The Islands of the Blessed by Nancy Farmer

islands-of-the-blessed

This post contains an affiliate link.

I finished the final book in the Sea of Trolls trilogy–The Islands of the Blessed. I think this was the best book in the series!

Premise:

Jack and his companions must go on another quest to save his village.  A draugr, or undead spirit, has been drawn to the little town by a magical bell.  She is seeking revenge for an old wrong done to her and will harm anyone who gets in her way.  Can the Bard, Jack and Thorgil get justice for the draugr before her patience runs out and someone else is hurt?

My thoughts:

I thought this was the best book in the series!  The characters have gained more depth and the plot has become more satisfyingly complex.

It’s great seeing the old characters again–especially the Northmen.  Skakki, Olaf One-Brow’s son, is an admirable man and a great leader.  The Bard saw much more action in this story and displayed more of his impressive magical skills.  Magic is just so much fun!  Jack and Thorgil also matured in this tale and their companionship finally develops into something safe and comforting.

The fin folk, or mermaids, were a really fun and imaginative people group.  I’ve never seen the concept of merfolk developed so fully, and it was interesting to see how the author imagined their homes, social customs, etc.

It seems like this is a series that could keep going, especially since there are characters whose stories didn’t wrap up–Pega, Lucy, Brutus, Hazel, etc.  I was disappointed that Pega’s character and story line weren’t developed more.  It seemed like there was a really good story wrapped up in her existence, but in the end nothing of great importance happened to her.  Jack and Thorgil’s entrance into the School of Bards sets the scene for another series of stories, but I don’t know that any will be forthcoming.  Islands of the Blessed was published in 2009.

This is a great book for kids in the elementary to teen age range, or as a family read-aloud.  Those who are interested in Norse mythology or the early interplay of Druid and Christian religions will appreciate the subject matter most.

Possible Objections:

  • One instance of the a-word

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Advertisements

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

the-mists-of-avalon-wm

This post contains an affiliate link.

The Mists of Avalon is the last book from my Thrift Store Fantasy Reading Challenge.  Woohoo–I’m done!  I think that I had read one other King Arthur tale sometime in the dim past, but I didn’t remember too much about it.  So with this book, I felt like I was learning most of the tale for the first time.

Premise:

This book tells the King Arthur saga from the vantage point of the women who were involved in the story.  A very welcome and interesting perspective!  It starts with Viviane (The Lady), Merlin, Uther, and Igraine.  From there the story continues through the next two generations–to Gwydion, Galahad, etc.  It’s not only a story about King Arthur and his court, but about Druids and Christians vying for dominance in Britain.  There is so much that happens in this 800+ page book that I couldn’t comment on all of it even if I wanted to.  (And trust me, I do not want to.)

My thoughts:

I’m not going to lie to you, this is a tough book to read.  Between the somewhat slow start, the sometimes relaxed pace of the narrative, the formal language, and the sheer volume of pages, it is a challenge to get through.  I’d say that definitely once you’re about a third of the way in, you’re going to be so caught up in the drama, intrigue and soap opera-esqueness of the book that you’ll want to keep going.  You will feel like it’s never going to end, though.  There’s just no getting past that.

I loved the plot.  It was very complex and even though I new the gist of the story, I was still gobbling it up to see what would happen next.  The cast of characters was also superb.  There were so many–all with different personalities, loyalties, motivation.  You’re bound to find at least a couple of characters whom you can identify with.  Personally, I loved Morgaine (despite her many mistakes and imperfections), and despised Gwenhwyfar.  And there were no clear-cut lines between Druid and Christian.  Each side had its share of heroes, heretics, bigots and pigheadedness.

You should also know that the discussion of religion plays a very large part in this book.  It’s a book about people, yes, but it’s also just as much about religion.  The beliefs of Christians and Druids are compared, criticized, dissected, scoffed at.  If you’re easily offended by religious criticisms or don’t want to read about religion, then this is not the book for you.  In the end, I think the author arrives at a fair and equitable conclusion on the issue of religion as it relates to the King Arthur story.

The Mists of Avalon is a story full of the things of life–love, lust, hatred, tragedy, pride, ambition, heartbreak, sacrifice, birth and death, good and evil.  It’s a story that anybody can relate to because life’s most important concerns don’t change over time.

I would recommend this book to adults because of the pervasive sexual themes.

Possible Objections:

  • A lot of sexual scenes
  • Some violence
  • Talk & criticism of religion (Druid & Christian)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori