Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Minecraft Legends: Return of the Piglins

Disclaimer: I have never played Minecraft, and even though I've had countless conversations with students about the game, I still don't understand it. My readers love these books; I have them all shelved under "F MIN" even though there are a number of authors who write these. 

Somehow, I have missed Forbeck's The Rise of the Arch-Illager, book six in the series, but it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the RETURN of the Piglins. This is a stand alone. 

Forbeck, Matt. Minecraft Legends: Return of the Piglins (#15)
March 7, 2023, Random House Worlds
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Farnum lives in the Overworld, and his job is to run a zoo, which he doesn't feel he does well. After a horrifying incident when he was trapped underground during an adventure gone wrong, he has been afraid to travel, so his animals are very quotidian, although he takes good care of them. His friends, adventurerers Grinchard and Mycra, understand a bit, but also try to encourage him to expand his horizons. He does manage to bring home a few animals, like a leucistic axolotl and a heat loving strider. There is even a hoglin, but it dies and becomes zombified (a zoglin). During a small trek, Farnum runs into a Piglin when both are in the Nether. The Piglin is Kritten, who has run into trouble with the leader to the clan, Bungus, and a subordinate, Uggub. Piglins all use they/them pronouns, as does Grinchard. Kritten is smaller and smarter than most Piglins, who honor brutality more than wisdom. Kritten is exiled, and eventually goes with Farnum to the Overworld. Piglins are allergic to this environment, but because of a healing potion that Farnum gave Kritten earlier, they are able to withstand the environment. Kritten goes back to Bungus and tries to convince the leader to trust a potion to keep the Piglins well while they take over the Overworld and loot it for its gold. Because Farnum has put in obsidian portals in the zoo so he can collect more exotic animals, the Piglins are able to attack. They do this viciously, although Kritten tries to make sure that Farnum stays safe. The two are able to communicate by drawing pictures. When Farnum realizes the horror he has unleashed, he comes up with a plan to ruin the portals, which will mean trapping the Piglins in the Overworld, where they will all die. Eventually, they decide to try to lead the Piglins to another obsidian portal and hope that they stay in their world. This works fairly well, even though an injured Piglin, Fungus, is unable to make the journey. Fungus manages to put themself in a cage, and becomes the hit new sensation of Farnum's zoo as a zombie Piglin. (A ziglin?)
Strengths: There is an attempt at a message in this one when Farnum is encouraged by his friends to expand his world and overcome his trauma. Warrior Cat fans will love all of the fighting and intrigue. The Piglins are completely evil, as far as I could tell, so I felt like maybe there was some message about working with one's enemy,  but that didn't happen. It was interesting, though. Farnum and Kritten's communication reminded me a bit of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Shaka, When the Walls Fell. (N.B. This is the only episode of that series I ever watched!) There are lots and lots of Minecraft details that make this a bit like watching someone play a game. Farnum even unpacks a bag Grinchard has prepared from him, and there's a list of everything he has (How are a bed and a crafting table able to fit in the bag. Don't tell me. I don't need to know.), and at one point a diamond pickaxe because important to the plot in ways I didn't understand. Kritten then uses it to establish his power over his Piglin clan, so if you can earn/make/find a diamond pickaxe, I guess that's a good thing! This moved along quickly, and had a discernable plot as well as identifiable characters. Readers who understand Minecraft will love this. 
Weaknesses: The names in Minecraft often confuse me; I didn't remember Fungus from earlier until he was suddenly hitting Farnum over the head and wrestling with him in lava. I probably thought it was a typo for Bungus. Also, with so many characters using they/them pronouns, it would have been helpful to have that included in their introductions. When Piglins and Grinchard were both involved in the action, it got confusing when all the individuals and groups used "they".
What I really think: We don't always get to read what we want to, and this is a good lesson for students. If I can read and (mostly) understand a Minecraft or football book, or make my way through another Warriors tome, they can muddle through Joey Pigza Loses Control or Born a Crime, even though THEY would rather be reading a Minecraft or football book! I'm a firm believer in modeling behavior. 

Now, I'm off to read a book for a 6th grade language arts project where I will learn to fill out a plot diagram, which I do not remember ever having to do in middle school. It also makes me wonder why this is something we teach children in 2023. Remember, I taught Latin, so I'm not one to talk, but I always figured that learning Latin just kept their brains from getting rusty until they needed to learn things they would need for adult jobs. 

Ms. Yingling

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