The Time Quake (Gideon Trilogy) by Linda Buckley-Archer

The Time QuakeIt ain’t always easy being an “objective” book reviewer.  I so often find that expectations and mood can have a big impact on my particular take on a book. So afterwords I try to think about why I reacted a certain way so I can offer useful evaluation for potential readers.

I recently experienced this with the final book in Linda Buckley-Arher’s Gideon Trilogy Time Quake.  I loved the first two books (see here and here) in this series and was eagerly awaiting the conclusion.  But reading Time Quake didn’t seem to have the excitement and “buzz” of the first two. In the end, I decided that most of this was my fault, not Buckley-Archer’s.

For those unfamilar with the series here is the publisher’s introduction:

Abducted to 1763, Peter Schock and Kate Dyer begin to understand that history has reached a tipping point. The antigravity machine is in the hands of the cruel and ambitious Lord Luxon — who has set his sights on the most valuable prize of all: America. He is determined to manipulate time to his advantage, no matter what the cost.

And the cost is great indeed. As Lord Luxon changes more and more of the past for his own gain, terrible time quakes begin to sweep through all of history. Kate Dyer, adrift in time and suffering from an overexposure to time travel, knows that if Lord Luxon is not stopped, the time quakes will tear the universe apart.

Meanwhile Gideon and Peter hunt for their enemy, the Tar Man, in the dark streets of eighteenth-century London, and Peter begins to realize that he may hold the fate of the world in his hands.

My take below.

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The Magician by Michael Scott

Cover of "The Magician: The Secrets of th...

Cover via Amazon

Here is how I descirbed the first book in Michael Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series (The Alchemyst):

It turned out to be a grand adventure.  Not the most believable story, for sure, but imaginative and entertaining.

I think that was an accurate statement, but interestingly enough, this series has really grown on me.  The second book, The Magician, turned out to be a even faster paced and more engaging read.

Here is Booklists take:

The Alchemyst (2007), the first book in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series,  introduced a wide-ranging group of historical figures who have achieved immortality and are engaged in a present-day struggle for the fate of the world. This second entry picks up exactly where the first left off. Allied with the legendary Nicholas Flamel  on the “good” side are teenage twins Sophie and Josh, who are supremely gifted but with powers that are untrained. Countering them is a new archvillain, Niccolò Machiavelli, who, along with other figures from history and legend (Joan of Arc, a trio of Valkyries), swells the already impressive cast. Plundering every imaginable culture of their heroes and heroines is a clever feat, sure to draw all manner of historically and mythologically minded readers. One weakness starts to show through, however. In a six-book series such as this, each installment begins to feel like a lengthy, glorified chapter rather than its own book complete with a satisfying story arc and resolution. That said, this keeps the pace as an exciting and impeccably thought-out fantasy, well suited for those left in the lurch by Harry Potter’s recent exeunt.

I think Booklist captures the pros and cons of this series well.  As noted, the overall plot is of course ridiculous – as any conspiracy that purports to explain the history of the universe and involves mankind being kept in the dark for millenia is bound to be.  And the books have the feel more of large chapter books rather than stand alone novels.

But once you plunge into them and accept these limits they are really great entertainment.  You are just focused on the characters – the reoccurring ones and the ones that Scott keeps blending in – and the race to capture Flamel and the twins.  Scott keeps enough murkey that there is good tension – wondering where everyone’s loyalty lies and what trap might be sprung when you aren’t looking.

Scott has taken a clever hook and managed to keep both the pace and the interest in the characters and the larger story line over the course of a number of large books.  That is not as easy as it looks.  It would have been easy for the creativity to dry up and the story to bog down – or for the reader to get tired of the chase – but I found myself furtively reading every chance I get to find out what was going to happen next and to find some clues about the larger mystery at the heart of the battle for the fate of earth.

But at its most basic it is really just a good fantasy action adventure story.  Interesting good guys and bad guys – and somewhere in between – battling it out across the world using magical powers and the knowledge gained from immortality.  Basic stuff: good versus evil on an epic scale.

My wife and I have both now plowed through the series and are annoyed we have to wait until May 2010 for the next book.  So if you haven’t yet discovered it, I recommend the series for those that love fantasy action adventures (young or old).

For more information also see the Random House site.

Note to authors and publicists: giving away the first book in order to entice readers to read and purchase the whole series works.  This is exactly how I came to be a fan.  Free Kindle version of the first book led me to buy the next book.

The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh

The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh is in the sweet spot of my reading choices these days: YA fantasy with mythological theme.  So when I saw it at a local Borders store for a couple of bucks I picked it up.

Here is the publisher’s blurb that grabbed my attention:

Jack Perdu, a shy, ninth grade classics prodigy lives with father on the Yale University campus. Smart and introverted, Jack spends most of his time alone, his nose buried in a book. But when Jack suffers a near fatal accident, his life is forever changed.

His father sends him to a mysterious doctor in New York City–a place Jack hasn’t been since his mother died there eight years ago. While in the city, Jack meets Euri, a young girl who offers to show him the secrets of Grand Central Station. Here, Jack discovers New York’s Underworld, a place where those who died in the city reside until they are ready to move on. This, Jack believes, is a chance to see his mother again. But as secrets about Euri’s past are revealed, so are the true reasons for Jack’s visit to the Underworld.

Having read it this week I have to say it met my expectations. It mixed adventure, mystery and the history and landscape of New York City with mythology to create an intelligent and engaging story.

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The Book of the Sword: The Darkest Age II by A.J. Lake

Regular readers with good memories will recall that I picked up The Coming of Dragons (The Darkest Age Book One) in the grocery store of all places.  Having enjoyed it, I tracked down the sequel at the library as I was too impatient to order it when it was not available at the book stores I pursued.

When the first book left off, the two central characters – Elspeth and Edmund-  had been abducted by a dragon just as they were celebrating defeating their enemy Orgrim.  The Book of the Sword picks up the story but also weaves in the the much older back story: where the dragon comes from and who controls it; why the sword Elspeth carries was created and what gives it its power; what is this epic battle between forces of good and evil really all about, etc.

Lake introduces the book with prologue that sets up the story of the sword and each chapter with a flashback to the time when the sword was created and from the perspective of the characters involved in its creation.  In this way she weaves the past into the present.  We get to see the events that led up to the conflict that is playing itself out again; history repeating itself.

The ancient trickster god Loki has been chained under the mountain to prevent him from wrecking havoc and destruction on the world around him.  His capture was made with great sacrifice but the fear is that it is only a matter of time before he escapes again.

Elspeth feels compelled by the sword, and he own sense of duty and responsibility, to journey to his cave and kill him with the only weapon capable of achieving such a task.  Edmund and Cathbar insist on accompanying her despite their doubts about the wisdom of such a plan.  This leads them on a task not unlike Frodo’s famous trek to Mount Doom.  This is not to say that Lake’s story is derivative, just that there are some similarities in this trek: ancient weapons forged by the supernatural means, seeking the enemy in the center of a mountain, etc.  But Elspeth is out to destroy the evil one with this weapon rather than destroy his power by destroying the weapon.

The adventure takes them on a harrowing trek through the Northland and into the depths of the mountain.  They encounter wolves; angry natives and bandits; ghost like spirits out to sap their strength; a mysterious Fay (similar to elves or fairy folk) women who claims to want to help them; their nemesis the dragon Torment; and a giant ice dragon the size of a glacier.

Along the way they will learn the story behind the sword and the history of Loki.  They will also learn the identity of their previous guardian Cluaran.  But when they are face to face with Loki will they be able to destroy him?  You will have to read this exciting adventure to find out.

A.J. Lake has created a a gripping and gritty tale with strong characters and a nice blend of suspense and action.  Part re-imagined Norse legend and fable, part Medieval fantasy, this unique series is recommend for readers young (middle school and above) and old.