Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Going through our boxes of books has been a delightful experience as we rediscover old friends. I've already pulled out way more books than I'm likely to re-read, and I can't wait to have them all unpacked and displayed again. I'm also using LibraryThing as a reading list for this year, and am trying to post brief reviews of each book as I read it. My plan is to post handfuls of these mini reviews here, grouping similar books together, in an attempt to keep my blogging a little more regular.

Here are three young adult fantasy novels that I just read for the first time. All of them were mildly entertaining, but I wish I'd read them when I was younger and less critical.

A Walk in Wolf Wood, by Mary Stewart
While I liked the premise of this book (brother and sister go back in time to a medieval forest and help a werewolf regain his place as the duke's best friend and counsellor), the details were careless and the plot somewhat dull. There were too many things that didn't make sense or existed only to stretch the story into a novella. Mary Stewart charmed and surprised me with The Hollow Hills and The Crystal Cave, but the other books of hers that I've read have been disappointingly tame and predictable. She has good ideas but doesn't fulfill them satisfyingly. Even so, this was a quick and diverting read, and children who enjoy fantasy might like it.

The Sherwood Ring, by Elizabeth Marie Pope
I loved The Perilous Gard, and was excited to discover this book at Powell's; however, the story is a little too neat and obvious, and the mystery is pretty silly. A young woman goes to live with her eccentric old uncle in a historic New England house, and is visited by four ghosts who relate their story of love and adventure during the Revolutionary War. The story told by the ghosts was much more interesting than the modern story, and I wished Pope had written more about Peaceable and Barbara. The little prison, the treasure room, and the relief map in the sand were wonderful little details, and I feel like she could have written a much better story that would have satisfied adults as well.

The Farthest-Away Mountain, by Lynne Reid Banks
I might have enjoyed this more as a child. Reading it as an adult only made me notice the stiltedness of the prose and the less-than-original plot of a farmer's daughter who goes off on a quest. It's a conglomeration of better-written fairy tales, and the heroine is rather dull despite her courage. Why, after experiencing such an exciting adventure, would her desire be to marry a prince? This story could have been a lot better than it is, and feels like something written to fulfill an obligation or deadline.