Tag Archives: tween fantasy

The Fires Beneath the Sea, by Lydia Millet, 2011, Book Review

Fires Beneath the SeaThe jury’s still out on how much I liked this one. It has some beautiful moments. It also has some awkward moments. The story is entertaining, but I’m really not compelled to find out when the next book of the series comes out. The characters are all likeable, but I didn’t fall in love with any of them. I found the title on a list of noteworthy books of 2011, but I’m not sure I’d laud it among the best. I guess I’d have to say it’s a middle of the road middle grade read.

Here’s what happens: Cara Sykes lives on Cape Cod with her father, two brothers and an aging Labrador. Her mother, however, disappeared just prior to the tourist season, leaving a note that warned them all of danger. Then a series of events, including the delivery of a message by a Pacific coast sea otter, a vision, and instructions in a poem convince Cara and her brothers that their mother needs their help. Their adventure leads them beneath the sea during a red tide where they encounter the ghost crew of a pirate ship and a soldier of “the Cold One.”

I’m still confused at the end of the book. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in this “worldwide conflict” that Cara’s mother is a part of. Indeed, I’ve hardly seen evidence of it. Who, exactly, is the Cold One? The book feels more like a scavenger hunt than a rescue mission, and at the end the kids have accomplished virtually nothing. I know there are more books coming in the series that will further the adventure, but right now I’m so in the dark that I don’t much care if I press on. A little more information, a little peek at what’s really going on globally, a little hint into the evil opposition would have been much more intriguing.

This book contains a LOT of global warming, the polar bears are dying, save the world science that I get so tired of. And it pretty much bashes all us idiots who don’t agree. There’s also a fair splashing of mild profanities.

On a positive note, I really enjoyed the beauty of the scenery: the sand cliffs at the edge of the ocean, the smell of salt, the seafood restaurants, the crowded tourist towns just beginning to slow for fall, the new chill in the air. It’s appealing. I also loved the scene that takes place beneath the sea at two in the morning during the phosphorescent glow of a red tide. Very cool and original!

Sweet adventure rating – The adventure could have been a bit meatier, though I suspect it will pick up in later books. It has to. The sweetness lies in the setting and within Cara’s strong, stick-together family. I haven’t any sweet treat recommendations for you; however, if you like seafood as much as I do, you’ll probably have to take a trip to Red Lobster after reading The Fires Beneath the Sea.

The Floating Islands, by Rachel Neumeier, 2011, Book Review

I found this book on a library list of notable middle grade books for 2011, and I loved the cover, so I picked it up. I’m glad I did. It turned out to be one of my favorite adventures of this year.

The book opens with Trei on his way to the Floating Islands. His family has recently been buried in a volcanic eruption and his kin in Tolounn, the country of his birth, have turned him away. So he’s searching out his mother’s brother in the Islands where she was raised. As he draws near, he catches sight of the kajuraihi, the Island men who use dragon magic (the same magic that holds up the Islands) to fly, and he knows immediately that he must become one of them. He must fly!

Meanwhile, Trei’s cousin Araenè is rebelling against the limited freedom given to girls within Island culture. Well-bred women should never go out unescorted, may only become wives and mothers, and are expected to spend their lives doing needlework and gossiping politely. But Araenè has a gift for the culinary arts (try to read this one without visiting the sweet shop!) and a rising tide of magic within her.

Then Tolounn wages war against the tiny Island country. Trei must determine where his true loyalties lie, and Araenè must make some difficult choices about her future.

This is a fun read: dragons, magic, and plenty of excitement. Araenè has a habit of dressing as a boy and sneaking off, so we’re lead all over the city—through narrow cobbled alleyways with second stories meeting overhead, to the University campus, to the tall, spindly towers overlooking the ocean far below. Trei takes us soaring through the clouds, turning somersaults and floating on warm currents. And the hidden Mage school is particularly enjoyable. It shifts location in the city constantly, the rooms reconfigure themselves, and doors open in empty walls and lead to who-know-where. The book is perfectly clean, it’s written in a pretty, lyrical style, the characters are likeable, the setting gorgeous, and the children’s problems believable.

But I have three complaints. First, the fairly important character of Prince Ceirfei is altogether too perfect. A few rough edges would benefit him. Second, the author does just a bit too much explaining in those moments when we should be left to exclaim “ah-ha!” on our own. And last, I couldn’t pronounce a single name in the book: Araenè Naseida, Hiraisi Tegana, Anerii Pencara, Tenarii Hanerè… I’d recommend writing them down as you go. I didn’t, and I never really did sort everyone out. Oh, and don’t read it out loud unless you plan to do a lot of fudging!

Speaking of fudge, The Floating Islands is plenty sweet for any palette and quite literally offers high-flying excitement. I strongly recommend it.

At 388 pages, I’d probably place this at 10+.

Peter and the Secret of Rundoon (Starcatchers Series), Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, 2007, Book Review

Peter’s back. So is George, Molly, the Lost Boys, and the Evil Lord Ombra. Thought he was destroyed at the conclusion of book two? I thought so too. But he regathers his strength and returns to Rundoon where the forces of darkness have come up with the most farfetched plan yet: capture Peter, use his powers to call down more starstuff, and with it destroy the universe.

The stakes are high in this one. The highest imaginable. For the cosmic war between forces of light (creation) and forces of darkness (destruction) are revealed. You see, life is only an accident caused by a leaking of stardust to earth (sounds similar to the theories fed to me in school), merely allowed by the forces of light, but their attention is focused elsewhere. Peter can expect no help. Meanwhile, things aren’t going too swimmingly in Never Land. The Island has been captured by a tribe of fierce savages called the Scorpion who are working the natives and the Lost Boys to death. Peter must save them both. His outrageous methods involve a rocket, monkeys, luck, a flying camel, and a flying ship.

Peter and the Secret of Rundoon includes a LOT of action and returns to the slap-stick-type violence of book one. There are some casualties, including a few people fed to the giant crock, Mr. Grin, and King Zarboff’s giant snake, and Molly is praised and rewarded by her father for disobeying him, but overall the book is kid-appropriate. There’s no profanity. It’s fast-paced and highly entertaining. Like in the first two books, we’re given more explanations for the original Peter Pan story: Peter’s family background, how Mr. Grin swallowed the ticking clock, and how the ship Jolly Roger came to fly. The series is a must-read for kids 10+.

Book one: Peter and the Starcatchers
Book two: Peter and the Shadow Thieves
Book four: Peter and the Sword of Mercy

Seeds of Rebellion (Beyonders, book two), by Brandon Mull, 2012, Book Review

I’ve been waiting exactly a year for the second Beyonders book. I read the A World Without Heroes at family camp last year. This year I checked out Seeds of Rebellion to read at camp once again. We leave today but, ahem, I finished the book last night. Drat! (Note: This was written three weeks ago.) I did have a little trouble recalling details from the first book. People and places were mentioned that I couldn’t remember right away, but most of the time I figured them out through context. I fear I’ll have the same trouble next time; the final book of the trilogy releases in the spring of 2013.

This one felt a little nebulous. After the very definite quest of book one, I felt like Jason’s return to Lyrian didn’t really have much point. He was such a brave hero in the first go-round, but this time he’s more of a tag-along, a liability almost, dependent on others stronger than himself. They all seem stronger than him. Rachel discovers a powerful knack for the magical language; Aram, the half-giant, is bastion of strength—at least half the time; Ned has tremendous cunning and knowledge of poisons; Tark turns out rather courageous; Ferrin the displacer is irreplaceable; and even old, blind Galloran finds unexpected strength and resolve. But no one seemed to have much of a plan about how to defeat Maldor.

Once the tiny group of rebels assembles, they journey to the land of the Seed People—they know they need all the allies they can gather—and they find plenty of adventure along the way. But when the Amar Kabal hesitate to join them and openly defy Maldor, a mixed company is formed to travel to the oracle and learn whether resistance against the evil wizard has even the slightest chance of success. They make it to the oracle, barely, and learn they have one chance in a million, which is more than they hoped for. But to succeed, they must split forces. Two tasks must be accomplished, one by Galloran and one by Jason, if they are to succeed. And I was rather glad to hear it. That means the little band with have a purpose once again in book three, and Jason will return to prominence.

Though I enjoyed book one more (once I got into it), this one did keep me reading. There are plenty of casualties, but the few squeamish moments of book one are absent. It’s a bit milder. In his Author’s Note, Mr. Mull mentions that he’s been working on this series ten years. That’s amazing, and I applaud his efforts. But I’m afraid the series will never place among my favorites. I do have to say he knows how to plug in excitement; the wandering band finds danger at every turn. And he’s endlessly creative. But the humor is just a bit bland, and the series never attains much depth. It does have purpose—defeat the Great Evil—and it has danger and magic, courage and honor, but those deep moments of reflection, of inner discovery, are few and far between. I must mention a very nicely written scene, however, in which Ferrin is examining his motives for betraying Maldor and joining the rebellion. He’s uncertain of himself and his loyalties. In my opinion, that is the most powerful, most emotional, most honest moment in the series. I wish there were more like it.

Content is clean and so is the language. It is violent in a fantasy adventure sort of way but not inappropriate. I’d give Seeds of Rebellion a 10+ rating because of length, though there’s no reason to prevent younger readers from picking it up.

Peter and the Shadow Thieves (Starcatchers Series, book 2), by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, 2006

Peter and the shadow thievesThe pre-adventures of Peter Pan continue, and they’re just as fun and fantastic in Peter and the Shadow Thieves as they are in book one. Peter chose to stay in Never Land with the lost boys rather than live with Molly and her family in London. But when he learns the Others (evil ones who seek to rule the world with the power of stardust) have tracked the huge shipment of stardust to the Asters, he doesn’t hesitate to travel to their rescue. But he and Tink have to stow away on the very boat that carries the Others. The old villain Slank is among their number, along with a new nemesis, Captain Nerezza, and a cold, raspy creature called Lord Ombra who controls people by stealing their shadows. Peter must help the Asters return the stardust to the heavens before the Others get ahold of it, but Ombra proves a much cannier adversary than any he’s yet faced.

I’m really enjoying this series (again). Like book one, the sequel continues to tie well-known details from the classic story into new adventures. The new story explains the old one. In this case, Mr. Pearson and Mr. Barry take the shadow theme and give it a huge new significance. They also continue to exercise their superb talent for funny dialogue and keep their characters on the brink of disaster. I lose track of time in these books. Before I know it, I’m another hundred pages in.

This one isn’t quite as violent as the first book, which featured pirates. Ombra is an entirely different kind of evil. A scarier, more serious kind of evil. Appearing in the form of a cloaked man, he glides around, oozing in and out of tight spaces. He is what nightmares are made of. The threat in this one is slower, less slap-stick, and less violent, but more menacing. Still, it’s entirely appropriate for kids 10+. In fact, I don’t recall any profanities in this one at all.

This time around, I realized that the authors gave James Barrie, the author of Peter and Wendy, a cameo appearance in this book. I didn’t catch it last time I read it, maybe because I’m accustomed to seeing his name written as J. M. Barrie. But he’s in here for a brief “ah-ha” kind of scene, along with a St. Bernard (remember Nana?). Very cute.

I also want to mention the illustrations before I close out. They’re extremely well done–detailed black and white drawings (charcoal?) drawn on gray paper. Illustrator Greg Call does a wonderful job capturing the soul of each character in his expressions. They add greatly to the story.

I’m off now to read book three…

Read my reviews of the other books in this series:

The High King, by Lloyd Alexander, 1968, Book Review

I’ve so enjoyed this series. If you’ve never read it, check out my other reviews (scroll to bottom) then get thee to a library and check out book one. These are among the cream of the crop in children’s literature, and all five books are chock full of fantastic adventure and fabulous writing. They relate the story of Taran, a lowly Assistant Pig-Keeper with a valiant heart. He is only a rash eleven-year-old child at book one’s outset, wanting desperately to find glory on the battlefield—and he does, more often than he’d like—but his repeated quests serve to fill him with a good deal of wisdom. The takeaway value of these books is so rich. Book two, The Black Cauldron, received Newbery honors but this last book, The High King, took the crown (sorry, bad pun), and it well deserves its Newbery medal.

In my book four review, I made several easy predictions, including my guess that Taran would get the throne of Prydain. With a title like The High King, I don’t think it’s really a spoiler to say I was right. My dog could have seen it coming. Taran does fight the evil Lord Arawn and comes out successful, but it’s the getting there that is so fantastic. It’s the journey, the growing, the struggling along the way that make this such a fit ending to the series. Yet Taran finds out that kingship is “like jumping headfirst into a thorn bush” and a crown “more discomfort than adornment.”

I also guessed that Princess Eilonwy would return to the storyline, and I’m so glad she did. I just adore her character. She’s brave, yet Mr. Alexander doesn’t have her fighting unrealistically on the front lines. She’s sharp and outspoken, but she balances Taran so well. And she’s completely miffed over everyone’s expectation that she wash her hair and act like a lady. The banter between Taran and Eilonwy is still funny and light, but there is now a depth to it, a maturity, an adult awakening, a realization of what losing the other would mean. Taran and Eilonwy have grown up.

All the characters I’ve come to love have returned for this final installment, each comically consistent with their snapping harp strings, buzzing ears, and unique styles of speech, but not all of them make it to the end. War is costly and painful, but some things are worth dying for. Taran and company once again prove themselves valiant, honorable, and brave.

As in my four previous reviews, I have a whole list of fabulous quotes I want to share. Quotes that illustrate the rich quality of the series:

“Surprising how easy it is. The planning, at any rate. The doing, for some reason, always seems a little harder.”

“A man’s life weighs more than glory, and a price paid in blood is a heavy reckoning.”

“Every man is a hero if he strives more for others than for himself alone.”

“The deeds of man, not the words of a prophecy, are what shape his destiny.”

And when Taran is asked sharply asked in the heat of battle “Are you a warlord or a pig-keeper?” he replies gently, “Must you ask, friend? I am a pig-keeper.”

But my favorite quote is from Princess Eilonwy: “It’s been long since I’ve slept on comfortable roots and rocks. What a pleasant change from goose feathers!”

So much good stuff! I want to conclude, however, with a quote from Mr. Alexander:

“(Book five’s) structure is somewhat different, its range wider. If there is more external conflict, I have tried to add more inner content; if the form follows that of the traditional hero tale, the individuals, I hope, are genuinely human. And although it deals with a battle on an epic scale, where Taran, Princess Eilonwy, Fflewddur Fflam, even the oracular pig Hen Wen, are pressed to the limits of their strength, it is a battle whose aftermath is deeper in consequences than the struggle itself.”

The High King is indeed a grand finale. Mr. Alexander, you’ve been successful on every level.

Here are my reviews of the other books in the series:

Nick of Time, by Ted Bell, 2008, Book Review

Do you like fast-paced adventure? I’ve read few middle grade novels more exciting than Nick of Time.

It’s 1939 and Nick McIver is twelve years old. The Nazis threaten England and the rest of Europe like a black cloud, and U-boats traverse the English Channel on which Nick has spent his whole life as the son of a lighthouse keeper. Authentic historical details such as these give this book a solid foundation within history, one fraught with peril, but then a whole world of fantasy opens up as well. For on one of his many local sailing exploits, Nick finds a time machine, and suddenly his sailing exploits aren’t so local. Suddenly, 1939 is only home base.

Enter Billy Blood, a nineteenth century pirate who holds a second time machine and visits many points in history, kidnapping children for ransom. Enter also the nineteenth century naval hero, Lord Nelson; a twentieth century British millionaire; a British advanced weapons expert and an aging warship gunner and you have a recipe for adrenaline.

The violence in this book does get a little intense. It’s not terribly graphic, but it includes an up-close-and-personal naval battle and a Nazi officer who doesn’t hesitate to shoot his underlings or blow them out a submarine’s torpedo tube. Yet it wasn’t so excessive that I would withhold it from my ten-year-old. In fact, I’d be comfortable placing a 9+ age rating on it. It’s a great boy read with plenty of scrapes and fast action and, well, there are some casualties. It does have a smattering of mild profanities and more than a smattering of typos. But I kind of liked these typos because they originate from a mainstream publishing house. That means the door has been left wide open for Indies like myself to surpass the industry, mwa-ha-ha. (Okay, I borrowed the evil laugh from Erik, who also lent me the book. Thanks Erik!)

What about sweetness? I’m always a sucker for sugar, whether it’s in a cookie or in a book, and the character of Kate, Nick’s little sister, fills this role nicely. She’s adorable, and the bond between the siblings rings true. They squabble like alley cats, but when danger looms, Nick does everything he can to protect her. Kate, however, plays her own brave part. She is unrealistically advanced for a six-year-old, but her innocence and charm make a nice contrast to the more brutal scenes.

Overall, I enjoyed this one very much. It reminded me of the classic boy adventures like Swiss Family Robinson and Treasure Island, and some fantastic illustrations add to that old-fashioned illusion. But I can’t think of a single modern boy I know who wouldn’t get caught up in Nick’s tale and wish he could trade places with him just for a while.

Note: Similar to The Chronicles of Nathaniel Childe, by Timothy Davis.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J. K. Rowling, 2007, Book Review

It took me fall, winter, and spring, but I finished my third venture through the Harry Potter series. And you know what? I enjoyed it as much as the first time. I’m amazed at the imagination and intricacy of the books, and I’m doubly amazed at how much I forget in a few years’ time.

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, though he remains veiled and therefore more frightening to the public, Voldemort has nearly completed his takeover of the wizarding world. The Ministry of Magic has capitulated and is now run by Death Eaters whose policies are reminiscent of the Nazi regime. Pureblood families are given high status, those of mixed Muggle/wizard blood are tolerated, and Muggle-born wizards are persecuted and sometimes killed. Muggles are simply animals to be hunted. Pockets of resistance, however, are widespread.

As soon as Harry learns of the Ministry’s fall, just before the start of his seventh and final year at Hogwarts which he knows he must miss, he sets out on the quest Dumbledore set him: find Voldemort’s horcruxes and destroy them. A horcrux is an object that contains a fractured part of a soul. Even if Voldemort dies, he can rise again as long as he has a horcrux tying him to life. He’s like a cat with nine lives. To ensure his final destruction, Harry, Ron, and Hermione must find and destroy the remaining horcruxes. But where are they?

Because this final book is a quest, it feels a little less structured than the others, but I never once felt it lagged. Each time the heroes reach the point of despair, they are given help or make a breakthrough. Little by little, the story builds to the final confrontation that simply must take place at Hogwarts, the place it all began. Many excellent characters meet their demise in this book, especially in the last hundred pages. Loyalties are determined once and for all, and a good many surprises lie in wait. Though we know, of course, that Harry must win, it only happens at the highest cost and through the most twisting of circumstances. Dumbledore’s theories and manipulation lie at the heart of the conclusion, and explanations are given that reach back all the way to the very first book. It is a nicely packaged, thoughtful conclusion to the series. I especially enjoyed the final epilogue that takes place nineteen years later.

I maintain my 12+ rating. This one is tragically bloody. It contains sweeping, epic scenes of violence during the final battle. It also includes the torture and screams of Hermione when she is captured by Death Eaters and the strangling death of another. Nagini the snake emerges through the neck of an inferi (dead person who does Voldemort’s bidding) in a particularly nasty scene. One of the influential characters orders his own death by another, which is supposed to be sacrificial in nature but actually smacks loudly of euthanasia (“…avoid pain and humiliation…” “…I should prefer a quick, painless exit to the protracted and messy affair…”).

Yet the main themes of this book are overwhelmingly positive: loyalty, friendship, selflessness, sacrifice, and courage. It celebrates standing for principal, standing for ultimate truth in the face of dire consequences. Death, it is maintained, is not something not to be feared, and love conquerors even the greatest of evils. Like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, there can be found within the pages of Harry Potter a story of salvation, of redemption, of old, deep magic beyond the understanding of man or wizard. It is the echo of an older, greater story. It is a story worth reading, worth celebrating.

In my final conclusion, the evil within Harry Potter is the stuff of nightmares, but Hogwarts is the stuff of dreams. The detail, imagination and adventure are, quite simply, magic. While Harry should be read at an age that can handle dark spiritual themes, in my opinion, it should be read!

Taran Wanderer, Lloyd Alexander,1967, Book Review

“Who am I?”

That is the question Taran seeks to answer in book four of the Chronicles of Prydain. Taran has already had many adventures, fought many foes, won several battles, and fallen in love with Princess Eilonwy. He is held in high esteem by all who know him, yet he is still an Assistant Pig-Keeper, an orphan with no known history. Were his parents peasants, or could he be of noble blood, making him worthy of the princess? This is what he seeks to learn, and he covers all of Prydain in his quest.

Taran Wanderer at first seemed a little pointless. There was no evil to defeat, no plot to foil. Taran simply began wandering with no clear direction and no clues to help him. “What I seek, I do not know. But, alas, I know it is not here.” But the old crew soon joins him—Gurgi, Doli and Ffluddur Flam—and the adventures start rolling in. The book grows as rich as ever, with the most important battle being waged inside Taran. It is exquisitely written. Once again I have page after page of notes, beautiful quotations, and nuggets of wisdom that give such deep insights into life. I just love this series.

In his travels, Taran is offered King Smoit’s kingdom and refuses it. He’s offered a stone of power by the wizard Morda and refuses it. He shows excellent leadership abilities, he judges disputes with the wisdom of King Solomon, he repays friendship with aid, he inspires courage and displays loyalty. In every respect, he acts admirably and proves himself noble. Before his quest ends (I won’t tell you if he’s nobly born or not), he realizes the folly of looking to blood to prove one’s worth: “When I was a child I dreamed of adventure, glory of honor in feats of arms. I think now that these things are shallow….As for my parentage, it makes little difference…manhood is not given but earned.”

Here are a few more quotes that I really like:

“Once the apple is ripe, no man can turn it back to a greening.”

“Was a royal robe enough to hide a dishonorable deed?”

“If I fret over tomorrow, I’ll have little joy today.”

“Trust your luck, Taran Wanderer, but don’t forget to put out your net.”

“Craftsmanship isn’t like water in an earthen pot, to be taken out by the dipperful until it’s empty. No, the more drawn out the more remains.”

“Life is clay to be shaped.”

Though I have not looked at the final book in the series, I believe this one sets it up in some important ways. As a result of his journey, Taran has established relationships all over Prydain, he’s learned the hardships its people face, and he’s seen how Arawn, the evil Lord, has devastated the land. He has also gathered a great deal of experience, wisdom and confidence. I believe in the next book, The High King, that Taran will face Arawn in a final battle and emerge as the leader of all Prydain. He has certainly proved himself able. I also think the princess Eilonwy will make a significant return to the series. I missed her fiery personality in this one.

Though I can make some strong predictions as to the tale’s ending, I wouldn’t miss the reading of it. This series has been phenomenal. Truly the sweetest of adventures!  I’m off to purchase the last book now…

Here are my reviews of the other books in the series:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J. K. Rowling, 2005

I stalled out on my Harry Potter reviews over the winter when my own novel was taking priority. This week it was so fun to set other stuff aside and read just for the sake of reading. And no place is more fun to escape to than Hogwarts. A LOT is going on in this one. It’s the most pivotal book in the series. A springboard for the final climax.

This time around, the entire wizarding world is on the edge of panic now that it is well-known Voldemort has returned. The landscape is one of fear, sudden disappearances, and suspicious deaths. Readers know (and Harry suspects) that Draco Malfoy, Harry’s schoolmate and nemesis, is in the Dark Lord’s employ. And some HUGE questions linger about Professor Snape’s loyalties, though Dumbledore trusts him implicitly. Even though security is especially tight at Hogwarts, still two students almost die when cursed objects find their way into the school. There is even talk of closing Hogwarts altogether.

Against this desperate background, Dumbledore initiates special “lessons” with Harry, showing him a series of memories involving the life of Tom Riddle, the boy who would grow up to be Voldemort. Together they come to understand the Dark Lord’s fear of death. It’s a defining moment in the series, the underlying theme: is death to be feared or not? Then they figure out Voldemort’s secret to immortality, and they take the first steps to counteract it. Unfortunately, their plans backfire. The book ends in tragedy, shifting alliances, and a lot of questions. But Harry’s path is clear, and at the end of it we can see the confrontation we’ve been waiting six volumes for.

There are some negative elements. Inferi are dead bodies that are enchanted to do Voldemort’s bidding, though they only feature in one scene that really isn’t too bad. I was more disgusted by all the “snogging” (British slang for kissing) Ron does in an attempt to make Hermione jealous. Harry gets two of his teachers drunk to elicit information from them. There’s also a smattering of mild profanities. And here we first learn of Horcruxes, the darkest of all dark magic, the willful ripping of the soul.

But this one has some really great moments between Harry and Dumbledore. I love Professor Dumbledore’s God-like wisdom and his pure belief that love is the most powerful magic in the universe, a magic Voldemort can never understand but Harry has in abundance. Here are a few of Dumbledore’s quotes:

(To Harry, when Harry is questioning Snapes’ loyalty and Dumbledore’s decision to hire him) “I think you might even consider the possibility that I understood more than you did.” Going along with Dumbledore’s judgement even when it makes no sense, that’s a pretty powerful illustration of trust, isn’t it?

“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”

And this tongue-in-cheek comment, “Divination is turning out to be much more trouble than I could have foreseen.”

Dumbledore also gives Harry a whole new perspective on the prophecy (concerning Harry and Voldemort) that says neither can live while the other’s alive. Just because it’s a prophecy doesn’t mean it had to be fulfilled, but Voldemort created an enemy for himself (Harry) when he acted on it. By trying to kill Harry, he gave Harry the ability to understand his thoughts and his language (parcel tongue), he planted in Harry the desire for revenge, and he gave Harry the greatest protection of all when he killed Harry’s mother who died protecting him. Harry need not dread the prophecy. But he can choose to meet it bravely. By taking the time to explain all this, Dumbledore is bolstering Harry’s courage for the final confrontation we all know is coming.

So I still advocate a 12+ age limit on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but I also encourage twelve-year-olds to read it. The positives far outweigh the negatives.

My other Harry Potter reviews: