This was the month of mediocre jacket flaps. There wasn’t much that was really super inspiring, fun, clever, interesting or eye-catching. Ah, well. I guess there’s bound to be months like that.
5. Merlin Trilogy (Morrow): “The prophetic voice of Merlin, the mysterious enchanter of Arthurian legend, has completed his story. Written over a period of ten years, Mary Stewart’s three best-selling novels now stand together in one volume — the finest work of her distinguished career. Hers is the most extended portrait in all literature of this compelling figure of Dark Age myth and history. Merlin, the protector and tutor of Arthur, has usually been portrayed as an old man. But The Crystal Cave begins the trilogy with the story of his perilous childhood as the bastard son of a Welsh king’s daughter and the secret discovery of the magic arts that will set him apart from other men. With the birth of Arthur, Merlin’s guardianship began and the ancient legend continues in The Hollow Hills with the dramatic immediacy that is Mary Stewart’s special gift. Arthur grew to young manhood, ignorant of his royal parentage, in the deep and dangerous forests of fifth-century England and Wales, where no law was stable and fierce battle rages amongst the brooding mountains. When, in due course, Merlin guided him to the sword that tested his claim to power and the crown, Arthur became king by right, and soon Merlin, his adviser, was to emerge, however obscurely, as the architect of the first United Britain. King Arthur plunged instantly into violent warfare against the Saxons. But in The Last Enchantment there are also more dangerous and subtle enemies ranged against him: Mortgause, half-sister and seductress of Arthur; their child, Mordred; the friends and kin who will betray him. Merlin’s darkest prophecies were realized one by one, yet his bright vision of the future kingdom did prevail, and he foresaw the mystic power that would be at the King’s service as long as Arthur lived. The imaginative brilliance of the Merlin Trilogy completes the life and character of Merlin which are left untold in the early legends. At the end of each of the novels, Mary Stewart has set down the substance of the original legends and with it the sources of her own variations. Her portrait of Merlin is a new legend in itself.”
It’s long, yes, but it’s also a jacket flap for a three-in-one edition. And for that, I think this is a good summary — just enough about each book to give you a hint, but it doesn’t go on overly long.
4. The Orchid Thief (Random House): “The orchid thief in Susan Orlean’s mesmerizing true story of beauty and obsession is John Laroche, a renegade plant dealer and sharply handsome guy, in spit of the fact that he’s missing his front teeth and has the posture of al dente spaghetti. In 1994, Laroche and three Seminole Indians were arrested with rare orchids they had stolen from a wild swamp in south Florida that is filled with some of hate world’s most extraordinary plants and trees. Laroche had planned to clone the orchids and then sell them for a small fortune to impassioned collectors. After he was caught in the act, Laroche set off one of the oddest legal controversies in recent memory, which brought together environmentalists, Native American activists, and devoted orchid collectors. The result is a tale that is strange, compelling and hilarious. New Yorker writer Susan Orlean followed Laroche through swamps and into the eccentric world of Florida’s orchid collectors, a subculture of aristocrats, fanatics and smuggles whose obession with plants is all-consuming. Along the way, Orlean learned the history of orchid collecting, discovered an odd pattern of plant crimes in Florida, and spent time with Laroche’s partners, a tribe of Seminole Indians who are still at war with teh United States. There is something fascinating or funny or truly bizarre on every page of The Orchid Thief: the story of how the head of a famous Seminole chief came to be displayed in the front window of a local pharmacy; or how seven hundred iguanas were smuggled into Florida; or the case of the only known extraterrestrial plant crime. Ultimately, however Susan Orlean’s book is about passion itself, and the amazing lengths to which people will go to gratify it. That passion is captured with singular vision in The Orchid Thief, a once-in-a-lifetime story by one of our most original journalists.”
Someone answer me this: why are all jacket flap descriptions in adult hardback books really long? Just because there’s the space to fill, doesn’t mean you have to fill it. That aside, this does a decent job making a weird book about orchids, Florida and passion sound interesting.
3. The Battle of the Labyrinth (Hyperion): “Percy Jackson isn’t expecting his freshman orientation to be any fun. But when a mysterious mortal acquaintance reappears, followed by demon cheerleaders, things quickly move from bad to worse. In this fourth installment of the blockbuster series, time is running out as war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos draws near. Even the safe haven of Camp Half-Blood grows more vulnerable by the minute as Kronos’s army prepares to invade its once impenetrable borders. To stop them, Percy and his demigod friends will set out on a quest through the Labyrinth — a sprawling underground world with stunning surprises at every turn. Full of humor and heart-pounding action, this fourth book promises to be their most thrilling adventure yet.”
I thought this did a good job with the book; enough bones for someone who knows the books and is curious about this one, but not too much to give away the plot. Which is essential, especially for Percy Jackson.
2.. Out of the Wild (Sleuth Razorbill): “Beware the Wild: it bites. Ever since Julie Marchen helped defeat the fairytale world of the Wild, life’s been pretty much back to normal. That is, as normal as life can be for a girl whose mom is Rapunzel. Yes, that Rapunzel. Then the Wild mysteriously releases Zel’s prince (Julie’s dad) — a rescue-minded hero who crashes full-speed ahead into the 21st century (YOU try teaching a 500-year-old prince to use a seatbelt.) Julie’s over the moon, but when a wicked Fairy Godmother kidnaps Sleeping Beauty and reawakens the Wild, Julie and her dad set off on an action-packed adventure to save the distressed damsel, and the world. If they can’t, they’ll spend eternity in a fairytale.”
Clever, funny, witty. Very well written.
1. Airman (Hyperion): ” Conor Broekhart was born to fly. In fact, legend has it that he was born flying in a hot air balloon at the world’s fair. In the 1890’s Conor and his family live on the sovereign Saltee Islands, off the Irish coast. Conor spends his days studying the science of flight with his tutor and exploring the castle with the king’s daughter, Princess Isabella. But the boy’s idyllic life changes forever the day he discovers a conspiracy to overthrow the king. When Conor tries to expose the plot, he is branded a traitor and thrown into jail on the prison island of Little Saltee. There, he has to fight for his life as he and the other prisoners are forced to mine for diamonds in inhumane conditions. There is only one way to escape Little Saltee, and that is to fly. So he passes the solitary months by scratching drawings of flying machines into the prison walls. The months turn into years, but eventually the day comes when Conor must find the courage to trust his revolutionary designs and take to the skies.”
It made me want to read the book (well, that and blog reviews…). And it does a good job of describing the whole plot (see the one worst), and not just one element of it.
And the one worst:
Exodus (Walker Books): “Less than a hundred years from now, the world as we know it no longer exists. Cities have disappeared beneath the sea, technology no longer functions, and human civilization has reverted to a much more primitive state. For the residents of Wing, an isolated northern island, time is running out. As the sea swallows precious acres and threatens to claim their very lives, they must look beyond their tiny island home for refuge. Only fifteen-year-old Mara has the vision and the will to lead them all in search of a new beginning in this harsh, unfamiliar world. She learns of sky cities that are safe from the storms and rising water, and she is finally able to convince the islanders that finding their way to New Mungo, the closest of the New World cities, is their only chance for survival. But upon reaching the mysterious high-tech civilization, they are shut out of the city, blocked from their only chance at sanctuary. Mara must find a way past the walls to save her people, even if it means risking everything. “
The thing that bothered me most about this — and you wouldn’t know it until you read the book — is that the jacket flap only covers the first 1/3 of the book. The rest of Mara’s adventures, and how she eventually escapes them all, are left unknown. Reading this, you would think that the adventure is getting to New Mungo, not getting away from it. (Oops, a spoiler. Sorry.)