A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this young adult fantasy novel is the first in a series of four. For a fantasy book set in a dark and dangerous world, the violence is very light, though danger always lurks and there are plenty of references past killings. Some flying animals are attacked and are shot with arrows in the Dark City, and the main characters get kidnapped. For the most part, characters are admirable, exhibiting loyalty and bravery, though the Relic Master can be a little hard on his scholar (and is called on it more than once). Also, Carys is a female character who plays a soldier and a spy with refreshingly little attention paid to her gender -- she even feels sorry for Raffi because he's not as brave as she is in dangerous situations.
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What's the story?
Galen is a magical scholar called a Relic Master. He and his pupil Raffi live like fugitives in the wilds of the planet Anara. If they're found by the Watch, they'll be taken in and eliminated like the rest of the disbanded Order who once followed the long-absent Makers. Instead, they are discovered by a horseman who claims one of the Makers' relics needs their attention. But this is a trap set by bandits who force them to retrieve gold from the ruined "Dark City" of Tasceron. Galen agrees to go, but for his own reasons. His magic was lost to him months before in an explosion. Powerful forces are said to live deep within the dangerous decimated city that may be able to help him -- and save the whole ailing planet.
Is it any good?
This is definitely more than fluffy filler with a cliffhanger. In an intriguing marketing idea that's intended to hook teen readers, this book is the first in a series that will be released over a very short period of time -- one book per month over the summer of 2011. Happily, the book is worthy of readers' attention with or without the special "hook." THE DARK CITY offers solid fantasy storytelling, keeping up a quick pace while meticulously revealing the magical world of Anara, one mysterious piece at a time. The author's thoughtful characters are also a big draw. Both sensitive Raffi and Carys, the questioning spy, make the series well worth following.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the marketing behind these books. Does it build up momentum for the series to release books a month at a time? Does it make you want to read them right when they come out?
For fantasy fans, what other books and movies does this one remind you of? Readers may see hints of The Lord of the Rings and The Dark Crystal for starters. Also, how is the magic of the Order different from the magic in series like Harry Potter, Septimus Heap, or The Abhorsen?
For kids who love magic and fantasy
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