The Eighth Day

 
(i)

 

Fun, exciting twist on the King Arthur legend.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Many characters are descendants of King Arthur, Merlin, the Lady of the Lake, and the Knights of the Round Table, so the legends are discussed, as are Stonehenge and Pentre Ifan (a similar stone monument in Wales). The climax takes place at Teotihuacan in Mexico, with talk of its place in history and the mystery surrounding it.

Positive messages

The struggle of good vs. evil pits the good guys against those who could wipe out most of the human race. Bravery and self-sacrifice are essential. Includes a small caution about protecting yourself online: Don't use the same password and ID for everything, and don't trust everyone you meet online.

Positive role models

Jax is a kid who hates stealing, even out of necessity. He drops a bike he stole at the police station with a note saying "sorry." He's also sympathetic toward his imprisoned neighbor, Evangeline, and tries to befriend her. At the same time, when he discovers he has a power to get people talking he uses it against kids he dislikes at school. And he lies often to his guardian, Riley, and hides his mistakes from him. Riley never has enough groceries in the house and seems somewhat neglectful of Jax, from whom he hides way too much information, but he comes through when it counts, and Riley and Jax begin to understand each other by the end.

Violence

The climactic battle is with guns with one sad character death and many bad guys killed, by gunshot, stabbing, a neck snapped, and falling. Jax is kidnapped more than once, Tasered, imprisoned, held at gunpoint, and threatened with burning in a house fire. One character is kidnapped and transported in a coffin, a house fire threatens a family, a long-dead body is dug up for a ceremony, and characters use bloodletting to enhance magic, cutting themselves and others with daggers. Jax passes out, getting a tattoo he didn't want. Talk of how main characters' families have all died -- Jax's mom from illness, his dad from a mysterious car wreck. Riley's whole family died in an explosion. Evangeline's brother was murdered.

Sex

A kiss.

Language

Mentions that people curse up storms, but only things such as "crap" and "jerk" make it to the page.

Consumerism

Jax robs Walmart, mentioned a few times along with Land Rovers and his father's Rolex. Quick cultural references such as Will Smith, SpongeBob SquarePants, the Killers, Scooby-Doo, and The A-Team.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Riley's friend A.J. asks Jax if he has cigarettes, and he replies that he's only 12.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Eighth Day is the first book in a planned trilogy that supposes that ancestors of evil magicians from King Arthur's time are imprisoned in a special time stream between Wednesday and Thursday and others, called Transitioners, can exist in both. Of course the evil magicians want out, and in a climactic scene pitting good against evil there's plenty of gunfire, bloodletting with daggers, one sad death, and many other deaths. But violence stays action-focused, not gory. Jax is kidnapped more than once and fears for his life, and there's much talk about his being an orphan and the families of other Transitioners like him having been wiped out by the enemy. All other content stays pretty mild. Kids will learn a bit about the King Arthur legend as well as the pyramids at Teotihuacan. Through Jax's folly, they'll also get a reminder to be careful online.

What's the story?

Ever since Jax's father died and left him with Riley -- a boy barely out of high school who barely remembers to pay the electric bill -- Jax has been angry and confused. Why can't he live with his cousin? He doesn't even like Riley. Then Jax turns 13, and his confusion multiplies. He wakes up one morning and the whole town is deserted. Just gone. He rides around in a panic, breaks into Walmart for emergency supplies, and stacks them in his closet. Then the next day he wakes up and the world's going on again like nothing ever happened. A week later it happens again, but this time he runs into Riley, who has some serious explaining to do. Riley tells him he's a Transitioner like him: those descended from knights and magicians in King Arthur's time who live one extra day between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people transition from both realms, while some descendants of evil magicians live in the eighth day permanently. Jax has so many more questions, but Riley remains secretive. He's determined to train him just enough and send him to his cousin's house; too much information is dangerous. But each Transitioner has a family gift, and Jax is an inquisitor. He quickly learns about the secret prisoner next door and Riley's true identity. He also learns that there are others out there who want to use his gifts, and suddenly his curiosity puts him in serious danger.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

For a story that pits good vs. evil and could end in the apocalypse, THE EIGHTH DAY stays surprisingly light. The marketers of the book make comparisons to the Percy Jackson series. Jax isn't as quick-witted as Percy, but he's very earnest and makes relatable kid mistakes. He also steps up in a hurry when his friends are in trouble and thinks for himself. Readers will like him right away, and they'll grow to like Riley, as Jax does. 

As with any start to a series where a huge premise needs to be laid out, there are slow patches while Jax and readers gather information about Transitioners, those trapped in the eighth day, and where they came from and why. But once that's established (with enough mystery for future books), the story gets exciting and the pages fly by until the end.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the Arthur legend and The Eighth Day. What did you know before about King Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table? How do they figure into this story? 

  • Would you like to be a Transitioner? What would your kids do if they had one day all to themselves (keep in mind that there would be no electricity)? What about parents?

  • What mistakes did Jax make online? Is there anything you think you should change about your online behavior? For starters, how often do you change your passwords?

Book details

Author:Dianne K. Salerni
Genre:Fantasy
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Book characters
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Harper
Publication date:April 22, 2014
Number of pages:320
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of The Eighth Day was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
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  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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