Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Timeslip Tuesday-- The Obsidian Blade, The Master of Misrule

Hautman, Pete. The Obsidian Blade. (The Klaatu Diskos #1)
10 April 2012, Candlewick Press

Tucker's father is a minister in a small, midwestern town, his mother is the organist for the church, and Tucker just likes hanging out and getting into trouble with his friends. All of this changes after Tucker's father goes up on the roof (to repair damage done by Tucker catapulting a wooden gnome up there), disappears, and shows up later with a young, odd-looking girl named Lahlia and announces that he no longer believes in god. After this, his mother starts to see ghosts and act oddly. Doctors tell the family that the mother is autistic and displays all of the classic signs of the spectrum disorder. She gets worse and worse, until one day Tucker awakes to a note from his father saying that he is taking the mother for treatment. Tucker won't be able to come, but will stay with his uncle Curtis/Kosh, a loner who lives several hours away. Kosh and Tucker both have an odd experience with a shimmering disk of air similar to one that Tucker saw near his father before he disappeared-- they are transported to one of the Twin Towers right before it is hit by an airplane on September 11. Kosh lifts Tucker up to a disk so he goes back to the farm and survives, and Tucker in turn sends a ladder back so Kosh can get out of there. Neither understand what is going on, but Tucker has bigger problems when he is sucked into a disk the second time. The disks are an invention by the Klaatu, incorporeal beings, and are a way to travel to different points in place and time. Various peoples populate their otherworld, including Mendicants, who heal Tucker but keep him for years working in a factory to pay them back, and other strange creatures, including a giant maggot.
Strengths: Very nice cover, and the scenes set in the midwest are oddly compelling. I'll file this one under magical realism rather than time travel, and I think my hard core fantasy fans will enjoy the trilogy.
Weaknesses: Huh. This was one weird book. Charlotte does a much better job at telling the good and bad parts of this book in her review at Charlotte's Library.  I was put in mind of this author's Mr. Was (1996), which I also had a hard time understanding. 

Powell, Laura. The Master of Misrule.
12 June 2012, Random House Children's Books
Also reviewed at Young Adult Books Central.

In this sequel to The Game of Triumphs, we see again the four main characters. Blaine hopes that his prize in the game will help him find his violent step father and make him pay. Cat wants to find her parents' killer and bring him to justice. Flora wants to find her sister Grace and convince her to leave the game. Toby doesn't have anything to win-- he just likes wielding the power within the game. The only problem is that when these young people let the Fool rise to the position of the Master of Misrule, they unleashed the evil power of the game, and it's seeping from Arcanum into the real world. Scratch cards for the "Triumph Lottery" with either heads or tails are being found all over London, and those who reveal "Heads, you win" have good luck, while those who reveal the devil's tale have woe befall them. All four want to retrieve their prize from Arcanum, but when they go to Temple House, they find it trashed. They meet the High Priest, who tells them the current state of the game-- they have ruined it with their meddling, and the only way to save both worlds is for the four to take the place of the disabled kings and queens who are the game masters. Fighting both against the game, as well as to attain their original goals, the four struggle against all of the traps and deceits that Arcanum has to offer.
Strengths: This is a brilliant, evocative two book series, perfect for students who like role playing games, or any kind of game. There is a lush, Victorian air to much of the book, and the palpable struggle against evil has the personal aspect to it to make it almost painful. The inclusion of tarot elements makes this an innovative and original fantasy. Very nice.
Weaknesses: While I'm sure that students who read this will want to read it several times and memorize how the game is played, I found the plot and the game portions especially really confusing. My fantasy amnesia makes me think that I am probably missing half of the allusions. This is not the fault of the book so much as it is my fault, but bear this thought in mind if you try to hand it to someone who doesn't like high fantasy.