The Islands of the Blessed by Nancy Farmer

islands-of-the-blessed

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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

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The Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer

land-of-silver-apples

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I finished The Land of the Silver Apples last night and am happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed it!  It is the second book in the Sea of Trolls trilogy.

Premise:

When Lucy flubs the need-fire ceremony, the slave girl Pega must take her place in bringing pure fire from the Life Force to the community.  Something went wrong at the ceremony and Lucy’s behavior continues to worsen until her family decides to send her to St. Filian’s monastery to be cured.  Things are not what they appear at the monastery, however, and Lucy is stolen away by an elf.  Jack and his comrades must venture into the bowels of the earth to rescue Lucy and call back water to the land.  What they encounter underground is not what any of them expected and they must work together to make it out alive.

My thoughts:

This was another delightful story by Nancy Farmer!  I continue to enjoy getting to know the main character, Jack.  I love how he learns and grows, while still holding onto the traits of a typical youth.  Pega, the slave girl, is a wonderful character.  She is multi-faceted, versatile and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.  The hobgoblins are charming and remind me a bit of hobbits.

I also like what Farmer did with the elves in her story.  They have an entire back-story to explain how they came to be and why they’re so glamorous.  They hold great power and are supremely dangerous, too (like an elf/vampire cross, in a way).  These are not the elves you hear about in most other fairy tale stories.  Get ready to have your perception of elves flipped on its head!

More mythical creatures are introduced in Silver Apples–kelpies, hobgoblins, knuckers, yarthkins, and more.  You will probably want to look up traditional descriptions of these creatures after reading this book.

I believe that the last book in the series will be a continuation of the present story line.  It seems to have left off without fully resolving a couple of issues.  In particular, I believe that Jack’s sister has a major role to play in the next book.  We shall see!

I would recommend this book to elementary-age children up to teens.  It’s full of adventure but tame enough that I’m comfortable with my kids reading it on their own.

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence & scary creatures

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

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While perusing the shelves on a recent library visit, I found The Sea of Trolls and thought it looked interesting. It is the first book in the Sea of Trolls trilogy.

Premise:

Jack is the unnoticed son of an Anglo-Saxon farmer, until the Bard singles him out as his apprentice.  Jack begins to learn how to harness the life force and use magic.  Though life is looking up for Jack, it doesn’t last when Vikings invade his town.  Jack and his sister Lucy find themselves in the middle of an epic adventure involving magic, trolls, Vikings and dragons.  Can they survive and will they ever return home?

My thoughts:

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book!  The action is a bit slow in starting, but once Jack leaves his homeland, the pace quickens and the story becomes more cohesive.

Jack is a main character whom I really like.  He’s down to earth, unassuming, and has a knack for blundering his way through all situations.  There are many other likable characters, though they all have their weaknesses and foibles–Olaf, Thorgil, the Bard, Bold Heart, and more.  I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of the Bard, but perhaps he’ll feature more in the other two books.

Norse mythology and some historical facts are interwoven into The Sea of Trolls.  I certainly didn’t take it as a historically accurate tale, but it’s fun to insert fact into fantasy stories.  For those of you who are fans of Norse mythology, Vikings, or European history, this story will give you a kick because it makes reference to all of those things.  Personally, I don’t know a lot about Norse mythology or the Vikings, but I’d like to learn more about them now.

I’m really looking forward to starting the next book in the series and hope that many of the same characters make a reappearance.  Since the adventure seems to have been fully resolved in this book, the next two should have their own independent story lines.  We shall see.

I would recommend this book to elementary-age children or even teens.  (In fact I just recommended it to my picky 11-year-old.)  It’s an entertaining adventure story that is free of bad language and not too descriptive in its violence.  This mama gives it a thumbs-up.

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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