Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quick Hits - Three Very Different Books

My apologies: this post was begun (and mostly finished) in late July and never posted.

Angry Management by Chris Crutcher

Three novellas revisit a few familiar characters, giving a couple of them a chance to move on and a couple the chance to stand in their own light and shine. As Sarah Byrnes tries one more time to connect with/confront the person who betrayed her the most, she and Angus Bethune also discover that there are people who will look past their physical selves and see what's really important. Madison West stands up to her narrow-minded, controlling father. And when the school administration try to brush a pink noose on the school's only black student's locker, Marcus James and Matt Miller refuse to let them, a stand that has tragic results.


I like a lot of Chris Crutcher's books, and I admire him for the strong stance he takes regarding the rights of teens (well, kids in general). But in some of his later books, this one included, I think his need to make a statement sometimes overwhelms the story. I kept hearing his voice instead of his characters' voices. But it's good to see him bring back characters I liked and wanted to know more about, particularly Sarah and Mr. Nak, and introduce others, like Matt and Marcus, who could carry their own books. I just wish Mr. Nak had more to do than just be a framing device. He was a wise and charismatic character in Ironman, and I would like to have heard what he had to say to some of these characters about these situations.

Sebastian Darke: Prince of Fools by Philip Caveney

Sebastian Darke would love to be the jester his father was. Trouble is, he's just not funny. But he is, to his surprise, brave (not to mention loyal and true) and a rather good fighter. Those qualities come in quite handy when he accidentally foils a plot to kill Princess Kerin, thereby (unknowingly) making himself a marked man as well.


I don't think this book will linger long in my memory, but it was fun while I reading it. My favorite character was Cornelius, whose extremely small size belies his fantastic fighting abilities. Trust me, you don't want to take on this guy unless you've got a dozen or so friends with you (unless you don't like your friends much, in which case, this is the perfect scenario to get rid of a few of them). Max the (talking) buffalope is also a fine foil. Kerin and Sebastian work as well apart as they do together, which is fortunate for them and for their readers. This is a good choice for readers who like their fantasies light, humorous, and action-packed.

Broken Thread by Linda Smith

All Alina has wanted for as long as she can remember is to be picked to go to the Weaver's Island, where they create the cloth that controls Fate. When the searchers finally come for her, it is a dream come true. But when she finally sees the Tapestry, she makes a fatal mistake. She nearly destroys everything when she attempts to fix a broken thread by tying it with a piece of her own hair. As a result, the elder Weavers tell her, a king lives who should have died, and her impulsive act will lead to the death of thousands if she does not correct it. To save all those lives, she must travel to his land and kill him. It is a terrible weight to carry with her, made even heavier when she meets her target and realizes he is not what she expected him to be. He is one life balanced against thousands, but how can she look into the face of someone who trusts her and kill him anyway?


I loved the dynamic between Alina and Ranjan and watching their relationship develop. Ranjan reminded me a bit of Mary in The Secret Garden, but Alina is much starchier than Martha and Dickon! She is either a born manipulator or a born mother (both?), because she's a master at handling a frightened, sulky little would-be tyrant. I also enjoyed the hint of romance. I would like to revist these characters again, and it's a shame that Linda Smith will never have the chance to write more about them (though I don't know if that was eve-n/r her intention).