Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Finders Keepers/ The Wizard's Dog

I walk to work in all sorts of weather, but today caught me by surprise. Torrential rain is not usual for February in Ohio. I was expecting the higher temps, so had a lighter coat out. Put a raincoat OVER that, and did find my boots and an umbrella, but didn't think through the skirt in the rain... so it's completely soaked and drying out in the library workroom. 

With my socks. Luckily, I have emergency running pants and a hoodie left over from cross country season, as well as a pair of tennis shoes. It's okay to teach like that, right?

I'll just hide whenever possible. Might be hard, since I have 11 classes. At least it's not yesterday-- I managed to be dressed professionally for my evaluation! I need to keep an actual emergency outfit at school. On the plus side, this is the first time in 15 years that I've really gotten this wet!

Galvin, Michael M.B and Speakman, Peter. Finders Keepers (Rebels of the Lamp #2)
February 7th 2017 by Disney Hyperion
Copy provided by the publisher

After the adventure of Rebels of the Lamp, Theo and Parker are back in New Hampshire, hanging out at school and going on adventures with Fon-Rahm under the guise of the Historical Math Club at school. When a new girl, Naomi, shows up, they want to tell her to go away, but come to the conclusion that she could be helpful. They are dealing with not only Vesiroth, but also a new mission. Dr. Ellison informs them that there is something called the Elicuum Helm that, if found and assembled, would give Vesiroth untold powers. Instead, with the help of Reese and Naomi, the boys must find the pieces themselves. This involves a lot of help from Fon-Rahm as well as some traveling. It doesn't help that Parker's father has come to live with him, since he has been given early probation. Being a newly involved parent means that J.T. is watching Parker very closely, and his actions are certainly suspicious. When all of the pieces of the helm are assembled, there has to be a battle with Duncan and Vesiroth; not every one will survive.
Strengths: This preserved what I liked from the first book (the growing relationship with the cousins, the excitement of having a jinn at one's disposal, the action and adventure), pared down extraneous plot devices (for most of the book, the parents don't intervene, the mission is very clear cut), and generally tightened up both the characters and the plot. Naomi was a great new addition, who adds some surprises to the ending. Fon-Rahm continues to grow and learn in amusing ways, and deals with his problems in a brave and constructive fashion. I particularly liked Dr. Ellison's turn-- of COURSE she is willing to sacrifice teenagers in order to save the world. She's been around long enough to know that teenagers are disposable. That was a great, realistic touch. 
Weaknesses: Parker's character development was still a bit lacking. We do see some interesting interaction with his father, but there's so much action that it's hard to explore his relationship with his cousin or his own feelings about living in New Hampshire. 
What I really think: It's rare that a second book is better than the first, but this one definitely was. The chapters from Vesiroth's point of view are gone, and we can concentrate on saving the world. 

23197845Gale, Eric Kahn. The Wizard's Dog.
January 17th 2017 by Crown BFYR
Copy provided by the publisher

Nosewise was rescued by the Wizard Merlin and has become his loyal companion. The dog is sad because when Merlin and Morgana (whom he also rescued) do training and experiments, he is kept out of the room by an evil closed door. Morgana is a sweet girl, and understand's Nosewise's desire to be with his pack, so she pretends to teach him magic. Her amulet (or Astaria) ends up giving Nosewise the ability to speak to her, and he tells her that he wants to learn magic, too. A mishaps calls Morgana's father, Lord Destrian, who attacks Merlin's protected cabin in the woods and abducts both Merlin and Morgana. Nosewise heads off to rescue the two, and makes friends with Arthur, who is working as a slave in the palace. Lord Destrian takes his captives to Avalon, and Nosewise and Arthur follow, although peril awaits them. Nosewise becomes an invaluable partner to young Arthur and is instrumental in helping to fulfill the destiny of his humans. 
Strengths: This won me over very quickly-- I'm not a fan of books told from animal's points of view, but Nosewise had a great voice, and his interactions with Morgana and Merlin were endearing. Of course he wanted to learn magic! I was convinced right away, and his desire to save Merlin rang very true as well. The plot was easy to follow, and the Merlin lore was worked in well. Had a good twist at the end. 
Weaknesses: Nosewise is much smarter than the cover (with him drooling) would lead one to believe!
What I really think: Even though this was not my cup of tea, the story was well-paced, the dog's point of view added freshness instead of being annoying, and I think that many of my readers (especially those who like Diana Wynne Jones or Lloyd Alexander) will enjoy this one. One of my hard core fantasy fans thought it was really good and funny. 

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