doesn't seem to be any way for him to win. A twist in this book is that one of the lumia witches is someone the Spook actually cares about. He's torn with showing her mercy, even after it's clear that she's a lethal creature, or locking her away like other dangerous witches.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Last Apprentice #4: Attack of the Fiend by Joseph Delaney

This book is the fourth in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. The Spook and Tom must travel to Pendle to stop three covens of witches from joining forces to raise the Fiend, the devil. Each coven has thirteen witches along with their husbands and children, so the two of them will be greatly outnumbered. Add to that another witch who knows Tom's mother and wants both of them dead and a witch assassin who enjoys torturing and killing. The Spook and Tom will need to use all of their skills, help from others, and a little bit of luck to overcome this conflict.

Type the title of earlier books in the series into the search box if you'd like to see my reviews of them. I like the conflict in this story, because there are so many witches who don't normally get along. The reader knows something really bad must be happening for the three clans to join together. It almost comes across as a war book, because the forces are clearly identified. In earlier books, the enemies were more mysterious. This book has mystery, magic, and the very evil enemies which creates some nice suspense. Tom's spook skills are outmatched, but there is something special about him that concerns all of the witches. Getting rid of Tom is more important to them than worrying about the Spook.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Last Apprentice #5: Wrath of the Bloodeye by Joseph Delaney

This book is the fifth in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Tom is sent off to train with a former Spook's apprentice for six months, but this spook is much tougher and meaner. The Spook hopes that this training will toughen up Tom for future battles he will face. The Fiend is out to kill Tom or change him to the Dark, and water witches are the main enemy in this setting. The bloodeye belongs to the daughter of the Fiend, and her look will paralyze a person and leave them helpless. Tom thinks his new spook is killed by her, but he must later try to rescue the spook from the dungeon where he is being held captive. Tom finds help from an unexpected character, but he also discovers some disturbing information about his mother and Alice, his best friend.

This book has more action than some of the previous books as Tom seems to constantly be fighting various water witches. Also, the Fiend is able to appear from nowhere, and he's able to disguise himself as other people. This power makes the reader constantly wonder when the Fiend will pop up next. The reason I gave the book a rating of four is because Tom frequently seems unable to defend himself and is saved by other characters. I wish he would use the talents he's learned during his two years of training instead of being caught by surprise and becoming disabled or unconscious. Characters keep saying he's the key to stopping the Dark, but he hasn't shown much of that power yet. However, the conflict and plot are entertaining, and I enjoy seeing how Tom escapes from all of the confrontations he faces.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Last Apprentice #6: Clash of the Demons by Joseph Delaney

This book is the sixth in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Tom and the other main characters travel to Greece to help Tom's mother combat the arrival of the Ordeen, a dark creature that will release hundreds of blood-sucking witches to destroy all living things. Ironically, they must team up with the same witches they were fighting in the previous book to defeat this new danger. Tom is torn between using the powers of the dark to stop the Ordeen and the Fiend and his duty to stop the Dark forces. Tom, his mam, the Spook and the rest of the gang travel across the ocean together on a ship with the blood-thirsty witches. They are attacked by pirates at sea, and then they're attacked by other witches and dark creatures once they land in Greece. Tom wonders about the truth of a witch's vision that Alice will die, and the same witch tells him that his life will be sacrificed to the Ordeen. Tom discovers a terribly horrible truth about his mother, and the Fiend wants his soul. What's a boy to do?

This plot has a great deal of action, and the problems keep stacking up against Tom. He defends himself a little better than in previous books, but the dangers become even greater. He realizes that the lives of everyone in the world depend on his ability to defeat the Ordeen and the Fiend. The format of this book is the same as the others, so you'll like it if you've enjoyed them.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Last Apprentice #7: Rise of the Huntress by Joseph Delaney

This book is the seventh in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Tom, the Spook, and Alice are forced to flee their land after the enemy in a war takes control. Actually, the war has been going on for several books, but it was a minor factor before. The citizens of the new land are not happy to see people migrating from the war, so they are placed in jails while suspected witches must survive tests. Tom and Alice are placed in barrels with spikes sticking into them and are then rolled down a hill. If the spikes don't kill them then the people will know they're witches. It turns out that Bony Lizzie escaped from the Spook's pit and is living in this new country too. She discovers a source of immense power under the land and is grower stronger each day. She plans to destroy Tom and the Spook and take over the land. However, unknown to her, this power source can also allow her to take over the world. With the Spook growing weaker, it's up to Tom and Alice to defeat Bony Lizzie.

I've enjoyed the plots so far, although I'd still like to see Tom use his power and training more. Alice often saves the day, but she tells Tom that he will be gaining strength as the Spook weakens. Hopefully, Tom will become a more formidable force in the next book, as the prophecy has said. Similar to the Harry Potter series, each book in The Last Apprentice has its own conflict, but the Fiend remains a constant enemy, much like Voldemort.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Last Apprentice #8: Rage of the Fallen by Joseph Delaney

Rage of the Fallen (The Last Apprentice / Wardstone Chronicles, #8)I read most of the books in the series a while back, and I gave this one a rating of four out of five. Tom, the Spook, and Alice flee the County, and get involved in a conflict between the locals and mages trying to summon a great, powerful being named Pan. The protection Tom and Alice have from the Fiend is weakening, and it's only a matter of time before he seeks his revenge on them. In addition, another witch, supposedly killed by Tom's first master, seems to have returned and wants to kill him too. All appears lost when the mages gain strength, the Fiend takes Alice to the Other World, and Tom is about to be sacrificed to Pan.

As you can probably tell, there were several subplots going on throughout the book.They tended to overlap, but that only helped to create suspense. It looked as though Tom had failed many times, but he somehow managed to survive. However, Alice's fate is questionable.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Last Apprentice #9: Grimalkin the Witch Assassin by Joseph Delaney

This book is the ninth in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Grimalkin holds the head of the Fiend in her possession and must do everything she can to keep it from being returned to his body. If that happens, all living beings will feel the wrath of his revenge, and Grimalkin will suffer the greatest pain, even after her death. The Fiend's followers have collected a force of mages to retrieve his head, but they've also created a merciless creature to destroy Grimalkin. The creature has a collection of magical powers, is able to quickly heal itself, learns from its mistakes, and comes back more powerful than before after each battle. Grimalkin enlists the help of Thorne, her apprentice assassin, but they still might not be able to defeat the creature. Grimalkin's energy weakens as the creature's powers strengthen, so all may be lost.

The story is told first person, from Grimalkin's point of view, and Tom, the Spook, and Alice aren't part of the events in the plot. It's a little strange to think of a witch assassin as the hero of a story, but the Fiend and his followers are even worse. Plus, Grimalkin teamed up with Tom in previous books to defeat the Fiend, so she is a good, bad protagonist. Weird, huh? I enjoyed her character as she battled with her feelings for Thorne, her own mortality, and her duty to save all living things. Mix that with her talent for killing, and you have a very complicated character. I also liked the suspense as I tried to figure out how she might be able to defeat a seemingly unbeatable monster.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Last Apprentice #10: Lure of the Dead by Joseph Delaney

Lure of the Dead (The Last Apprentice / Wardstone Chronicles, #10)I gave this tenth book in the series a rating of five out of five. Tom learns a way to defeat the Fiend forever, but he needs an artifact from the Dark and will need to sacrifice Alice's life. That plot will take place in a future book. In this book, Tom and the Spook travel to a nearby town to buy books for the Spook's new library. However, it's a trap. The Fiend has servants from Romania attack the Spook in the night and show Tom his severed head. They have magic that Tom has never seen before. The creatures will make the Spook suffer unless Tom convinces Grimalkin to return the Fiend's head. Once again, the task of defeating the enemy seems impossible.

Tom is the main man in this plot as he takes over the role of a real spook. The battle with the Romanian witches is the main conflict, but subplots deal with Alice, the Spook, and another former apprentice. The author increases the suspense as the protagonists are forced to fight the enemy alone, and in some cases, the victims fight them too.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Unwanteds #1 by Lisa McMann

The Unwanteds (Unwanteds, #1)This book is the first in a series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Alex lives in the land of Quill, and all thirteen-year-olds are sorted into three groups. The Wanteds are ranked highest, the Necessaries are next highest, and the Unwanteds are sent away to be killed in a lake of boiling oil. Alex is an Unwanted, but his twin brother is a Wanted. Alex discovers that most of the previous Unwanteds weren't killed, and they're living in a world, Artime, cloaked by magic. They're able to use their creativity to enjoy life, and they later learn to turn their artistic talents into weapons for battle. The citizens of Quill live in a strict dictatorship with no freedoms, and the leader of Artime knows it's just a matter of time before they're discovered and attacked by the Quill army. Alex wants to rescue his brother and bring him to Artime, but he also knows it could be the end of their world if the leaders of Quill realize the Unwanteds are still alive.

This book was recommended by one of my students, and I found it had an unusual plot. Some of the characters are strange combinations of animals, but the use of artistic talents to create magic was interesting. The author did a nice job of creating suspense with subplots. In addition to the threat of Quill, Alex's issues with his brother and secrets kept by some other characters kept me wondering. Even so, there were still a few other surprises that popped up near the climax.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Unwanteds #2: Island of Silence by Lisa McMann

Island of Silence (Unwanteds, #2)This book is the second in The Unwanteds series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. After the final battle in book one, Mr. Today tries his best to bring peace between Quill and Atrime. However, Alex Stowe's brother, Aaron, is very bitter about the turn of events, and he puts his efforts into getting revenge against Alex and Mr. Today. He starts to recruit followers in order to form an army, and he prepares them to attack Artime when the opportunity arises. Meanwhile, Mr. Today offers to train Alex to become his successor when he's away or when he eventually dies. Alex doesn't want the position, but he continues to learn new spells and work with Mr. Today. Some strangers wash ashore, and the leaders of Artime assume they are escapees from one of the nearby islands. A few of the characters take an interest in the islands with disastrous results. Another battle between Artime and Quill seems unavoidable, but will the paradise of Artime survive this time?

There were many different things going on in this plot. Mr. Today was preparing for a time when he would be gone, Aaron was planning to overthrow Artime, the silent strangers with thorns on their necks created more questions, and Alex had mixed feelings and questions about everything. Every chapter held action and interest, so I wanted to keep reading. In addition, I knew there were spies around, but I didn't know which characters to believe or doubt. Even at the end of book, I wasn't sure whom to trust, and I'm anxious to read the next book when it comes out in September of 2013.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Unwanteds #3: Island of Fire by Lisa McMann

Island of Fire  (Unwanteds, #3)This book is the third in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Mr. Today is killed by Alex's brother, the land of Artime has disappeared, and two of Alex's best friends are prisoners on Warbler Island, the Island of Silence. A brother and sister have washed ashore, but their thorned collars keep them from talking. Alex must discover the spell to restore Artime before all of the other Unwanteds and Wanteds return to Quill. He must also figure out how to rescue his friends and still deal with his evil brother, who is ruling Quill.

There are many conflicts in the plot of this book, and it's understandable when Alex becomes overwhelmed. The author creates a new internal conflict for him when Alex starts to have feelings for, the sister who came ashore. Lani and Samheed become attracted to each other as they try to survive on Warbler Island. Alex's attempt to rescue them creates a new conflict for book four, and the rescue team finds some new characters who will become the focus in future plots. The author has a wonderful imagination and is able to mix serious events with her sense of humor. She makes the difficulties of being a leader a feature of the plot.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Artemis Fowl #1 by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, #1)This book is the first in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Artemis Fowl is a twelve-year-old master criminal, and his family has been in the business for several generations. He does a great deal of research and planning and hatches a plan to steal mythical fairy gold. He kidnaps a lieutenant in the fairy police/military force, and that's when the adventure begins. The fairies send in their top agents, but Artemis always seems to be one step ahead. That's because he is. He's gotten his hands on the fairies' Book and knows all about the rules of their magic. Artemis and the fairies have quite a conflict, and a huge, angry troll is thrown in just to spice things up.

I postponed reading this novel for many years, and it wasn't what I expected. I knew Artemis was a criminal, but I didn't realize the plot was a fantasy. There aren't many novels around with criminals who are this young. I enjoyed the way Artemis was always prepared for the strategies of the fairies, but I also liked how the commander became unpredictable in order to compete with him. I liked that a couple of the characters showed some compassion for their enemies, so no one is all bad.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing (The Testing, #1)I read an advanced copy of this book, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Cia is chosen to attend The Testing in Tosu City, the first step in choosing future leaders of the country. However, her father, who went through the testing process himself, warns her that she should not trust anyone. His memories of The Testing have been erased, but he has flashes of disturbing dreams. Cia believes his dreams may be memories when some other students disappear, and her roommate commits suicide. She realizes the officials probably witnessed the death and could have stopped it, but didn't. Why not? After passing the first three phases of testing, Cia is left 700 miles from Tosu City, in the devastated, post-war wilderness, and must find a way to survive the trek back. She will face barren land, natural dangers, mutated animals, and attacks from other candidates in The Testing. Surviving The Testing is her only job.

The second half of the book is similar to The Hunger Games; kids are trying to survive a competition that the government is watching,  while representing their home colonies. Cia has a love interest who complicates things, and she's never fully sure who she can trust. The author creates conflicts between characters, with nature, and the government. There are people who don't agree with The Testing, but it just adds to Cia's confusion. Overall, an entertaining, interesting book.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Gregor the Overlander #1 by Suzanne Collins

Gregor the OverlanderThis book is the first in The Underland Chronicles series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Gregor follows his two-year-old sister, Boots, into an air vent, and they're carried to a land deep within the earth. He's met by giant cockroaches, bats, spiders, and rats, and he discovers that his missing father may be down there. The Underland humans tell Gregor that there is a prophecy about a great warrior from the Overland who will lead a quest to end the war with the rats. The prophecy isn't clear, but Gregor knows that he must try to free his father from the rats.

This book was written by the same author as The Hunger Games, but the similarities end there. You'll hate this book if you don't like talking animals. The plot moved along quickly, but the climax wasn't easily predictable. Boots was a very interesting character as her personality shifted between a child in her Terrible Twos to an ambassador of good will between all living creatures. There are four more books in the series.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane #2 by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane (Underland Chronicles, #2)This book is the second in The Underland Chronicles series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Gregor and Boots, his two-year-old sister, return to the Underworld only to discover that Gregor is part of a prophecy. It is foretold that a giant, white rat, the Bane, is rising, and it will kill all of the Underlanders. The prophecy says that Gregor is the one who must kill it. Gregor is no killer, but he realizes that he must go on the quest to save all of the innocent creatures living underground. He sets out with his bat, Ares, his sister, and others in search of Bane, deep in a maze of tunnels. They encounter sea monsters, meat-eating insects, and deadly rats, but Gregor is shocked when he finally finds Bane. He must quickly rethink his quest when he meets up with the terrifying creature described in the prophecy.

You must read these books in order. The author is able to create a great deal of suspense and adventure as the characters travel on their quest. There are dangers that they must face, but the characters also have conflicts with each other. Boots adds some humor and gentleness to the plot. Unlike most novels, some of the main characters do not return at the end of the story. This book was written by the same author as The Hunger Games trilogy, although this book has nothing in common with it.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods #3 by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods (Underland Chronicles, #3)This book is the third in The Underland Chronicles, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Gregor receives a message that a deadly plague is spreading throughout the Underland, and his bonded bat, Ares, was the first creature infected. Gregor must travel back underground with his two-year-old sister, Boots, but his mom insists she's coming too. Mom gets infected with the plague too, so Gregor, Boots, Ripred, and others head out into the Underland in search of a plant found only in the middle of a dangerous jungle. There is tension between the rats and humans during the journey, and a character presumed dead joins the group as a guide. A huge surprise awaits once they reach the life-saving plants, and the truth of the situation is impossible to believe.

The plot of this book is much like the first two books in the series. The mysterious guide was an interesting twist to the situation, but the actual source of the plague was the true hit of this book. It deals with the length humans will go to when they are at war. Although it's hard to believe, there are countries in the world doing this exact thing.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Gregor and the Marks of Secret #4 by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Marks of Secret (Underland Chronicles, #4)This book is the fourth in The Underland Chronicles series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Gregor is talking to Luxa when she is given a gold crown from the mice. The crown is a signal that the mice need immediate help, so Gregor and Luxa set out to discover what is going on. However, they find a dead mouse at the meeting place and can't find mice living anywhere else. They've disappeared. When a basket of mice babies is found and brought to Regalia, the duo once again sets out in search of the missing mice. This time, they find a mark on a cave wall and are informed that it means death. They return to the treacherous jungle but are forced to travel underground instead of heading home. The secret tunnel leads them to a terrifying discovery about the plight of the mice. The entire population of mice, and all other living things in the Underland, may be doomed if Gregor and Luxa don't do something soon!

It's been interesting in this series how the author keeps Gregor and Boots in every plot, but the other characters come and go. This book sees the return of a few characters found in earlier plots, and the relationship between Gregor and Luxa is changing. The theme of this book also explores the notion that the only way to have peace is through the use of war. A character in the previous book said that nothing good ever comes from war; it only creates more anger. Gregor and Luxa must rethink this idea. The resolution of this plot seems to lead right into a major battle for Regalia in book five.