Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Castle Redstone

Chadda, Sarwat. Minecraft: Castle Redstone (Minecraft #13?)
May 31, 2022 by Del Rey Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
Rajah's father was a great explorer, the kind about whom songs are sung and stories written, so he wants to head out on an adventure. His support staff includes Pal and Faith, who  join him in his quest to leave the comfort of the Manor. To have a purpose for their mission, they consult the Mapmaker, who encourages them to pursue a trip to Castle Redstone that will result in great fortune and legendary status. They consider this, and in the meantime Raj fights Sir Tyrus over a slight to Raj's father, but his famous sword, Heartbreaker, is atomized into diamond dust for reasons that are unclear. Nevertheless, this motivates him to buy tools and the map from the Mapmaker and take off. They are first sucked into the Nether to obtain some netherite, and once again run into Sir Tyrus but decide to join forces. Pal and Faith are a little unsure about the journey, but they persist despite being attacked by fish on the way to the island where the castle is, having to go through a swamp, and defending themselves against a wolf pack. Raj has some existential angst about his compulsion to find fame, and the group gets lost and has to battle witches as well as a tremendous storm. They meet a friend of Raj's father, Harry, who says that the journey to Castle Redstone is horrible and they shouldn't go. Despite this, the group battles on after being attacked by zombies, black roses that make people sleep, and the Wither. Once they get to Castle Redstone, will they find the treasure that they seek? Will there be other adventures for the group, or is Castle Redstone itself the treasure that they hope to find. N.B. I have never played Minecraft. 
Strengths: Chadda's The City of the Plague God is probably  my favorite of the Rick Riordan Presents books, and his Ash Mistry (2012) series has circulated well with my students. He certainly brings a vast talent for fantasy writing and descriptions of battles to this book, and I appreciated how he even tried to work in Rajah's existential crisis. The journey is a bit different from most fantasy ones, which is great to see (how many more times do we have to travel under the mountains, or spend chapters and chapters going over them?), and I rather liked the ending, although I don't want to spoin it. There are certainly lots of good Minecraft details, and like many of the titles in the series, this feels a bit like the writer was taking notes while watching or playing the game, but I appreciated that there was a little bit more to the story. Minecraft players will certainly like this, but it also might appeal to fantasty fans who aren't as familiar with the game. 
Weaknesses: Why was Pal making a table at the inn? What's the deal with Sir Tyrus? Why are there pigs in armor in the Nether? Admittedly, I read very quickly and don't spend a lot of time analyzing details, because my goal is to be somewhat familiar with all the middle grade books ever. I occasionally found myself thinking "Wait. What?" but was unwilling to go back and try to figure out why fish were attacking people. This is where it would probably be helpful to be familiar with the game before reading the books. 
What I really think:  Another solid addition to the Minecraft series, and I'm glad that there are a wide variety of authors writing these. I will definitely pitch this author's books to children who read Castle Redstone. 

Ms. Yingling

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