Friday, July 25, 2008

Half-Bloods and Rangers

I'm not reading as slowly as it may look. It's just too hard to do blog write ups at work, especially in the summer when we're busy with summer reading on top of everything else. And I'm wiped when I get home! So I do these posts in dribs and drabs and I fall behind. I'm trying to catch up! In the past couple of weeks, I've read five or six books (not including a couple of adult mysteries). I'll be writing about three of them in other posts. But a huge chorus has already voiced their appreciation of the ones below, so I don't have anything new to say about them. I'll add just some quick random thoughts:

Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Gods, these books are fun! It's a neat concept that Daedalus's labyrinth is, essentially, a living thing. And how unsurprising that it leads, among other places, right to Camp Half-Blood, giving Luke and Kronos a terrific opportunity to attack before Chiron and Mr. D can do anything about it. Of course, Percy, Grover, and Annabeth have something to say about that! It would really have helped, though, if I hadn't been listening to Titan's Curse at the same time I was reading this one! (I didn't realize I hadn't read it until I started talking about BotL with a patron and couldn't remember what happened in TC. No duh - you have to read it to remember it!) I really enjoyed the reappearance of Rachel Elizabeth Dare, and I'm quite intrigued to see how (I do think it's a how, not a whether) she'll fit into the rest of the story. I'm also curious about the hints Annabeth keeps dropping about something she can't/hasn't told Percy about yet. Props to Grover!'re a little scary. (I think maybe I'd rather face Luke than Nico.) I'll be impatiently waiting for the next one, just like just about everyone else!

Battle for Skandia by John Flanagan

Speaking of being impatient for the next one, a significant number of the hits I get on this blog are for people who either want to read one of John Flanagan's books online (to my knowledge, they aren't available that way, sorry) or who want to read book seven or eight. But we're only up to book four here in the U.S., unfortunately. I'm with them - I'd love to read the rest of these books now! Flanagan is back in form with this book. I thought The Icebound Land didn't hold up as well as the first two in the series. Will drugged into a stupor for most of the book just wasn't a terribly compelling read for me. I was even more bothered by some writing that fell more than a little flat (awkward phrasing, too much telling instead of showing). But Battle for Skandia leaves those problems behind. There's plenty of action right from the beginning, and plenty of humor, too. (It helps that Halt is back in a central role.) Battle for Skandia takes up right where the last book ended, with Will and Evanlyn hiding in the hut waiting for Will to recover his strength. When Evanlyn is abducted by Temujai warriors while checking animal traps, Will needs to summon all his strength to rescue her. Fortunately and fortuitously, Halt and Horace are also on the trail. Their reunion is immensely satisfying. Far from dragging, the action ratchets up as inexorably as the Temujai warriors march towards battle. Things are desperate, as the Skandian method of battle is pretty much "bash and smash", and the Temujai are a much more skilled and strategic fighting force. The Skandians have no chance at all, unless they can come up with something surprising to slow the Skandians down and force them out of their tried and true battle strategems. Fortunately, Halt and Will have a few good ideas that just might do the trick.

A teen patron here told me that "the book gets really good in the last forty pages or so". He really called it. Those forty pages are the big battle, and it's worth the wait to get there. But as much as I appreciated the pace of the novel, I also loved that the humor is back in full force. It's a toss up to decide whether Halt is funnier dealing with Horace or with Erak. Flanagan also deals nicely with the "is this what they call love?" triangle between Will, Horace, and Erak. Battle for Skandia left me wanting more, and fortunately, I'm going to get just that. Too bad it's not going to be as soon as I want it to be!

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