Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Hwacha of Darkness

This is cheating. The Hwacha of Darkness is the work of my son, age 13, over the period of several months. It was typed on small sheets of paper using a Smith-Corona typewriter. This story of the dire consequences of global warming and the efforts of the survivors of a cataclysmic melting of the ice caps to try to avert more devastation could use more character development, smoother writing, and a more focused plot line.

But how can you not love a book with the first line "The cruise had been uneventful before the polar bears attacked." My son, while inexpert, has firmly grasped the elements that make a good young adult novel.

I was surprised that my son, who has had very limited experience with violent television, books, and computer games, had so many explosions, fights, attacks by polar bears, mice, evil angels, and the Hwacha of Darkness, a superhuman figure whose weapon of choice was a 15th century Korean cart filled with flaming arrows. When asked why this was, he replied that he didn't want to write a book that would bore him to read. Enough said. Aspiring authors take note: apparently, it is not enough to start the book with an explosions; they need to continue. Also, it doesn't hurt to read a lot of young adult fiction; while surprisingly nonimitative, my son borrowed many successful and appealing themes and plot devices from books he has read.

There was a purpose to all of the mayhem, and the characters didn't take themselves too seriously, which moved the plot along quickly and effectively. The ending is bittersweet-- the Earth is saved, but only because Ricardo ( a matador by profession!) sacrifices himself. It's possible to work in a message if you have enough sword power.

My son and I differ wildly in political matters, but I felt like a success when I read his dedication: "To those on both sides of the global warming issue who have made their case well." If only adults could understand and accept divergent opinions as well.


  1. He sounds like a wonderful reader and a great kid. I love that first sentence! Now there's a hook. :-)

  2. hurrah for your son! it sounds like his first efforts, if not truly successful, are full of promise. his book sounds like it is more solid and shows a better understanding of literary devices that paolini's.

  3. I read this as well. I liked it but sometimes I don't like to much action.