Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Geeks and the Holy Grail; The Missing Prince

Happy election day. Not that we'll know anything for weeks, but maybe the election won't be the top story on the BBC World Service when I listen to it on my walk in to school every single day. Just for fun, here's a picture of Bess and Harry Truman. Truman was a friend of my great uncle James R. Wade, and they went fishing together. 

Since schools are still used for polling places, we have virtual professional development all day. I struggle with virtual events. When I go to in person events, I usually write letters or make lists WHILE paying attention, and attending virtual events makes me feel like I have to sit very still and stare at my computer screen the whole time, which makes me want to scream and run out of the room.   A friend texted me during one meeting, "It's okay if you blink." Earlier, I would have Sylvie sitting on my lap for meetings, so that's sad, too.

This week seems especially pointless for some reason. Thanksgiving is coming up soon, but I doubt I will see the girls for the holidays; I'll just be cooking and taking packaged meals to my father and several friends. All the work, none of the fun. That pretty much sums up 2020. 

Mancusi, Mari. Geeks and the Holy Grail (The Camelot Code #2)
October 1st 2019 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

After their adventures in The Once and Future Geek, Sophie and Stu have settled back into their lives, just waiting to get a text of a Camelot Code so they can travel back and help out Merlin. Sophie wants to escape because of the impending wedding of her father and Ashley's mother, and Stu has news about his mother's job that he is reluctant to share with Sophie. A code finally comes in-- when Sophie and Ashley are in the  middle of trying on the ugliest orange bridesmaids dresses in history, planning to make glittered avocados for centerpieces for the reception. Sophie tries to travel back, but accidentally takes Ashley with her and only gets as far as Stu's house. The three make some preparations (Ashley demands to go as well) and travel back to Merlin's house. There, they meet Emrys, a very new apprentice, and Nimue, who has just escaped Morgana's soldiers... with the Holy Grail. This is important, because Arthur has been gravely ill and needs the grail. The problem for which they summoned the Companions? Emrys has accidentally turned the Grail into a baby dragon! While this has saved it from falling into the wrong hands, it's clearly not helpful. Merlin is on spring break in Las Vegas, and Stu and Sophie head back to our time to try to find him at a Taylor Swift concert. Since Ashley is a Swift fan and used to live near Las Vegas, she goes with them, which is helpful, especially since they can't use their magic to get there and end up flying (using a Companions credit card to pay for the flight!). It's tough to find the real Merlin in Vegas, but they manage, and after some adventures are back on a quest in Merlin's world. They need to travel to the land of the Faeries to get an ingredient for a spell, which Emrys and Nimue stay behind with the dragon. Will the Companions be able to save Merlin, King Arthur, and the world from Morgana... and still make it back in time for the wedding?
Strengths: This is much more solidly middle grade than the first book, and a much better title in its pacing and general theme. I loved the interplay between Ashley and Sophie, and how they come to an agreement, which does NOT involve glitter! Stu's side story about the secret he is keeping from Sophie is also realistic and adds a layer of complexity without muddling the quest. The highlight of the book is, of course, Merlin's use of technology and his embracing of WiFi, iPads, and Taylor Swift. 
Weaknesses: After a decently arduous quest, curing Arthur relies on something entirely different. This felt a bit deus ex machina, but most tween readers will be fine with it. 
What I really think:  Definitely an adventure packed novel with good twists on the traditional Merlin/Camelot stories with the addition of lots of video game references. I will buy this to replace some older fantasy books that are similar but falling to pieces.

Flanagan, John. The Missing Prince (Royal Ranger #4) 
November 3rd 2020 by Philomel Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

When King Duncan is approached by King Philippe of Gallica to help him rescue his son from the clutches of Baron Lassigney, Duncan hates to treat the Rangers as mercenaries, but knows that it is better for Philippe to remain in power and for Gallica to be at peace. He arranges to send Will and Maddie to perform the extrication. Upon consideration, the two disguise themselves as jongleurs. Will's singing is good enough, but Maddie must improve her juggling and add some showmanship to her impressive knife throwing skills. When the act, costumes, and wagon are completed, the two take off for Gallica. Of course, after their first stop they need to rid the countryside of some villians who felt a need to rob the inn they were at, but their performance is well received. Aside from some difficult weather, they make it to Philippe's castle with few problems. They are accepted to perform with no problems, which gives them some credibility when Philippe doubts that they can retrieve his son. After getting more information, the two take off for Chateau des Falaises to get Giles. Will they be able to keep their cover and retrieve the prince? Sadly, we don't know because the book ends on a HUGE cliff hanger!
Strengths: This was my absolute favorite of all of Flanagan's books. It started out strong, with taking down a band of thieves, then spent a lot of time at Duncan's castle while training, rambled about the countryside entertaining and drinking coffee with honey, took down some more bandits, and then had the final showdown. Will and Maddie are both great characters, and it was fun to hang out with them when there wasn't a huge battle going on. I'm pretty sure I caught a glimpse of Halt, and the next book will certainly have a lot of fighting, since this one didn't. This is the sort of book that once I read, I have to wait a bit before moving out of the world of Araluen and Gallica.
Weaknesses: Still no romance for Maddie. I'm still hoping for a young Ranger for her. Perhaps she can save one from certain death in the battle in the next book. I also would have liked to see more of Cassandra. 
What I really think: For some bizarre reason, this made me want to pick up Jone's Cart and Cwidder, of the Dalemark Quartet. I haven't read it for years, and it hasn't circulated all that well, but I have fond memories of it. May have to read it again. 

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