Inheritance

At last, young adult fantasy readers can rejoice! Christopher Paolini’s final book in the Inheritance Cycle has been released, and with a staggeringly creative name: Inheritance.

For those of us that have a college degree, we will only discuss Inheritance with those who have read the previous books, or we will cautiously read the e-book version or thumb through the pages of the 800+ page clunker after strategically removing the dust jacket (This is so all the cool people won’t see us reading a book with a dragon on the cover).

Inheritance is the followup to Eragon, Eldest, and Brisingr (I still have no idea how to pronounce this word or about 50% of the names in the book- in fact I’ve found it difficult to talk to others about the players in the books, because we never seem to understand who the other is talking about).

Inheritance is the final showdown between Galbatorix, the evil King of Alagaesia and Eragon the Rider; along with his colorful cast of friends: Saphira, his dragon who suffers from spells of vanity, Arya, the smokin’ hot elf who is out of Eragon’s league, Roran, his totally awesome hammer wielding cousin and many, many, many more… seriously.

If you haven’t read the books and enjoy good fantasy stories that are an easy (but not necessarily quick) read- check out the Inheritance Cycle. A word of warning: Do not read these books if you are on the hunt for spectacular character development or spellbinding writing. In fact if you are looking for literature with such qualities… run far, far away from Paolini’s works.

BUT! If you want a great storyline, it doesn’t get much better. To me, its kind of like Star Wars. What an awesome story!

Just don’t pay any attention to the script.

In Paolini’s defense, he started writing the series when he was 15. So if you start reading Eragon, keep in mind that the very raw writing comes from the desk of a brilliant high school student. And you should also be encouraged that the books increase in quality and level of enjoyment with each new installment.

3.5 out of 5.

If anyone hasn’t embarked on the series and is going to start, or is rereading before starting the finale, count how many times in the series the phrase ‘waking dreams’ is used and let me know… it will get really, really, annoying.

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‘The Book of Three’ by Lloyd Alexander

“Most of us are called on to perform tasks far beyond what we can do. Our capabilities seldom

match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared. To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart.”

I was at Half Price Books awhile back, a usual hangout for me when I have some time to kill, and I was browsing through the young adult fiction section. As I was glancing around I saw a book, cover facing outward, with a Newbery medal. And for some reason, whenever there is a big golden or silver medallion on a book my brain programs it as: “This one has to be awesome.” Unfortunately for me it was book 5 in a series of 5. Now, enter the dilemma of all readers of young adult fiction: do I really want to start a new series when I am in the thick of about 50 other series that I already enjoy? Let’s be real here, the reason the collection is up to 50 is because we can’t say no to a good (kids) book. So I grabbed the 1st in the series of Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain,’ called ‘The Book of Three.’

The book follows an assistant pig keeper (that’s right, an assistant pig keeper) Taran, in the mythical land of Prydain (which bears an incredible resemblance to Wales). Taran is frustrated in carrying out the menial tasks of an assistant pig keeper in Caer Dallben, and longs to be an adventurer like Prince Gwydion. When his oracular pig, Hen Wen, escapes, Taran must chase after her outside the safety of his own home. His quest to find her becomes a wild adventure with classic elements of fairy tales and fantasies that lovers of Narnia, Middle Earth, and Hogwartz will all enjoy. It is a fun and funny coming-of-age tale that satisfies the reader, while creating a sense of excitement to tear through the next installment.

While reading the book I had to set aside my frustrations with similar themes I was finding in Prydain with Tolkein and other works of fantasy literature. But after doing a little research, it was clear that Alexander wrote the Prydain Chronicles in an effort to retell Welsh mythology. And while he does utilize elements from other writers, (most notably a character that could literally be replaced with Gollum) his enchanting book is a gripping collage of what fantasy readers love best.

The Book of Three, written for a younger audience, is packed with intriguing lessons that children and adults alike can benefit from. Told with a magnificent sense of humor intertwined with powerful prose, there is a constant thread throughout the book of how true heroism is not something that can only be accomplished by a king, a bard, or an adventurer, but can be found in the most unlikeliest of places: like an assistant pig keeper. This quote comes from a moment when Taran attempts to sound heroic and noble while talking to Eilonwy, one of his partners on the quest, as they flee a wicked queen and her crumbling palace:

‘Spiral Castle has brought me only grief; I have no wish to see it again.’ ‘What has it brought the rest of us?’ Eilonwy asked. ‘You make it sound as though we were just sitting around having a splendid time while you moan and take on.’

Alexander often has sharp retorts for conventional ‘heroism’ or nobility in a way that makes the reader understand that they are capable of great things even if they aren’t a king. And even if they’re an average man browsing the young adult fiction section in a second hand bookstore.

4 out of 5. I’m excited to read the second book.

Die Hard and Fairies? Artemis Fowl!

A genius. A criminal mastermind. A millionaire. And he is only twelve years old.

Eoin Colfer describes the Artemis Fowl Series as “Die Hard with fairies.” Let’s be real. We love them both. Think of John McClane emptying a couple of clips trying to tag Tinkerbell from Peter Pan, who just happens to be armed to the teeth with firearms as well. Yippee Ki Aye. The first book in the series called ‘Artemis Fowl’ is an intriguing story that merges elements from James Bond, Harry Potter, Douglas Adams (Hitchhikers), Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Percy Jackson, you name it.  It was an absolute blast to read, and if the others are as gripping and hysterical, it is a series I plan on finishing.

Artemis is a 12 year old genius that uses his cunning intellect to succeed in organized crime. That’s right, a 6th grade mafia boss of sorts. In this installment, Artemis is plotting to restore his family fortune that has been nabbed by the fairies (don’t think of cute Disney characters, or cartoons on cereal boxes, these guys are an organized force with progressive agendas). His plan to regain the gold at the end of the rainbow is to capture a fairy as hostage. Unfortunately for Artemis, he kidnaps one tough cookie: Holly Short of the LEPrecon unit. (Coolest name for a military unit EVER). Once the rest of the fairy world catches wind of Artemis’ tactics, the book becomes a wildly fun and funny hostage situation with twists and turns that will keep you flipping pages till the end.

The humor in Artemis Fowl was witty and crisp, from a butler named Butler who happens to be a highly trained killing machine, to the hygiene habits of trolls, to projectile flatulence,  Colfer is relentless in his gags, but thankfully embeds them within a well-written work. Artemis Fowl has kidnapping, blackmail, and magic… all the things that make you glad you’re still a ‘young adult reader.’

4th shelf of 5.