February 24, 2010

The Islands of the Blessed

By Nancy Farmer
Rating: 4 stars

This is the sequel to The Land of Silver Apples and The Sea of Trolls. We join Jack, Thorgil and the Bard once more happily living in their small village after their many adventures. Then a storm tears through the village and a "draugr"--a sea hag wronged by Father Severus--is drawn to the village by the holy bell Fair Lamenting. She desires revenge on Severus, and so Jack, Thorgil and the Bard leave for Bebba's Town hoping to give the draugr satisfaction by dealing directly with Father Severus. But their task is not so straightforward, and will lead to many more adventures, including sailing with the Northmen, finding the home of the merpeople in Notland, discovering the hiding place of St. Columba, and much much more. Will Jack finally begin to take up the mantle as a bard in his own right? Will Thorgil ever be happy if she can't become a shield maiden? Will they even survive their adventures to make it back home again? Once again, Farmer creates many a fantastic tale and could easily return to this world to spin many more. Fans of the previous books will be satisfied with this final(?) entry.

February 03, 2010

The Lost Conspiracy

By Frances Hardinge
Rating: 4 1/2 stars

In this excellent fantasy, Hathin looks after her elder sister Arilou, one of the hallowed "Lost" of the island who are able to send their minds and senses away from their bodies to look at the world and communicate with each other. Arilou is extra-special for she is Lace in origin--one of the tribes of people on the island who are often maligned. Then mysteriously, all of the Lost die simultaneously one night and the only one not affected? Arilou. Immediately suspicion comes down on the Lace--did they plan to kill all of the Lost? Hathin and Arilou must flee for their lives, attempting to outrun what seems to be a crazed mob of people looking to blame the Lace for their troubles. But the further they flee, the more Hathin realizes that there is a deeper plot at work. Why didn't Arilou die with the other Lost? And why are the Lace being treated as scapegoats? Who or what is behind the rounding up and extermination of her people? The plot is thick and the adventure is high and readers will be drawn deeply into the storyline and hang on until the breathless finish. Excellent!