I am trying to be better about reviewing middle grade books as my niece and nephew are getting to the age where they are voracious readers, and I want to be able to talk to them about their books. So here goes! “Keepers of the Flame” is the story of seven kids (all 13 years old) embarking on their birthright. This birthright states that all first born children are to become Keepers of the Flame: an order dedicated to protecting, serving, and bettering their communities by offering religious guidance. Over the decades, many people have gotten away from this birthright through taxes, or they join the order but aren’t true to their god—Jaoal. This has allowed something dark and vile to grow strong on the mountain where the young Keepers are trained, and by the time our main characters get there, the battle between good and evil is about to begin. There are so many important themes that are touched upon in this book that it’s definitely one of the ones I’ll be sharing with the young kids in my family!
This book was a wild ride where the action never stops. Each chapter, or two, in “Of Flesh and Fire” read like an episode of a supernatural college sitcom. Which makes sense as, I believe, that was how this was originally written—as episodic serials to be consumed like crack riddled popcorn. Like, seriously the action never stops from pretty much the moment we meet Nym. The girl is literally on fire when we meet her, and things spiral out of control from that moment on. Honestly, if you like binge-worthy, fast (both in pacing and length), occasionally sweet, stories with magic and vampires, you’ll probably enjoy this book. There are some new elements that I enjoyed, as they aren’t present in most supernatural books when it covers this kind of subject material, but there are other tropes that felt a little too unnecessary for the story. Also, while the book is incredibly fast and easy to knock out during a lazy vacation, there are so many interesting and, frankly, big things going on that I felt like “Of Flesh and Fire” was about 5 books crammed into one very short one.
I don’t really know where to begin with “The Adventures of Warren Steadmill”, which isn’t a bad thing, but rating a book that’s written as a type of parody to classic folktales is just hard! Rosenberg has a distinct style of witty and sarcastic writing that reminds me a great deal of the late Sir Terry Pratchett, even down to the occasional footnote. Everything is whimsical, and silly, and also vaguely serious with some rather dark undertones. But Warren’s tale is a simple one: one of a family growing closer, finding purpose in life, and growing up. Warren falls for a girl and to impress her, he gives up his life of unproductive luxury to become a table maker and win his fair lady’s adoration. But, of course, none of that really works out for him and Warren, poor, sweet, innocent and often dumb, Warren, is left to bumble through an adventure he barely understands that will eventually leave him a hero. Kind of?
“The Gorgon Bride” is a whimsical story about a whirlwind romance and trying to discover if that romance is the real deal, or just a passing fling. As someone who adores Greek Mythology, I was instantly intrigued by this book, and for the most part, the author does a nice job of touching upon a great number of myths and portrays the Greek gods well enough to where you don’t necessarily need to know all the stories for the various people who make cameo’s in the book, but it certainly does help. The reader follows Alex, though, a modern day man who finds himself suddenly dead, the Greek gods are suddenly back from their centuries long hiatus, and that Athena has taken an interest in Alex in particular. Why Alex? That’s never really explained….
It’s not very often you stumble across an epic fantasy that undertakes changing so many “accepted” norms and turning them on their heads as “Imber” does. From the get-go this entire story is in first person, and just in the main character’s POV! That so rarely happens in fantasy that from the onset I found myself grinning. It may seem small, but it’s something Hackett does very well and is so different from the other fantasy books I read that I wanted to mention it up front. But anyway, “Imber” is a story of a young woman who steps into the role of queen under less than favorable circumstances: many of her citizens feel she is too young to rule. Despite that, Nat is determined to be the ruler they deserve, filling her beloved mother and father’s shoes. Her Council demands she prove that she’s ready to be queen, leaving Nat to fill her days with copious amounts of studying, and that’s on top of her learning how to wield a sword and fire a bow. None of these things come easily to her, but she tries nonetheless. But when rumblings that old rumors about ancient enemies might be more than just campfire stories begin resurfacing, swiftly followed by tragedy, Nat acts without hesitation. It may be an extremely impulsive decision, but never let it be said that Nat sends others to do jobs she wouldn’t herself do.
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