A Fantasy Book Review
Genre: Fantasy, Coming of Age, Monsters, YA
Reading level: Ages 12+
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (May 1, 2008)
Hardcover: 476 pages
Read an Excerpt
Orphan Rossamünd Bookchild has been sworn into the Emperor’s service—his duty is to light the lamps along the Emperor’s highways and protect travelers from the ferocious bogles that live in the wild. But he’s found it no easier to fit in with the lamplighters than he did with the foundlings—always too small and too meek—and his loneliness continues no matter how hard he tries to succeed.
But when a haughty young girl, a member of a suspiciously regarded society of all-women teratologists— monster hunters—is forced upon the lamplighters for training, Rossamünd is no longer the most despised soul around. As Rossamünd begins to make new friends in the dangerous world of the Half-Continent, he also seems to make more enemies, finding himself pushed toward a destiny that he could never have imagined.
When I first received this book from Putnam (thanks guys), I stared at it in stunned disbelief. The book was HUGE! I mean seriously, what 12 year old is going to look at a book this size and feel brave enough to take it on. I am an adult and I was pretty intimidated by it.
(*Note* I know it says 476 pages for the hardcover at Amazon but the paperback in the UK, which just came out this month, says 736 pages.)
Then I started reading, and reading, and reading, and suddenly...I was done. And, it really had not felt like I had just blown through a 700-page book.
There are several reasons for this phenomenon. For one, it had not been that long since I had read and loved Foundling, so I was able to easily slip back into D. M. Cornish's vivid world. Secondly, the viewpoint is all Rossamünd, no jumps in PoV at all. This makes it much easier to follow along with events as they unfold. Thirdly, the pace is nice and even, with a good mix of both external and internal conflict to keep the story moving right along. The result was a 700+-page book that immersed me so deeply in the story that I could have kept on happily reading even if it had been 1000 pages long.
So we have a vivid world, even pacing, single PoV, what else was great about this book? Well, to add to the aforementioned attributes there are interesting and likable characters, thought provoking situations and a blurred line between good and evil. I like blurred lines. Those are the ones where you question right and wrong, good and bad, intent verses deed. One thing that struck me after reading this book - which centers on a fight between humans and monsters - was the fact that it is so unclear who the real monsters are. I mean the "humans" surgically and chemically alter themselves in order to fight the "monsters" in essence becoming the very thing they are fighting. Atleast in appearance if not in deed. You have the "monsters" who in some cases (not all) show more kindness, honor and compassion then the "humans.” Then we have Rossamünd who has one foot planted firmly on each side of the fence, unable to completely shake off the prejudices of a lifetime of training that teaches that all "monsters" were evil and must be killed. There are some nicely incorporated lessons here regarding prejudice, narrow-mindedness, and misconception if one notices them. And if not, well there is still pure entertainment with plenty of action, adventure, mystery and possibly a budding romance, when Rossamünd matures enough to recognize that fact.
There is plenty to love about this book and the series so far. Aside from all of the wonderful qualities I have already listed there are great illustrations, done by D.M. Cornish, sprinkled throughout the book and an extensive glossary (110 pages) in the back in case you lose track of all the unusual terminology. There are also some things that concern me given the recommended reading age of 12+. Some readers (by no means all) are going to be put off by the extensive world building. Most of the words and terms are explained as they are used, and if not, well you can look them up. However, needing to look them up ruins the flow of the story and may, I fear, cause some readers to lose interest if they find themselves having to frequently flip to the back. There is also a certain amount of predictability but in this case, that may be a benefit to a YA reader, especially one who just wants to enjoy an adventure tale instead of spending time figuring out subtle plot points.
This is a YA targeted book so content is not an issue. Some violence, some cruelty, but nothing over the top. This is a true trilogy however. These books are not, nor were they intended to be, standalones. Each book feeds right into the next and this installment reads just like the middle of a story. There is alot going on but it picks up right where book one leaves off and does not appear to have a set goal to achieve before it suddenly ends. We will have to wait until May of 2010 to get a satisfactory conclusion to this tale. A long wait I know but if the first two books are any indication, one well worth waiting for.
Reservations aside, I loved this book as much as I loved Foundling. Rossamünd continues to mature as he tries to come to terms with the fact that the things he has been taught do not exactly match the things he sees for himself. I enjoyed watching his struggles with the concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, and the things one is forced to do in the name of duty and honor, all while just trying to fit in. Great story and I look forward to seeing where D. M. Cornish takes it.
Shelfari Rating 4+/5
Librarything Rating 4.03/5
Amazon Rating 4+ out of 5 stars<
(18 Customer Reviews)
What Should I Read Next?
Audio Download: Audible.com
Buy Book: B&N - Powells - Abe Books
Amazon: US Canada UK
Book Browse - Book Club
Bookspotcentral - SF Site - SF Reader
Author's Web Presence
Website, Myspace, Blogger