on March 26, 2012 :
I'm generally not big on dragons, or the "straight stuff" of the fantasy genre, and I haven't read the whole "magical object" focus since His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, so this was another unusual read for me. As I've again been proven in this instance, sometimes it's a really great thing to step beyond the boundaries of a comfort zone. The main characters, Henry, Sue, and Liz, at fourteen, are all younger than the steady 17-19 that the YA genre is crowded right now, and it was also really interesting to see the vast differences in their relativity.
A calligraphy pen with astounding abilities, fearsome dragons, Chinese culture and classic hero-fighting (combated with the level-headedness of Tai Chi instruction rather than a grand mentor) are a fierce and stark contrast with Australia, protests/activism, terrifyingly odd animal behavior, and a couple of fourteen year olds, but that bold mixture actually worked -- and fantastically so.
The tone of the story is really unique. It's observational and funny, but also kindling the scent of "wise retelling" and fresh material. The author definitely harbors an uncanny ability to embody the classic "ole' storyteller" voice, but also manages to relate to the main characters in their youth, capturing unique and interesting personalities in a very creative way. Sometimes it's a bit too excitable, but it suits the piece nearly seamlessly. Aside from that, the writing is very realistic. It captures scene and time well, especially jumping between cultures, countries, and eras.
It really is a great story, embracing two very important reader needs: quick pacing and easy to understand. They contribute beautifully to the anticipation, and the reader is constantly on the edge of their seat.
The Sword Guest is an engrossing tale told like a hurricane: though sometimes it's hard to catch exactly what's going on at first, it's still fierce and engaging. It begins in the calm prior, then darts between the borders and the eye. Something exciting is always happening, and the reader totally feels that. The story starts with what is first interpreted as a parable and later recognized as warned foreboding, and keeps moving.
The premise is absolutely creative and different, and the themes are curiously combined. Paired with genuinely interesting and quirky characters, the Australia-meets-Chinese setting-meets-girl folds in a fascinating dynamic. The culture spun into it all is amazing. Adding in the subplots of environmental issues, protesting and noble causes, heritage, and being made unafraid to embrace one's roots, and there's something special there. It erects an encompassing world, pulls off a lovely cliffhanger, and constructs a piece like no other I've seen. It was different, and simply a fun book to read. It's definitely worth getting caught up in.
Though at times it can feel a little childish - as in recommended for a younger YA, which isn't necessarily a bad thing - but the attributes that hint towards a more middle-grade audience still resonate accordingly, and fit the story quite well. Plus, it was balanced out by a great vocab and real-world-dynamic woven throughout the fantasy. Unique and enjoyable, but simple and classic too, it's a great pick for transition, cross-over readers. It's a fantastic way to leave behind Karate Kid, Avatar, Jackie Chan's Adventures, and "The Mummy" phenomena and move into an awesome genre with a lot to offer.
For an indie read, the eBook is surprisingly well formatted and properly edited, giving it the smooth feel of a traditionally published piece. It's recommended :)
I recommend this for fans of The Maximum Ride Series by James Patterson, Weaver by John Abramowitz, Rapture by Phillip Simpson, and any recently-graduated MG-to-YA reader interested in culture or fantasy.
Original review @ http://ricochetreviews.blogspot.com
(review of free book)
on Dec. 12, 2011 :
The Dragon's Pupils is a different kind of book than i was used to.. It is based on three characters that was well written.. They might only be 14 years old but they learn how to overcome their fears and learn tai chi.They become a kick butt group known as the Jian Ke, and save the world.. The leader of the group being Liz the pen wielder..her twin brother Henry, with his sword and their friend Sue with the ying and yang bracelets Battle monsters, vampires and aliens known as the backpacking vampires. Who in the end ally with the monsters against the real villains.. It is based in Australia and China ...I found myself enjoying the book and waiting for the next in the series to come out.
(review of free book)
on Oct. 1, 2011 :
I think this is between 3 and 3 1/ stars for me.
The story takes place mostly in Australia - although we do get to see a bit of China as well and it involves primarily three fourteen-year-old kids, twins Liz and Henry and their friend Sue and of course their families.
Out of the three, Liz seems to be the most driven, especially when it comes to the environment and protecting it and of course Tai Chi. Early on in the book, we find out that all three of them are "activists" despite their young age and take part in protests seeking to prevent a mining process to an Australian Landmark, Wave Rock.
What they don't know though, is that Wave Rock is not just a landmark, it's what kept the "monsters away" and now there's a "hole" through which they can escape their prison.
When her father gives Liz a special calligraphy pen for her birthday, she feels there's something special about it, what exactly she can't tell, but when strange things start happening around Perth and weird people with backpacks and torches appear with more than hostile intentions and even vampire characteristics, Liz realizes that it's her destiny set in motion.
The three kids are attacked by those strangers and it's their Tai Chi instructor that rescues them, manifesting amazing skills in battle and magic.
She is injured, however, but before she "ascends", she manages to magically give them fighting experience and knowledge they need for the upcoming war. She also gives Henry and Sue powerful magical weapons, a sword and magical rings.
Through their lessons with Li Ping, their extraordinary female Tai Chi instructor, all three have already mastered not only fighting techniques but also breathing and meditation routines that significantly enhance their strength, agility and speed beyond their fourteen years or even their human nature.
Gradually, they find out that the strange men are intruders from USB (Universe of Supreme Beings) with superior technology and powers and the only thing that can help them destroy them is Tai Chi and the Qi power within them, which they can only harness and utilize because they get help along the way.
Sound complicated? It is, but in a good way.
The novel is packed with action. It's page after page of movement and something new and interesting.
The plot flows swiftly and the characters are well defined and believable. Liz's character and Henry's is consistent throughout,with Liz being impulsive, yet heroic and strong-willed and Henry being level-minded and strong.
It is Sue's character that comes full circle by the end of the book though. She starts of how you'd imagine a 14-year-old girl, somewhat shallow (she wants to be a fashion model) and easily scared, but loyal to her friends and by the end of the books, she takes her friendships to the next level, by actually putting her life on the line to save her friends, even if it could cost her her life's dream too.
The novel is filled with Chinese proverbs and stories and one is more interesting than the other - if somewhat cryptic and vague - it's gradually within the book that we understand what each one means and what its usefulness is in the battle against the monsters.
The description of the battles and the fight sequences is detailed and very exciting and these alone really get you into the story.
I really enjoyed the scenes with the Monster King and the challenges the kids had to complete in order to be released, got a bit of a "Doomsday" vibe out of it.
What I enjoyed the most is that it seems that the book seems to target more of a younger reading group, but in it there are useful and meaningful life messages having to do with the importance of friendship, patience, family, love and many other things.
On the other hand, I have to admit that sometimes the ending of the fight and the resolution of some scenes seemed a bit too easy (i.e. the monsters ending a fight) and Liz, Henry and Sue had a lot more freedom than most fourteen-year-olds usually have. They are out of the house a lot and I mean a lot and we don't have scenes of their parents looking for them or questioning them about it. Also, when Liz and Henry's father ends up in the hospital, they don't pay a lot of attention to him, they are away all the time and their mother is nowhere to be found (she isn't depicted to cook for them or ask where they are). Also, at some point Liz talks to Sue's mother on first-name basis which I thought was unusual for a 14-year-old towards an adult, but maybe it's something usual in Australia. (it's not very usual in Greece, though, so maybe that's why it seemed weird to me).
Overall, though, it is a very entertaining book, one will truly enjoy and have fun with, not only because of the exciting battles and Tai Chi techniques, but also for the real-life lessons and the wonderful insight into the Chinese culture.
* Offered by the author for an honest review.
(review of free book)
on July 3, 2011 :
I was contacted by the author and given a copy to read in exchange for an honest review.
I have a thing about dragon's, I love them, so the title alone was enough to pull me in, the beginning of the story really pulled me in and I loved the idea of a magic calligraphy pen that could bring drawings to life, I was instantly like, wow, this sounds great. Then we skip forward and meet Liz and Henry - twins living in Australia but with Chinese heritage. Strange things are happening around Australia, birds flocking together in mass numbers, mice running in hoards down the street, and many other strange occurrences. Henry and Liz are learning Tai Chi, and trying to stay connected to their Chinese heritage, their father is full of old stories and folk tales that he tells them. I actually really enjoyed the stories and found them a good insight into Chinese history. There were a lot of fight scenes in the book and they were well choreographed, lots of tricks and spins etc, but for me there were a few too many fights throughout, it took up a lot of the book.
Liz was a good character and embraced all challenges that were thrown at her, but I did find her disregard for her dad slightly annoying, I can understand how the constant stories can become annoying, like visiting a grandparent who doesn't remember they've told you something and proceed to tell it over and over, but even when she asked for his help she switched off, then wondered why she struggled to remember the facts.
I liked Henry as a character, he had a good head on him and thought things through, he was always willing to help his sister and had some good action.
Their friend Sue was a massive wimp in the start, screaming at everything, but you get to see her grow as a character throughout the book and I actually came to like her.
I enjoyed the book and the plot was exciting and fast moving, but I do wish the idea of the pen had been used a bit more throughout, I felt like it wasn't used as much as it could have been.
Overall a good fast paced read that opens up a new world of Chinese stories and fighting. Well researched and a easy read ( i read it in one sitting!)
(review of free book)