Wednesday, February 14, 2007

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

I used to be quite the fantasy reader, but it's been a long time since I've felt compelled to seek out a new series. It just seemed like every book I picked up was a rehash of the same tired old themes. However, when bookshelves of doom highlighted (ok, gushed about) Naomi Novik's new Temeraire series and mentioned that Peter Jackson liked these books so much that he bought the film rights, I knew I needed to check this series out.

If His Majesty's Dragon is anything to judge by, this is a series to get even the most jaded former fantasy reader back into the genre. Set in an alternate Napoleonic era in which British and French forces vie for supremacy of the skies as well as the sea, complete with a separate branch of the military for dragons and their riders, the books focus on navy captain Will Laurence and his dragon partner, Temeraire. It's sort of a cross between the Dragonriders of Pern series and books like Master and Commander. Novik pulls off the addition of dragons to this universe very well - Temeraire and his counterparts are believable and appealing creatures. Laurence himself, with his affection for his dragon and his strong sense of honour and duty, oozes sex appeal in a Mr. Darcy sort of way. Together, they must defend Britain from the French forces determined to conquer their island neighbour.

Watch this space for my thoughts on the sequels, Throne of Jade and Black Powder War!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel

In the sequel to Airborn, Oppel returns to the lives of Matt Cruse and Kate DeVries a few months after the end of their first adventure. This time they're on the hunt for the Hyperion, a mysterious airship that disappeared twenty years earlier, rumoured to be carrying a fortune. Kate and Matt are accompanied on their quest by Hal, the cocky young owner of a skybreaker (a special airship designed to be taken to higher elevations) and the beautiful, mysterious Roma girl, Nadira, who holds the key to the Hyperion's treasures.

Although this book is a sequel, it doesn't tread over the same ground as Airborn - the adventure feels fresh and new, with the same interesting blend of science fiction and adventure that made the first book in this series so thrilling to read. I had trouble putting it down.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

This book came into our home because it's one of this year's Red Cedar Award contenders - and so far, it's my daughter's top pick among the selections she's read for the award. Since I was already in the mood for YA fiction I decided to pick this one up soon after she recommended it to me.

Airborn is set in an "alternate earth" where flying ships powered by a gas called hydrium are used to transport people and cargo around the world. Matt Cruse is the cabin boy of a luxury airliner, Aurora. Born aboard an airship, he is literally in his element when he's up in the sky. His ambition to rise from the ranks of cabin boy are set aside for a while when he befriends a wealthy young passenger, Kate de Vries, who drags Matt along on a crazy adventure involving pirates, uncharted Pacific islands, and incredible flying mammals.

This was one of those novels that sucked me in to the point where I didn't really care that I was reading a "kids' book" - it is well written, fast paced and convincing. Watch this space for my thoughts on the sequel, Skybreaker!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke

I've been on a YA fantasy kick lately, to help counteract the stress of midterms and too many places to be in one day. This book was at the top of my list, thanks to relentless pestering from my daughter. I am glad she pestered me because I really enjoyed Inkspell.

I found a few faults with the first book in this series, Inkheart, but none in this novel. Inkspell picks up a few months after the events in Inkheart, and continues exploring Funke's ingenious answer to the question of what might happen if characters from a book could come to life. In this case, she has given certain people the gift of reading literary characters into existence; some can even "read" people and animals - both "real" and fictional - into a book. So in Inkspell we get to find out what would happen if someone were to suddenly become part of a fictional world. This is a great twist on a traditional fairy tale - it's got magic, bad guys, fairies and brave heroes, all wrapped up in a package that appeals to avid readers.

Highly recommended!