Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mythology and Super Heroes

Barron, T.A. Atlantis in Peril (Atlantis Saga #2)
May 5th 2015 by Philomel Books
Copy received from Goodman Media International

After Narkazan's defeat in Atlantis Rising, the immortal warlord is back because the Veil of Peace is shredding. Sammelvar and Escholia are worried about their son, Promi, whom they sent to Earth to keep him safe. He's still irritate about that, but cares deeply about his sister, Jalady. He also cares deeply about Atlanta, who is keeping the Starstone, the weapon that defeated Narkazan, safe on Atlantis. When Jalady is kidnapped by Narkazan's mistwraiths, Promi goes into the spirit world to find her, and has many problems. He is captured by his old nemesis Grukkar but saved yet again by by the monk Bonlo, who helps him escape. The two manage to do away with Grukkar, but Bonlo doesn't survive. Meanwhile, in Atlantis, five years have passed. Because Promi had inadvertently rescued a ship captained by Reocoles, he and his crew settled in Atlantis, and the machinist made many "improvements" to the infrastructure there. Shagri, Lekko (one of Reocoles sailors who ends up living at the bakery) and her father, the baker, hold firm against the improvements in technology and are not afraid to speak out when they realize the extent of the devastation to the forest. Shagri is kidnapped by Reocoles after she tries to thwart him, as is Atlanta. After his set to with Grukkar, Promi has been  rescued by Ulanoma and fights the mistwraiths. He is successful, but Narkazan's dark gift is delivered to the forest of Atlantis, and it will not be long until there is even more evil to fight.

Barron is a master craftsman of fantasy worlds. Not only are there convincing forces of evil and a variety of nefarious creatures who must be fought, there are also sentient tree houses, plenty of tea with honey, and bowers fragrant with lush flowers. It is interesting to see how the "improvements" in Atlantis make the inhabitants happy, but are definitely leading to its downfall. There are rich details about mythical creatures, such as Kermi, a talking monkey-like creature, and Theosor, a wind lion who is very helpful and gives Promi much comfort, as well.

Promi is understandably angry at his parents, who removed him from the spirit world in order to maintain his safety on account of a prophecy. He comes to realize that he has many jobs to do on earth to keep Atlantis and those he loves safe, and grudgingly comes to terms with them. Shagri is a feisty character who is fully grounded in the mortal realm and whose father makes a mean cinnamon bun. I imagine that Lekko, who is rescued from Reocoles Greek ship, will play a more major role in the next two books.

What I appreciated most was how organized the plot was, and how efficiently the first book was recapped. I often struggle with remembering what happened in previous books in fantasy series, but I was able to get into this right away, and follow what was going on even though the adventure went back and forth between the spirit world and Atlantis. Not many fantasy books are this clear and concise!

Readers who enjoy high fantasy books in the manner or Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, Tamora Piece, and Ursula LeGuin but who also want to explore the fascinating story of Atlantis, will enjoy Promi's adventures as he struggles against both Narkazan and technology to save the mystical island of Atlantis.

I was really surprised at how easy this was to process, and how much I enjoyed it, That said, it didn't feel convincingly Greek at all, which was a disappoinment, AND I was thrown into a crisis when I looked at Barron's web site and realized that there were 12 books in his Lost Years of Merlin series, and I'm missing about half... out of the middle. Noooooo! Since there is a movie in the works, I'd better get on that!

23309689Venditti, Robert and Higgins, Dusty. Attack of the Alien Hordes (Miles Taylor and the Golden Cape #1)
June 16th 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Miles is having a hard time fitting in to his new school in Atlanta. His mother has run off with another man to Florida, and his father has to move them to a cheaper apartment because his job as an electrician doesn't pay very much. When Miles is at oneof his father's work sites, aliens attack the town. Gilded, a much vaunted super hero, shows up to save the day, but ends up dying at the scene. He turns into an old man, and gives Miles his golden cape. Miles is thrilled to be a super hero but doesn't quite understand how it all works. Luckily, he meets geeky Henry, who loves comic books and has wealthy parents to provide him with lots of gadgets. The two figure out how to get Gilded to all of the places he needs to be, even if it means leaving school suddenly! The aliens are still on the move, and they are quite a disgusting bunch, from what we read of them in chapters sprinkled in between Miles' real life and the comic strips portraying his experiences as Gilded. When they finally attack, Miles tries hard to save the day, but has back up from an unlikely source.
Strengths: Got a little bit of everything in this. Superheroes, economic diversity, racial diversity, romantic interest. I liked that Miles became a super hero but didn't know what to do. The learning curve was the best part of this. (E.G. Don't douse a fire by ripping out water tower, because then the town doesn't have any water.) Will definitely buy.
Weaknesses: Goofy names, and the aliens were just over-the-top strange. Deus ex machina ending didn't help me, either, but my readers won't care.
What I really think: The pages of the E ARC turned SOOOOOO slowly that I got rather frustrated with this. Superhero books still appeal to a large segment of my population, and the inclusion of the comic strips will be perfect for my students. I'm just not a fan of pictures, and was very frustrated while reading this!


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