Category Archives: Young Adult

McKinley, Robin: The Blue Sword (1982)

“The Blue Sword” by Emily Doyle

In spite of being written first, The Blue Sword is the second book in the Damarian saga. There are few things in life that I’m truly envious of, but the ability to write in a manner that flows is one. Maybe it has to do with the comfort that I’ve derived from such books. Truly excellent ones distract me from my pain and makes those long boring days when I can’t do much bearable. McKinley has this ability.

While the plot in The Blue Sword is straightforward, the execution is not. What a gift. I guess I’m just in a praise-mood today (maybe).

Harry Crew is a young woman who, after the death of her parents, has to move to Damar and her brother (Victorian standards in her country). There the adventure begins. She falls in love with the desert, gets kidnapped by the Hillfolk and has to fulfill her destiny as Harimad-sol, the hope of the Damarian people.

There is “slightly” more meat to the story =), thankfully. Action galore and some romance. Just the things that make for fun fantasy.


Winner of 1983 Newberry Honor Book

McKinley, Robin: The Hero and the Crown (1984)

The Hero and the Crown (Damar, #2)To me reading is like listening to music or maybe it’s vice versa. Sometimes words flow seamlessly from one sentence to the next, one chapter to the next. Subject matter does not matter. I’ve seen it in academic articles and in this case in a young adult book.The Hero and the Crown flows beautifully. To me that makes McKinley and excellent writer. I’ve only read two of her books, but in both cases I found this indefinable flow. I suspect the ability to make text “flow” is something you have to be born with, like any other talent.

While “Hero” is the first book in the Damarian saga, it was written after The Blue Sword (another Newberry awarded book). Keep that in mind while reading the books.

Aerin is the only child of the Damarian king, born without talent and child of a suspect mother (dead). She refuses to act as a proper “lady” should. Instead she learns to wield the sword, chase dragons and tame horses. Then disaster strikes and Damarian faces war. As the king rides off with his forces, a messenger comes riding in asking for help to kill a dragon. Aerin goes off and …….


Winner of 1985 Newberry Medal Award

Lowe, Helen: The Gathering of the Lost (2012)

The Gathering of the Lost” is book no. 2 of “The Wall of Night” series. Helen Lowe has done an excellent job on the follow-up of the first book in the series “The Heir of Night“. She manages to draw the reader in and does not let go until the last page. As teen-lit this is really good. The story is fairly complex and surprising (perhaps) in its twists and turns.

Through various journeys, Lowe leads us to Malian and Kalan. We get to see where they stand in relationship to each other and to the quest they set out on 5 years previously. Saving the Derai (and perhaps the rest of the world) from the fierce Swarm will not be simple. Discovering where the lost clans are takes time, and time is precious.

As in The Heir of Night Malian’s choices will make the difference in the outcome of the coming battle.

Lowe, Helen: The Heir of Night (2010)

“The Heir of Night” is book no. 1 in “The Wall of Night” series. It’s a typical hero’s quest type of story meant for the age group 10 and up set on another world. This is an excellent example of teen-lit. Lowe’s writing is excellent. She grabs hold of the reader and does not let go.

If Night falls, all fall…

Malian is the heir to the clan of Night. The Wall of Night keeps out the Swarm – a traditional enemy. One night the keep is attacked by members of the swarm and they specifically seek to destroy Malian. During this battle Malian discovers that she has powers that will make her an outcast, and she has to decide whether to use them. This choice is the beginning of Malian’s quest.

Malian’s character is the most interesting one. Kalan, the acolyte, is part of a cast of hated power users (the kind of power that Malian has). His and Malian’s friendship is unexpected to them both and vital to the development of the story. As both he and Malian have to deal with the consequences of her choice, the world of humans is on the edge.


The Heir of Night has won the international Gemmell “Morningstar” Award 2012 for Best Fantasy Newcomer

Freeman, Lorna: The King’s Own (Borderlands II) (2006)

Lorna Freeman is still going strong in “The King’s Own”, the second book of the “Borderlands” series.

The King’s Own continues shortly after Covenants ended. Rabbit’s journey into the mastery of magic continues. Towards the end of Covenants we see that Rabbit’s abilities as a magician make him one of the stronger magicians in the Borderlands. Along with his lack of control, Rabbit discovers that people are suspicious and fearful of his new-found abilities. The discovery of death magic in the same city as Rabbit and the king heightens the suspicion of him. Once again, Rabbit has to prove himself.

Rabbit’s character is fun. He is true to himself, confused, naive, foolish and wise – I guess just like most people are. Perhaps that is what attracts me about his character. Rabbit is someone I wouldn’t have minded being in my early 20’s. That aside, Freeman is simply a great writer. She has the gift, no doubt about it.

Freeman, Lorna: Covenants (Borderlands I) (2004)

I love Lorna Freeman’s writing. I’ve read the whole Borderlands series several times.

I’ve tried several times to figure out what there is about this series that I like so much. The first thing that comes to mind is the quality of Freeman’s writing. It draws me in and refuses to let me go. In the ocean of average authors, Freeman is a lighthouse. Her books are clean. This is a rare quality today. Explicitness is seemingly sought after by the masses, at least when I consider the many authors out there. No sex and nothing gory. How amazing is that? Along with the naive worldliness of Rabbit, his tricky mentor – Faena Laurel, the respected captain Suiden and his nemesis Slevoic – we get served a story full of action, humor, wisdom and fun. I’m left a happier person each time I read her books.

“Covenants” is book no. 1 in the series about Rabbit. This is the story of how he comes into his magic, his discovery of familial relationships and his willingness to be true to himself.

Barraclough, Lindsey: Long Lankin (2011)

Long Lankin - Lindsey Barraclough

Lamkin, Bold Lamkin, Bold Lantern, Bolakin, False Linfinn and Long Lankin are some of the titles belonging to the story of the mason who builds a castle, is cheated of his fee and who then exacts a bloody revenge (A.L. Lloyd). I have included below what is thought to be the original ballad along with one of the musical interpretations of the story.

Long Lankin is Lindsey Barraclough’s first novel. Whatever hiccups it might suffer from are compensated by Barraclough’s excellent prose. For a new author her flow was a delight.

Horror stories are not my forte simply because I am too easily frightened by authors stringing words together in that manner, but Long Lankin is within my endurance limit. Barraclough’s ability to convey the creepiness and uneasiness of the horror story did affect me in the manner the author probably intended.

During their stay at great-auntie Ida’s, Cora and Mimi encounter a mystery of terrible dimensions. As all children ought, Cora and Mimi venture into places they should not. Auntie Ida has not explained why they need to stay away from certain places, thinking to spare them from a terrible truth. Even though I promised myself that I would never do such a thing to my own children, I too have been guilty of doing underestimating them. Auntie Ida is going to discover what I did. Telling the truth is generally the wisest.

With their new friends, Peter and Roger, the four children set out to explore the church and the graveyard, and our horror story begins. Cora is the hero of this story. She is the one who is responsible for looking after her little sister. This is the age-old duty of older siblings. But keeping Mimi safe becomes increasingly difficult.

Cora and Mimi become embroiled in the history of the village, the history of the church and the history of their Auntie’s old house Guerdon Hall. Some places are the perfect settings for a horror tale. Old manors struggling to keep themselves together would qualify in my mind. Another such location can be old churches and graveyards, perhaps even forests and marshes. Long Lankin has three of these: Guerdon Hall, of course. The church close to the house and the nearby marsh.

Choices may have far-reaching consequences, sometimes centuries into the future. Everything has a cost. Payment must be made one way or another. Friendship, family, loss, grief can be some of the price extracted. Cora and Mimi coming to stay with Auntie Ida happens to be one of these long-term costs. I love the way Barraclough brings the old ballad into her story in tiny drips along the way. The Lay of Lambert Lanikin is frightening enough on its own. Add the terror of the future that Barraclough shares, and we can all huddle under our covers waiting for the wolf under our bed to jump onto it.

What a creepy good time I had!

Exactly what age group this falls into is difficult to say. According to the author, she did not have a particular age group in mind when she wrote Long Lankin.


Reviews:


Long Lamkin, 2008; By Wong Mei Sheong;
Long Lamkin, 2008;
By Wong Mei Sheong;
Thought to be the original version
Belinkin was as gude a mason
As e’er pickt a stane;
He built up Prime Castle,
But payment gat nane.
The lord said to his lady,
5 When he was going abroad,
“O beware of Belinkin,
For he lyes in the wood.”
The gates they were bolted,
Baith outside and in;
10 At the sma’ peep of a window
Belinkin crap in.
“Gude morrow, gude morrow,”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“Gude morrow to yoursell, sir,”
15 Said the fause nurse to him.
“O whare is your gude lord?”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“He’s awa to New England,
To meet with his king.”
20 “O where is his auld son?
Said Lambert Linkin.
“He’s awa to buy pearlings,
Gin our lady ly in.”
“Then she’ll never wear them,”
25 Said Lambert Linkin.
“And that is nae pity,”
Said the fause nurse to him.
“O where is your lady?”
Said Lambert Linkin.
30 “She’s in her bouir sleepin’,”
Said the fause nurse to him.
“How can we get at her?”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“Stab the babe to the heart
35 Wi’ a silver bo’kin.”
“That wud be a pity,”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“Nae pity, nae pity,”
Said the fause nurse to him.
40 Belinkin he rocked,
And the fause nurse she sang,
Till a’ the tores o’ the cradle
Wi’ the red blude down ran.
“O still my babe, nurice,
45 O still him wi’ the knife.”
“He’ll no be still, lady,
Tho’ I lay down my life.”
“O still my babe, nurice,
O still him wi’ the kame.”
50 “He’ll no be still, lady,
Till his daddy come hame.”
“O still my babe, nurice,
O still him wi’ the bell.”
“He’ll no be still, lady,
55 Till ye come down yoursell.”
“It’s how can I come doun,
This cauld frosty nicht,
Without e’er a coal
Or a clear candle licht?”
60 “There’s twa smocks in your coffer,
As white as a swan;
Put ane o’ them about you,
It will shew you licht doun.”
She took ane o’ them about her,
65 And came tripping doun;
But as soon as she viewed,
Belinkin was in.
“Gude morrow, gude morrow,”
Said Lambert Linkin.
70 “Gude morrow to yoursell, sir,”
Said the lady to him.
“O save my life, Belinkin,
Till my husband come back,
And I’ll gie ye as much red gold
75 As ye’ll haud in your hat.”
“I’ll not save your life, lady,
Till your husband come back,
Tho’ you wud gie me as much red gold
As I could haud in a sack.
80 “Will I kill her?” quo’ Belinkin,
“Will I kill her, or let her be?”
“You may kill her,” said the fause nurse,
“She was ne’er gude to me;
And ye’ll be laird o’ the Castle,
85 And I’ll be ladye.”
Then he cut aff her head
Fra her lily breast bane,
And he hung ‘t up in the kitchen,
It made a’ the ha’ shine.
90 The lord sat in England A-drinking the wine:
“I wish a’ may be weel
Wi’ my lady at hame;
For the rings o’ my fingers
95 They’re now burst in twain!”
He saddled his horse,
And he came riding doun;
But as soon as he viewed,
Belinkin was in.
100 He hadna weel stepped
Twa steps up the stair,
Till he saw his pretty young son
Lying dead on the floor.
He hadna weel stepped
105 Other twa up the stair,
Till he saw his pretty lady
Lying dead in despair.
He hanged Belinkin
Out over the gate;
110 And he burnt the fause nurice,
Being under the grate.

Tores. The projections or knobs at the corners of old-fashioned cradles, and the ornamented balls commonly found surmounting the backs of old chairs. Motherwell.


 

 Sites of interest:

 

Marsden, John: Tomorrow, When the War Began (Tomorrow I) (1993)

tomorrow_when_the_war_began_poster

The Tomorrow series consists of seven books that should be read in order. The first book of the series is Tomorrow, When the War Began.

In the series we meet a group of young people who have gone camping to celebrate their last summer together. They are:

  • Ellie Linton: Our narrator. Ellie was born and raised on a cattle and sheep farm not far from the edge of the country town of Wirrawee.
  • Corrie Mackenzie: Ellie’s best friend.
  • Homer Yannos: Ellie’s neighbour and close friend.
  • Fiona Maxwell: Fi is more brains than brawn.
  • Lee Takkam: Lee is also more brains than brawn.
  • Robyn Mathers: The pacifist of the group.
  • Kevin Holmes: Corrie’s boyfriend.
  • Chris Lang: An introverted, but well liked boy.

All eight of them are regular teenagers getting ready to enter the world of adults. They are all filled with constructive and less constructive qualities and I can see why so many would identify with them. At the beginning of Tomorrow, When the War Began the gang feel so young to an old person like myself, but that does not last. They certainly retain their youthful optimism but gain some of our adult cynicism. I think another thing that might appeal to readers is John Marsden’s willingness to address difficult topics. One of these is death. Unfortunately death is one of the consequences of resistance in war and so it will be for this gang. And, finally, There is plenty of romance and action, both kept well within the young adult literature boundaries. The writing certainly kept me going and Marsden raised some interesting questions along the way.

In Tomorrow, When the War Began a group of friends (in their last year before college) go camping together. They’re all exited and have a wonderful week together. On their way back they find their homes empty of people and their animals suffering from neglect. It turns out all of their families have been collected at the showground by a foreign power trying to take Australia over. The teens have to decide whether to fight or surrender.


  • ISBN: 9781742612683
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Published: 2012-12-01
  • Subject: Children’s: General Fiction
  • Imprint: Pan Australia
  • Pages: 304 page/s

  • Winner, Australian Multicultural Children’s Book Award 1994
  • Winner, Fanfare Horn Book Best Book 1996
  • Winner, Children’s Yearly Best-Ever Reads (CYBER) Best Book for Older Readers 2000, 2001, 2002
  • Winner, KOALA (Kids Own Australian Literature Awards) 1995
  • Winner, YABBA (Young Australian Best Book Award) 1995
  • Winner, WAYRBA (West Australian Young Readers’ Books Award) 1995
  • Winner, BILBY Awards (Books I Love Best Yearly) 1998
  • Winner, New South Wales Talking Book Award
  • Nominated, South Carolina Book Award 1998

2010: Film-adaptation released based on Tomorrow, When the War Began. Australian adventure movie written and directed by Stuart Beattie.

 

Marion, Isaac: Warm Bodies (2011)

Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies is Isaac Marion‘s first novel. He has an interesting take on zombieism. According to the world of Warm Bodies, zombieism is not necessarily a permanent state. Just because something is, doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to remain so. But change will bring resistance from the more conservative (both living and zombies).

The main problem with this novel is that it’s message is too obvious at times – in fact spelled out. I felt as though I was being preached at. This is a first novel, though, and as such – pretty good.

I liked the way “R”‘s, the main protagonist, journey was presented. The road from moan and groan to being able to make himself understood on many levels was interesting. It gets kind of gory at times but probably not more than most teen-literature today.

There’s plenty of humor. I especially appreciated the way the schools for the living and the schools for the dead were.


Reviews:


Film-adaptation acquired 2010 by Summit Entertainment to be released 2013