This week has been a pretty exhausting week when it comes to blogging. I upped my schedule to include two personal blog updates, added a Saturday update (I can’t be lazy with this blog anymore, oh noes!), and did five book reviews just to get me back on schedule. I am ashamed I let it get that behind.
Thankfully, I had a light at the end of the tunnel: Slathbog’s Gold (Adventurers Wanted series) by M.L. Forman.
I read this book about a month ago and decided it was going to be the first OP book I was going to review. But, when it came time to do my first Weeds Review this past week, it didn’t feel right. This book definitely deserved its own spot–not a book squished in the middle of four other reviews. So, even though this was the first OP book that screamed for a review, I decided that it could, would, and should wait until the end of the week.
When I sat down to read Slathbog’s Gold, I was still in the bookstore. I was looking for something good to read and I stumbled across this one. I have this silly rule that I have to be engaged by a book by the end of ten pages or the first chapter in order to buy it unread. It makes for a good weeding out process. I read one and a half chapters of Slathbog’s Gold without realizing it. When I did pull my nose out of the book long enough to realize I was over thirty pages in (triple my usual allotment), I figured this was a good book to buy.
It was torture waiting to read it, but I got this book when I was in the middle of Atlantic by Simon Winchester, which was good but giving me enough trouble that I felt it was a good idea to concentrate on it alone. When I finally got back to Slathbog’s Gold, I was very happy to curl up with an OP book. Atlantic had been wonderful, but I needed something light. I needed a break.
Thankfully, said break was not so “fluffy” that I felt like my brain was rotting. In fact, the book kept me guessing. I wondered how on earth this was going to turn out. I knew, somehow, that Slathbog (the evil dragon who guarded his hoard) would be defeated–otherwise, what was the point?–but that was about all I knew for sure. It was all about the journey, not the destination. That’s the kind of book I like to read.
One of the most impressive things about Slathbog’s Gold was its treatment of magic. Magic and its treatment is kind of a pet peeve for me. I’ve grown up surrounded by faerie tales from all different countries and cultures (French and German, like most, but Swedish, Celtic, and Italian, too–I sought out even more as a teen and adult), and all of them have different attitudes about magic. It is annoying, to say the least, that in mainstream literature there are two approaches to magic: 1) It freaks the character out and takes them a long time to acknowledge this power, or 2) The character has always known about it and never takes a second thought to their attitude towards it (whether devotion or suspicion).
M.L. Forman throws both approaches out the window with this main character, Alex Taylor. Alex is quite suddenly thrown into a magical world from this one. Rather than be immediately suspicious, he reacts in this way:
“I still don’t understand,” said Alex.
“What’s not to understand? A magic bag lets you carry all your gear in a very small space. And believe me, it makes life a lot easier.”
“I’m sure it does, but how does it work?” Alex questioned.
“It’s magic,” laughed Andy. “It’s like Arconn always says, ‘If you’re willing to accept the fact that there’s magic involved, everything else is easy.'”
Alex had never really thought about magic, or at least not real magic, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about it. He had seen the table at Mr. Clutter’s [bookshop] move and change shape, but that wasn’t really the same as [these rooms inside a bag], was it? Looking around the stone room, however, he had to believe there was magic.
The character approaches things logically, but hesitantly. He accepts the magic, because he knows there’s no other choice, but he also doesn’t jump in with both feet. It takes Alex some more time to accept magic in general, as well as his magic specifically (and what a discovery that was), but he doesn’t shun it. He learns about it. And there is no crisis! in which he all of a sudden needs to tap into his magic NOW. He learns at a good pace and applies what he knows. It’s marvelous.
There are eight adventurers on the trip and, despite all those names that begin with “A” in the quote, they’re easy to keep track of. Forman does very well defining his large cast of side characters, giving them enough individuality to be distinct without over-taking Alex.
I was very impressed by the over-all quality of this book. I’m anxiously awaiting the second one to come in at the library and are they ever being poky about it. I was most impressed because there were so many things that weren’t the norm, but it didn’t feel like the author was trying to BE DIFFERENT in his writing. This book felt natural in its differences, I am excited to see if they are maintained in the next installment.
Reasons I chose this book above all others:
- Treatment of magic.
- Large cast of characters, all distinct.
- Unforced self-discovery in the main character. Crises happen, but they don’t require the main character to suddenly change.
- This book surprised me.
P.S. There has been an influx of writers from Utah/Idaho in the YA/C industry in the past few years. Off the top of my head, I can name Brandon Mull (Fablehaven, Candy Shop Wars, The Beyonders), James Dashner (The Maze Runner, The Jimmie Fincher Saga), N.D. Wilson (100 Cupboards), and now M.L. Forman (Adventurers Wanted Series). I don’t know if they’re all LDS (commonly know as Mormons), though it certainly wouldn’t surprise me, but I know at least three of them are. I am sure there are more LDS authors (I have a sneaky suspicion about Obert Skye (Leven Thumps series, Pillage Trilogy), but that’s all that is).
While I am not complaining by any stretch of the imagination, it has been an interesting phenomenon to see. All these nationally acclaimed books for young adults and children that I don’t have to worry about a single bit. I know if I pick up books by those five authors, I am always in for a good, clean read without being preached at (which can be something of a problem in LDS authors, or any religious author). Some, admittedly, are better than others. But all are good enough that I would re-read any of them. Thankfully, without exception, I suspected the religious connection after I read and liked at least one of the books by each author. That fact does make me feel better about supporting them. (Oh, I guess Stephanie Meyer (Twilight, The Host) belongs on this list, but I really don’t like her half so much as these men. Also, she can be a little preachy, so she sort of falls in the “Mormon author, but not that great” category.) So, if you notice more LDS authors on this blog (no plans in that direction as yet), I beg you not to assume bias. There have been a couple in the past week, but this is not because I feel I “have to” support them by any means. They get in on their merit alone.