The Land of the Silver Apples
by Nancy Farmer
THE CHILDREN FROM THE SEA OF TROLLS BRAVE THEIR WORST NIGHTMARES -- UNDERGROUND.
Jack is amazed to have caused an earthquake. He is thirteen, after all, and only a bard-in-training. But his sister, Lucy, has been stolen by the Lady of the Lake; stolen a second time in her young life, as he learns to his terror. Caught between belief in the old gods and Christianity (790 AD, Britain), Jack calls upon his ash wood staff to subdue a passel of unruly monks, and, for his daring, ends up in a knucker hole. It is unforgettable -- for the boy and for readers -- as are the magical reappearance of the berserker Thorgil from a burial by moss; new characters Pega, a slave girl from Jack's village, and the eager-to-marry-her Bugaboo (a hobgoblin king); kelpies; yarthkins; and elves (not the enchanted sprites one would expect but the fallen angels of legend). Rarely does a sequel enlarge so brilliantly the world of the first story. Look for the conclusion in The Islands of the Blessed in 2009.
Having loved The Sea of Trolls, I was expecting a lot from this one. I guess I expected too much, for it didn't live up to my wishes. All the ingredients were there -- an epic quest with magical creatures like hobgoblins and elves -- but I don't think the story was well-developed. Too many times, I couldn't get a clear description of characters and settings in my mind, and I'm not sure if it was just overload or what. I found myself going back to reread a section to clear things up. This is a long book ( almost 500 pages), so one would have to be committed to keep with it. I'd only recommend to those wanting fantasies with an epic quest, and then only to those willing to muddle through such a long book. Rating = C.
The Ghost Road
by Tony Abbott
Could the road to the afterlife be a two-way street? Derek can't claim to be a normal fourteen-year-old anymore. Not after what he discovered at the Red House. His role in the war against the dead is more pivotal --- and more terrifying --- than he could have imagined. And so it all comes down to this. The Rift between the worlds of the living and the dead has to be closed . . . forever. It seems like an impossible task. And it rests squarely on the shoulders of a slightly overweight, not especially brave kid named Derek Stone. If Derek is ever going to become a hero, now's the time.
I had to finish this series, just to see how things ended with Derek.What started as a promising horror series ended up predictable fare.I will say it's a quick read, but I honestly was to the point of not caring how it ended. I believe the intended audience (middle grades) will be more impressed with the story and probably find it scarier. This is one to show those that can't get enough horror in their reading diets, I suppose. I give it a C.
The Doll in the Garden
by Mary Downing Hahn
When Ashley discovers a turn-of-the-century doll it is just the first of several puzzling events that lead her through the hedge and into a twilight past where she meets Louise, an ailing child whose beloved doll has mysteriously disappeared.
This is my favorite book of the week. Several student have been after me for years to read some of Hahn's "ghost stories", so here's to them. A time-travel/ghost story about a lost doll and guilt over loss. It's one that's truly not scary, but is suspenseful. The conclusion is a happy one where all is resolved, but not in a let's-tie-up-all-loose-ends-in-one-paragraph way. I can definitely see why so many middle grades readers love Hahn. The Doll in the Garden was spooky and mysterious, but not frightening. A B book for me.