Boundless

Kenneth Oppel is one of those authors that I always look forward to when I have a daunting To Be Read pile that I must review. His book is often the treat I give myself as a reward for slogging through the ones I’m less enthusiastic about.

His activecover art imagination is apparent in the wondrously complex and fantastical train that forms the setting of the novel Boundless. Imagine a train that has the class divide of the Titanic, with luxurious lounges and restaurants followed by crowded steerage. This clash of the social statuses would be enough of a setting but not for Oppel. He adds a circus and a booby-trapped funeral car fit for a pharaoh.

The landscape surrounding the train is filled with even more outrageous and interesting things. Many creatures from North American legends play a role in the tale.

Oppel’s adoration of the classics in seen once again in this book. In his other series he explored the young life of Victor Frankenstein. In this novel he takes an interest in the picture of Dorian Gray. His new interpretations of well known works is interesting in that most of his readers will be too young to have read the originals; so his versions become their truth. People tend to bond with the first version of a story they hear.

His sense of adventure has not dwindled. Train jumping, police chasing, avalanche falling action fills the story with an urgency that slows only for the boy to wonder at the injustices that he was unaware took place on his father’s train. Will is much like the princess in old tales who learns about the peasants she once took for granted but now feels a responsibility towards.

This is a good book, as anticipated. I think it will be most popular with older children and young teens.

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Tomorrow’s Kingdom

If you haven’t read the Gypsy King read that first.

Maureen Fergus hooked me with the first two installments of the trilogy so I was excited to dive into the final book. Like the other books in the series, Tomorrow’s Kingdom is an exciting fantasy adventure.

The idea of a lost royal child having a unique perspective towards peasants, servants, and outcast tribes that will unite the kingdom is a bit cliche, but I must admit I enjoy it. There’s modern sensibilities towards prejudice and class divide injected into a setting of castles, corsets, horses, and adventure.

The romance is steamy but not explicit. The war has action but is not gruesome. These factors make the book appropriate for teens although I think many adults would enjoy it as well.

The villains are despicable men who are greedy, misogynistic and violent but they are also believable. They have reasons to be the disgusting people they are, formed by both nature and nurture they are well rounded characters.

This is a series I would recommend to readers looking for historical adventure, strong female characters or medieval fantasy. The fantasy elements do not play a large role, so it would appeal to people primarily interested in adventure who don’t mind a touch of legend or a sprinkle of magic in a story.

Red Glove

*I received this ARC from Simon & Schuster Canada

* If you haven’t read White Cat, there are spoilers here, so go read that first.

Holly Black is one of the few authors who can make me fall in love with a killer. This book had a fast pace, characters with depth, a plot with surprising twists and all around awesome writing.

Red Glove picks up not too long after White Cat left off, and Cassel is still trying to wrap his head around everything that happened. He was betrayed and used by his brothers, the girl he loves was cursed to love him so he can’t in good conscience be with her, and he discovered he has a rare power that will make everyone want to use or kill him. That’s a lot to swallow, so even if he was only trying to survive school I would feel for him. Of course it’s not that easy; he is approached by federal agents and pressured into helping solve murders and disappearances he suspects he knows too much about.

This is a book that will appeal to both boys and girls. The paranormal mob families make for an interesting backdrop, and the plot is a mystery with lots of twists.

What I really love about this book:

  • The little things about Cassel that make him seem so real!
    • When people ask him how he is he automatically says “good” because that’s the response strangers and acquaintances normally expect. He doesn’t think about how he really feels before responding, but feels guilty when he realizes this is a funeral and he shouldn’t be good.
    • When he naps or sleeps late the way Black describes his sluggishness is dead on
    • he’s afraid of what his nightmares say about him
    • The way he feels in rich people’s houses rings true. Class divide is always awkward when visiting friends.
  • His extreme temptation to be with Lila despite her curse, and all the conflicting feelings of guilt and longing are convincing. The sexual tension and chemistry between them is phenomenally written.
  • The funny moments. When the fire alarm goes off and Sam’s reaction is “The Playstation!” unhooking it while everyone else scrambles out… I laughed so hard, because my boyfriend would do the same.
  • The worker rights movement, and the paranoia of the public. The thing is, at least this is a prejudice I can somewhat understand, people having powers that could hurt you. I’d be on the worker rights side of the debate, but I get where the other side is coming from. People in our society flip out over differences like sexual orientation and race, so I don’t think Black is being unrealistic about the mistreatment of the workers. If anything I think they’d probably be treated worse.
  • The pressures of joining the family business (crime)

I’ve never been disappointed by Holly Black’s writing, I always fly through her books and want more. Red Glove never dragged for me, I had to force myself to put it down, and it surprised me at a few points. I can’t wait for Black Heart!