Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Beast and Crown

Ross, Joel. Beast and Crown
August 22nd 2017 by HarperCollins
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Jiyong is a boot boy in the Primstone Manor, where he is friends with Sally, a maid, as well as the governess Roz. When the nephew of the owner of Primstone is chosen to go to the city to participate in the Diadem Rite, he is hopeful that he will be chosen as the heir to the throne. Sally and Ji are glad to accompany him to the city because they hope to buy Sally's brother Chibo from the tapestry factory where her has been working. Brace's uncle doesn't want to take him to the city because of a lotus flower blooming in the tombs under the manor, so Ji and his friends help him sneak in and destroy the flower. This works a little-- Brace will now go to the city, but the children don't have a chance to retrieve the loot they were going to use to buy Chibo. With ogres attacking the city, the Summer Queen is anxious to chose an heir and attend to this impending problem . Unbeknownst to Ji, when he and his friends help Brace in the Diadem Rite, they are not expected to survive. Through an odd set of circumstances, they do, but they are all greatly changed. Will they be able, in their altered forms, to save the kingdom, and can they ever trust Brace or the queen again?

Ross moves from the Steampunk Dystopian world of The Fog Diver to a more traditional fantasy with scullery maids, cloaks, goblins, trolls and ogres. He does introduce a few elements to the world of the Summer Queen with jade, lotuses and dragons, but also haciendas and tortillas. The quest itself hearkens back to The Sword in the Stone, since Brace needs to be the one to retrieve the diadem from a magical tree that tries to thwart him. The beginning of the book, which talks about Ji's job as a boot cleaner, reminded me of Alexander's The Book of Three and and Taran's position as a lowly pig keeper.

While Ji is certainly the driving force in the group, the supporting characters are distinctive as well. Sally is fairly single minded in her desire to retrieve her brother, and she takes to the adventure well. Roz, as a governess, has a large vocabulary and frequently confuses the others with her language. The queen, as well as most of the adults in charge, have a veneer of kindness built upon a hard rock maple base of evil. Brace is a bit of an enigma for most of the book; will he turn up on the side of evil or good by the end?

The plot is easy to follow (which is always important to me, since I frequently find fantasy books confusing) and moves along quickly with the help of quirky goblins, ogre attacks, and frequent flights from the forces of evil. Readers who are looking for a good dose of traditional fantasy that is delivered by series such as McMann's The Unwanteds, Sutherland's Wings of Fire or Owen's
The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica will find that the imaginative twists in Beast and Crown can keep them occupied while they are waiting for the next book in one of these favorites.

That said, I didn't like the use of both Asian inspired elements mixed with phrases like "Holy guacamole" and a passing reference to tortillas when there was the overwhelming feeling of British manor houses with the scullery maids and boot boys. Felt a bit disjointed to me. Finding Chibo was pretty lucky, but I wasn't convinced that Brace was a character that I would want Ji, Sally and Roz to support.

Liss, David. Renegades (Randoms #3)
September 19th 2017 by Simon Schuster Books for Young
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Zeke and his cast of intergalactic friends are back. In order to escape, they go back to Earth and find themselves in a Phandic reeducation school, where they run into some old nemeses. Zeke and the other humans quickly break out of the school so that they can get their more exotic companions away from the Phands, steal a ship, and take off. Of course, nothing ever goes smoothly, and Alice is injured despite her nanotech upgrades, and the group is separated. Zeke ends up on a planet of NICE Phands who don't believe in the groupthink of the Phandic empire. There are problems galore, from nanotech breakdowns to families being taken hostage, but Zeke and his intrepid group embrace adventure and by the end of the book are open to even more.
Strengths: This is a great series for true aficionados of science fiction adventure. The books are long and packed with all sorts of creatures, technology, and action. They are also very humorous, both with the interactions the characters have with each other and in the turns of phrase. Just very fun books for serious readers who can process all of the details of this well-developed world.
Weaknesses: I can't follow these to save my soul. I keep trying to write notes, but then I get caught up in the humor and action, and it's fifty pages later and I can't remember what happened, just that I enjoyed reading the book. Not a problem for my students.
What I really think: These books won't circulate all that frequently, but they will make the right readers very happy!
   Ms. Yingling

No comments:

Post a Comment