This Week in Reviews: APRIL 1, 2012 (no kidding!)
Edwards, Eve. The Queen’s Lady: The Lacey Chronicles, Book 2. Delacorte/Random House, 2012. 336p. PLB $20.99. 978-0-375-98975-9. $17.99. 978-0-385-74091-3.
Eighteen-year-old Lady Jane Rievaulx has collected a number of enemies. Recently widowed and beginning her service as a “Queen’s Lady” in Queen Elizabeth’s court in 1584, Jane is at odds with many powerful men. Her father and brother intend to marry her off to any man who can advance the family’s business, and Jane’s stepsons are determined to gain control of the money and estate left to her by her dead husband. All that stands between Jane and a life of misery is James Lacey, younger brother of a man Jane was once set to marry. But James is setting sail for the New World, so Jane must fend for herself, assisted by friends Milly Porter, a seamstress and business owner, and actor Christopher Turner, long-lost brother to James Lacey.
Queen’s Lady focuses on the trials and tribulations of Jane and James as they struggle to be reunited. Side stories abound in this novel, including a sweet tale of blossoming love between Jane’s friend Milly and James’s servant Diego, who is African. This is a serviceable historical fiction novel most noteworthy for its likely appeal to an older audience of girls.—Paula Brehmheeger.
Gray, Eva. Set Me Free: Tomorrow Girls, Book 4. Scholastic, 2011. 240p. $6.99 Trade pb. 978-0-545-31704-7.
The Tomorrow Girls are back in the fourth installment of this action-packed series. Madeleine has been rescued by her friends, but now three other members of the rag-tag team have disappeared. After tracking the boys to Chicago’s Wrigley Field, they now must deliver a mysterious message to Maddie’s mother, who they learned is the resistance leader known as the Hornet. First, however, they have to figure out where the rebel headquarters is located. Still hunted by the Alliance, the friends find clues to decode the message. The trail leads to the bombed-out Art Institute, where the families are reunited.
This high-interest/lower-reading level story will appeal to young girls who like action and strong, smart female characters. There are a lot of blushing cheeks and shy smiles as the youngsters begin to pair up, but no serious romance; however, the writing is less than stellar and the dialogue does not quite ring true to the age level. Clichés and tired phrases abound, and potentially emotional reunions fall flat. Nevertheless, intriguing cover art and paperback format will prompt it to fly off the shelf.—Ann McDuffie.
Hay, Barbara. Lesson of the White Eagle. Illus. by Peter Hay and Steven Walker. Roadrunner, 2011. 144p. $16.95. 978-1-937054-00-7.
Growing up in Ponca City, Oklahoma, fifteen-year-old Dusty cannot wait for the 1893 Land Race centennial that his town is celebrating, even though underlying tensions exist between the Native Americans and white population. His best friend, Garret, is a bigoted bully, not just toward the Poncas but also with his supposed friends. At the celebration, Dusty is present when Garret sets off firecrackers, causing much damage. At the same time that Dusty starts to acknowledge Garret’s deep-seated hatred, he begins having visions of a white eagle that educates him through historical flashbacks about the hardships and history of the Ponca tribe and their relationship with whites. Dusty witnesses Garret’s bigotry and physical violence against the Poncas and himself, and comes to realize that he has to do what is right, even if his so-called friend will get in trouble.
There are many issues addressed here: friendship, prejudice, bullying, and more. Hay astutely portrays the conflict of Dusty’s disillusionment in his friendship with someone who displays racism. The tensions between the white and Native American populations are keenly felt. Different views are portrayed, such as Dusty’s family, who is a bit prejudiced but wishes to be honorable, and a school friend who sympathizes with the Poncas and tries to get Dusty to see Garret for who he is. The few scattered black-and-white illustrations are unnecessary and reminiscent of juvenile books. Plenty in the story will spark discussion, and a long list of questions is appended to facilitate examination.—Jane Van Wiemokly.
Kingsbury, Kate. Herald of Death: A Special Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery. Berkeley Trade, 2011. 304p. $15 Trade pb. 978-0-425-24335-0.
Cecily Sinclair Baxter is looking forward to Christmas at her popular Pennyfoot Hotel, situated on the southeast coast of England. The hotel staff is bustling to get ready for the influx of guests, and Cecily is worried about the blizzard that has suddenly descended upon the town of Badger’s End. When Police Constable Northcott pays her an unexpected visit, Cecily realizes that her worries have just begun. Northcott is stumped and hopes to solicit her help in finding a murderer who has recently struck the town, leaving two male victims, each with a small gold angel stuck to his forehead. Much to her husband’s displeasure, Cecily agrees to help, hoping to find the killer before her guests hear of the crimes and cancel their hotel reservations. With the help of her stable manager, Samuel, Cecily begins her investigation, soon realizing that she may have bitten off more than she can chew as the bodies begin to pile up.
Kingsbury’s most recent Pennyfoot Hotel mystery is fairly predictable, with somewhat stereotypical characters, but her writing style is descriptive and humorous and includes just enough romantic subplots to keep things spicy. With a bumbling local detective, feisty females, and a few truly suspenseful moments, there is plenty in this novel to enjoy. Kingsbury paints an interesting picture of life in a small English village during the early 1900s. Kingsbury’s fans and readers who relish light, historical, British mysteries will appreciate this novel, as well as the others in the series.—Dotsy Harland.
Bruchac, Joseph. Wolf Mark. Lee & Low, 2011. 392p. $17.95. 978-1-60060-661-8.
Lucas King has always done what he has been taught, to be invisible in an unnoticed sort of way. What would be a normal task for most teenagers is not for him, considering the survivalist training he has been given. What he is being trained for has been a mystery until now. He is left a cryptic message by his father, who has been kidnapped, that leads him to an abandoned old house that holds a secret that answers some questions but prompts many more. In his pursuit to free his father, he befriends some uncertain allies who are also more than they appear. They must learn to work together if they hope to accomplish their goals.
What begins as just another supernatural teen story quickly evolves into a fast-paced thriller almost reminiscent of science fiction. Bruchac writes with a fantastic multicultural edge that feels as natural as breathing, interweaving Native American culture, such as that of the Abenaki, as well as several others from around the world. Short chapters give the title a feel similar to a Dan Brown novel. This title is a much-needed breath of fresh air in the stale supernatural branch of the fantasy genre and is an excellent read for fans of werewolves and vampires, and also has appeal for reluctant readers.—Susan Hampe.
Cast, P. C., and Kristin Cast. Destined: A House of Night Novel. St. Martin’s, 2011. 336p. $18.99. 978-0-312-65025-4.
Destined finds Zoey Redbird back from the Otherworld, not completely healed from her grief and the resulting battle with darkness, but recovering from her shattered soul. She is not allowed much time to process her recent journey before she is gifted a dream from Nyx, and Zoey awakens with certainty that her mother is dead. At the House of Night, Neferet continues to scheme, now the consort of darkness itself, who has granted her a new weapon in the shape of a boy. Kalona, too, seems to be planning something nefarious, bent on his son Rephaim returning to darkness despite his allegiance to the red High Priestess Stevie Rae. Zoey cannot help but fear that the final battle is on the horizon, and the truth she uncovers about her mother’s murder and Neferet’s plans only seem to confirm this.
Readers will be pleased with how the new installment of the House of Night series unfolds. It offers a satisfying depth of characterization for the protagonist, Zoey; her best friend, Stevie Rae; the newly forgiven Rephaim; and his father, Kalona. Here the characters become richer and more fully developed, lending believability to the looming final battle. The series has always moved beyond themes of light and dark, good and evil; in this book, parent–child relationships, personal agency and free will, and the perils of judgment are considered. While some dialogue and pop culture references feel forced at times, the novel is exciting and leaves readers with much to contemplate.—Courtney Huse Wika.
Fitzpatrick, Becca. Silence: Hush, Hush Saga, Book 3. Simon & Schuster, 2011. 448p. $18.99. 978-1-4424-2664-1.
Nora Grey, the narrator of this paranormal tale, does not remember turning seventeen. Her memory of the last five months has been erased. Upon her bizarre return to her “normal” life, Nora is disgusted to learn that her mother is now dating the rich and evil Hank Millar. Struggling to regain lost information, Nora renews her friendship with the deceptive Scott Parnell, uncovers a secret army of Nephilim who are preparing for war with the fallen angels, and gets nominated to her high school’s homecoming court.
As in the first two books of Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush Saga, our young heroine remains a contradiction. She professes to be smart and caring but continues to do extremely imprudent and hurtful things. The first half of the book is a recounting of what happened to Nora prior to her abduction. (Readers of the series are privy to this information and may find it annoyingly redundant.) The second half details the rekindling of her romance with the perfect and protective Patch, the hunky archangel. An improbable time line, gratuitous violence, and inconsistent characters add little to a predicable tale that is much longer than it needs to be. While this is a work of contemporary “fantasy,” the author should know that her readers will question her authenticity if they are not able to relate to Nora Grey. For example, how is it possible for her to put two dollars of gas in her car and travel any distance at all?—Lynne Farrell Stover.