Tag Archives: mythology

The Burning Maze Review

the_burning_mazeThe Burning Maze (The Trials of Apollo, Book 3) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2018. 978-1484746431

Synopsis: With the help of some demigod friends, Lester managed to survive his first two trials, one at Camp Half-Blood, and one in Indianapolis, where Meg received the Dark Prophecy. The words she uttered while seated on the Throne of Memory revealed that an evil triumvirate of Roman emperors plans to attack Camp Jupiter. While Leo flies ahead on Festus to warn the Roman camp, Lester and Meg must go through the Labyrinth to find the third emperor–and an Oracle who speaks in word puzzles–somewhere in the American Southwest. There is one glimmer of hope in the gloom-filled prophecy: The cloven guide alone the way does know. They will have a satyr companion, and Meg knows just who to call upon. . . . – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I’ve been coming around on this series and I’m a sucker for Riordan, apparently.

Why I finished it: As annoying as Apollo has been in the first two books of the series, he seems to have developed a little bit of a change of heart by the time the beginning of the third volume of his adventures begins. This time around as a mortal, he seems to be developing a truer sense of the notion of mortality and many of the deaths from his time at the waystation in Indianapolis are still weighing on him. He is still somewhat of the opinion that he can get heroes to do some of the work for him, but he has also warmed up to the idea of working with heroes and not having them work for him. Jason Grace and Piper McLean are back to give aid to Apollo, though it appears that their help will come at the cost of one of their lives. There is a rather poignant scene in which Jason and Apollo are talking and Jason encourages him to remember the true meaning of mortality when Apollo rejoins the Olympian ranks, to consider the fragility of human lives compared to his own Godly one. It’s a point that has yet to fully hit Apollo, I think, but he’s certainly seeming to grasp the notion more and more. Everyone’s favorite satyr from the Percy Jackson books reappears as the guide through the maze, and it appears that even Grover has become older and wiser as well. Meg also gets some more backstory as the reader finds out what happened to her biological father and how she came to end up in New York. The book is full of the usual puzzles, perils, and adventures, but there again is also the continuing subtle message about how important our lives are and the need to value life. Fans of the series will likely appreciate, as I do, that Riordan is continuing to flesh out his characters and grows them in a way that helps them learn important life lessons. Well, maybe…We will likely have to wait until the next book to find out if the lessons are going to stick.

Other related materials:The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo, Book 2) by Rick Riordan Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan; Demigods and Magicians: Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis, illustrated by Torstein Norstrand; Five Kingdoms series by Brandon Mull; The Blackwell Pages series by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh; The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh; Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger; Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson; The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann; Seven Realms novels by Cinda Williams Chima

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The Thief and the Sword Review

cleopatra_in_space_2The Thief and the Sword (Cleopatra in Space, Book 2) by Mike Maihack

Graphix, 2015. 978-0545528443

Synopsis: A mysterious thief has stolen the ancient sword Cleo recovered in Book One: Target Practice, and she’s determined to get it back. But her teachers at Yasiro Academy forbid her from risking her life, so she’s stuck at school, trying to adjust to her newfound popularity and responsibility. And when she learns more about the prophecy that names her the savior of the galaxy, she must go on a dangerous journey to find the time tablets that could decide her fate… before they fall into the wrong hands! – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I was eager to read more about Cleo’s adventures.

Why I finished it: Cleo has certainly turned into one of the popular kids at Yasiro Academy, which on the one hand is pretty cool, but on the other it means there’s more pressure for her to perform; being a show-off both is and isn’t Cleo’s thing. Plus, it seems like she’s sort of over this story about her being the one that will save the galaxy. Maihack is doing more character building in this volume, continuing to flesh out our heroine and her friends; plus, this is our first peek at Octavian, the evil dictator that Cleo will eventually have to battle. The reader gets a little bit more background about Cleo’s friend and roommate Akila. What I liked about Akila’s story is that not only is she trying to prove herself just like Cleo, but because she grew up with stories of the prophecy, she seems to be fully invested in helping her friend reach her full savior potential. Zaid still seems to be sort of a wild card and I have yet to figure out if he has a larger role to play; he and Cleo seem to have bonded on their outcast status so I have a feeling we will be seeing more of him. There is a mention of the fact that all archives and current data are either in the process of being converted or are in a paper format, which obviously contrasts from the rest of the highly technological tools that are used in the far future. This book takes us into the library for the first time and Cleo gets a glimpse at books that hold all of the recovered knowledge that was almost lost. I like to think that perhaps this is a reference to the debate of paper versus e-books and possibly Maihack’s belief that paper books will always have a place and a use. The colors in this volume continue to be fun and bright, even in the red palate Maihack uses to define Octavian’s lair. There’s a unique palate for each setting in the book that helps the reader be able to define the different parts of the academy and the galaxy. It’s another fast-paced adventure that will have you eager for more.

Other related materials: Target Practice (Cleopatra in Space, Book 1) by Mike Maihack; Secret of the Time Tablets (Cleopatra in Space, Book 3) by Mike Maihack; The Golden Lion (Cleopatra in Space, Book 4) by Mike Maihack; Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Phoebe and Her Unicorn books by Dana Simpson; Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson; Explorer books by Kazu Kibuishi; CatStronauts series by Drew Brockington

 

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The Nameless City Review

nameless_city_1

The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks, color by Jordie Bellaire

First Second, 2016. 978-1626721562

Synopsis: Kaidu is an outsider in the Nameless City. Though his people, the Dao, have ruled the city for the last 30 years, there is still tension and unease between themselves and the Named (the residents of the city). He meets Rat while out wandering the streets alone and though the two come from very different backgrounds, they grow to become friends.

Why I picked it up: This is another book that has been in my ‘To Be Read’ stack for a while.

Why I finished it: What really drew me into the story was the mythos that Hicks has incorporated into this world. It is an old world that was built up through a cycle of peace and conflicts that is the hallmark in most any genre. When we first meet Kaidu and Rat, their town is experiencing a definite tension in the wake of 30 years of harmony, not to mention the existing tension between the Named, the Dao, and the other nations that have previously occupied the city. The friendship between Kaidu and Rat is somewhat of an anomaly, but Kai seems to have convinced the young orphan that he also has a vested interest in the city and that he also cares what happens to its inhabitants. Kai’s character development focuses quite a bit on the notion that he is not like the rest of the Dao: he wants to forge his own path and find his own place in this new world after deciding to leave his homeland. Rat, on the other hand, is simultaneously fighting to stay alive and struggling with where her loyalties lie. She clearly isn’t a fan of the Dao (or perhaps any of the other previous non-Named inhabitants), but she finds herself beginning to trust Kai and relishes being able to teach him how to navigate the streets of the City. Hicks’s art has a feel reminiscent of the Avatar: The Last Airbender series. The use of choppy uneven outlines mixed with sharper, finer details and Bellaire’s bright colors make this a fun read that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Other related materials: The Stone Heart (The Nameless City, Book 2) by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Jordie Bellaire; The Divided Earth (The Nameless City, Book 3) by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Jordie Bellaire; Four Points series by Hope Larson, illustrations by Rebecca Mock; Avatar: The Last Airbender books by Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino, Gene Luen Yang, and Gurihiru; The Legend of Korra books by Michael Dante DiMartino, illustrations by Irene Koh; Delilah Dirk books by Tony Cliff; Five Worlds series by Mark Siegel and Alexis Seigel, illustrations by Xanthe Boruma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun; Mighty Jack series by Ben Hatke; One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack

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Rise of the Jumbies Review

MG-Baptiste-RiseoftheJumbiesRise of the Jumbies (The Jumbies #2) by Tracey Baptiste

Algonquin Young Readers, 2017. 978-1616206659

Synopsis: Even though Corrine has tried to get on with her life after banishing Severine, her neighbors are still distrustful of her because she is half Jumbie. So when Corrine is blamed when the village’s children begin to go missing, she decides to seek the help of the mysterious Mama D’Leau, who sends Corrine and her friends on a journey across the ocean that will change them forever.

Why I picked it up: I heard an interview with the author on NPR and my husband thought it was a perfect pick for my blog.

Why I finished it: Corrine doesn’t feel as strong and as brave as she was when the reader first meets her in The Jumbies because her world has been shaken, so it seems appropriate that the book begins with an earthquake. Corrine just wants people to trust her again, but the prejudices against Jumbies run deep in their village. Mama d’Leau seems to be Corrine’s chance at redemption, but the old Jumbie is crafty and seemingly unscrupulous: she offers to help Corrine and her friends if they will retrieve a stone that was lost to her. What the children see on their trek across the ocean is almost as eye opening as the realization that Corrine is half Jumbie. Baptiste’s broaching of the subject of slavery is a tough topic – something that was spoken about in the NPR interview – and it isn’t easy to present it to middle readers. Plus, it’s not exactly a topic that gets brought up in every day conversation. Yet, the way the story is constructed, Baptiste is able to show us the horrors of the slave trade without making things so ugly that it overshadows the rest of the plot, which is still full of the same magic and mythos as its predecessor. It’s a fantastic adventure that leaves room for even more Jumbies stories.

Other related materials: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste; Akata Witch by Nnedi Okafor; Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okafor; The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrations by Jon Klassen; Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley; Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder; Beyond The Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk; Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai; Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai; The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie; Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani; Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan; The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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The Jumbies Review

jumbies_1The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Algonquin Young Readers, 2015. 978-1616204143

Synopsis: Corrine La Mer isn’t afraid of anything – until the day she meets Severine. Severine is charismatic and beautiful, but she’s also part of an ancient race that occupied the island from before men came: the Jumbies. When Severine reveals that she plans to rid the island of all humans, Corrine and her friends must find a way to stop the Jumbie before she drastically changes everything they know.

Why I picked it up: I heard an interview with the author on NPR about her second book Rise of the Jumbies and my husband thought it and Jumbies were a perfect pick for my blog.

Why I finished it: Jumbies is a magical, supernatural tale that draws on the mythology of the Caribbean and features an array of creatures that are guaranteed to make one want to sleep with the lights on. Corrine, despite having heard some of the stories, doesn’t truly believe the Jumbies could be real until she meets Severine and she begins to work her way into Corrine’s life. She may not be afraid, but her ability to sense danger tells her that something is wrong. Her courage is truly tested as the story continues, giving the reader the sense that despite adversity, it is possible to overcome even the most difficult obstacles. We identify with Corrine, Dru, Malik, and Bouki because there are times when we are also afraid and unsure of ourselves; but it is our reliance on our friends that will get us through even the most dire of circumstances. Baptiste is a gifted story teller, transporting us to a tropical island whose culture is infused with magic and mysticism. The reader can almost feel the sea breezes and feel the sand between their toes. It’s a fast read that is bound to be liked by even those of us who aren’t overly fond of ghost stories.

Other related materials: Rise of the Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste; The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrations by Jon Klassen; Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley; Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder; Beyond The Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk; Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai; Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai; The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie; Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani; Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan; The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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The Dark Prophecy Review

trials_of_apollo_2The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo, Book 2) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2017. 978-1484746424

Synopsis: After experiencing a series of dangerous–and frankly, humiliating–trials at Camp Half-Blood, Lester must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Somewhere in the American Midwest, he and his companions must find the most dangerous Oracle from ancient times: a haunted cave that may hold answers for Apollo in his quest to become a god again–if it doesn’t kill him or drive him insane first. Standing in Apollo’s way is the second member of the evil Triumvirate, a Roman emperor whose love of bloodshed and spectacle makes even Nero look tame. To survive the encounter, Apollo will need the help of son of Hephaestus Leo Valdez, the now-mortal sorceress Calypso, the bronze dragon Festus, and other unexpected allies–some familiar, some new–from the world of demigods. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I wasn’t a huge fan of the first book in this series, so I was hoping the second would help me come around.

Why I finished it: Mkay, so, Apollo is still annoying. A little bit less annoying, but still annoying. He seems to have developed a little bit of a conscience, but he’s still just as self-centered and selfish as he was when we wasn’t an acne-plagued teenager. Riordan delves a little more into the mythology of the Hunters of Artemis, introducing the reader to Britomartis the goddess of nets and traps. We also get a glimpse at some of Apollo’s past mistakes – leaving his son Trophonius to die, killing Commodus after giving him his blessing – and it helps to fuel the plot. The cast of characters continues to grow, adding two former and a handful of current Hunters, Lityerses the son of Midas, and former emperor Commodus, who is bent on killing both Apollo and Meg. As the stakes continue to stack themselves against Apollo and Meg, it looks like it will take a miracle from the gods in order to save them. The plot is much more fast-paced than the previous book, and Riordan manages to up the ante for our heroes in a big way. I am happy to say that I have warmed up to this series a little bit more and I’m eager to see if Apollo succeeds in his mission.

Other related materials: The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan; Demigods and Magicians: Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis, illustrated by Torstein Norstrand; Five Kingdoms series by Brandon Mull; The Blackwell Pages series by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh; The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh; Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger; Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson; The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann; Seven Realms novels by Cinda Williams Chima

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Feature Presentation: Moana

uk_moanaMoana starring the voices of Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel Hall, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, and Alan Tudyk

Walt Disney Animation Studios, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Moana Waialiki is a sea voyaging enthusiast and the only daughter of a chief in a long line of navigators. When her island’s fishermen can’t catch any fish and the crops fail, she learns that the demigod Maui caused the blight by stealing the heart of the goddess, Te Fiti. The only way to heal the island is to persuade Maui to return Te Fiti’s heart, so Moana sets off on an epic journey across the Pacific. The film is based on stories from Polynesian mythology. – from IMDB

I’m always a fan of ancient cultures and myths being woven into our more modern tapestry. In a lot of ways, I feel like this puts us more in touch with the world at large and gives insight into where we came from, and perhaps more importantly, where we will go. There’s also something to be said about the message that while it might be uncomfortable to leave home/safe spaces/the familiar, we can achieve even more both personally and culturally when we stray off a beaten path. I’m reminded of the Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote, “Well-behaved women seldom make history”. In many respects, Moana is a well-behaved young lady: she desires to do what is best for her people and to follow the path that has been determined for her. And yet, she is still plagued by the classic dilemma of doing what is right by her family and doing what she feels is right for her, to help her become the woman she wants to be. Clearly her desire to get in touch with her voyager roots and venture beyond the island reef wins out, or this would have been a short movie. And like the Disney heroines before her, there’s a couple of musical numbers that assert her confidence in her decision to venture out on the ocean and the uncertainty of the success her journey may or may not bring. She still has moments of despair, but it is her stubbornness and quick wit that help her push through the obstacles that hinder her voyage. Despite the range of reactions to Moana, I feel like the film did a credit to the Polynesian culture and made it come even more alive for the viewer. I liked that native dialects were used in some of the songs and that the animators made trips through the islands in the South Pacific to do their research. It’s a coming-of-age story that encourages us once again to discover who we are inside and how we can share our purpose and passions with the world around us.

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