Sunday, October 25, 2009

Isle of Fire: A Review

"Isle of Fire" picks up shortly after the conclusion of its predecessor, Isle of Swords. Cat is staying with the Brethren Monks, training with them while trying to regain his memories of his past life. But he isn't all that certain that his past is something he wants to remember.

Meanwhile, Captain Declan Ross and his daughter Anne sail the sea recruiting pirates for his "Wolf Pack," a group of former pirates paid by the British Government and the Brethren to hunt down other pirates. Villains, new and old, make their appearance quickly as well. Some are brutal and heartless, consumed by their desire for revenge; others are more subtle, content to wait until the proper moment to strike.

Wayne Thomas Batson paints a broad, sweeping tale that spans the Atlantic Ocean in this tale of treachery, truth, and tempests. Things are not always what they seem--even chapter titles can be deceiving. One rarely sees the newest--and cruelest--villain, The Merchant, but his influence is felt nonetheless.

As in Batson's other books, some of the secondary characters are so much "larger than life" as to feel almost caricatures of reality and yet they seem perfectly real at the same time. However, the main characters internal dilemmas are as clear and real as their external ones.

Overall, I preferred Isle of Fire to Isle of Swords. There were fewer extreme characters--or perhaps I just knew the characters better and so they felt more real--and the story is less obvious. One knows the good guys have to win, but how is very much uncertain. Also, I liked the fact that Declan, Anne, Cat, and the others, aren't searching for treasure but rather truth. And they all find Truth and therefore, true treasure.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys adventures on the high seas. But make sure you read "Isle of Swords" first!

By: Wayne Thomas Batson

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Isle of Swords: A Review

Bloodthirsty pirates. Buried treasure. Mysterious monks. Hidden islands. Daring escapes. Perilous searches. All these things and more are found in Isle of Swords. As Captain Declan Ross tries to discover a way to leave piracy behind, his daughter tries to persuade him to let her join the crew and his newest deckhand tries to recover his memory. A strange monk offers Captain Ross his chance to escape piracy if he will grant him passage to an island no one has seen. But the ruthless Captain Bartholomew Thorne also wants the treasure and will do anything to get his hands on the map now in Captain Ross' possession.

I had a little trouble at first with the manner in which Batson constantly shifts the point-of-view from which the story is being told. Hearing from half a dozen different characters who I barely knew was a bit confusing and frustrating. However, as the story progressed, I quickly lost sight of the point-of-view changes and lost myself in the story.

Isle of Swords is first and foremost an action and adventure story populated with memorably quirky characters. Secondly, it is a tale of what is really important in life--not the adventure, but those family and friends who share it with us. The message is smoothly interwoven into the story with the same skill Batson has shown in his Door Within trilogy. Nearly every reader should be enthralled by this fast-paced story set on the high seas.

By: Wayne Thomas Batson

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Final Storm: A Review

Imprisoned in the fortress of Paragor, Antoinette Reed still tries desperately to convince Kearn that Paragor's promises are empty. Meanwhile, Aidan loans the Scrolls to Robby in hopes that they will convince him that The Realm is real and that King Eliam is the one to follow. But Robby is not easy to convince. In The Realm, Kaliam readies Alleble for the assault by Paragor's forces that is sure to come, bringing all of those loyal to King Eliam under the protection of the city's walls. But with the ancient Wyrm Lord and the Seven Sleepers on Paragor's side, will the walls of Alleble be enough to with stand the storm?

The Final Storm brings together the best characters from the two previous books and introduces us to still more. Each of the three travelers from the Mirror Realm--Robby, Antoinette, and Aidan--have their own strengths and weaknesses keeping them from becoming copies of each other. The Glimpses too are clearly defined. While the characters retain their boisterous natures from previous books, the looming war tempers them making this my favorite of the trilogy. Amid the darkness of war, there is hope.

Beneath the shadows of ruin, there is life. These concepts and more are a foundation to this story of Alleble's great stand against the evil of Paragor. I love the way Batson illustrates the fact that though evil times will come, there is only one place to put our trust--In the King of kings. He will see to it that the evil will be used for good, no matter how bleak things may be. The Final Storm reminds us all that the end is only the beginning. Readers will love this gripping conclusion to the Door Within trilogy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Rise of the Wyrm Lord: A Review

Uniting familiar characters with delightful new ones, "The Rise of the Wyrm Lord" chronicles the further adventures of Aidan Thomas as he readjusts to life in our world, the Mirror Realm, as well as detailing the journeys of headstrong Antoinette Reed. When the teenagers meet at school, they quickly discover a mutual love for King Eliam and his ways. Convinced that Antoinette is being called to the Realm, Aidan secures her promise to search for Robby's Glimpse and persuade him to join them while he tries to persuade him in their own world. Never dreaming of the trouble it would cause, Antoinette gives her word and soon her adventures in the Realm begin.

Like "The Door Within," "The Rise of the Wyrm Lord" works with a broad cast of twelve knights, each with different strengths. This book introduces my favorite character, the herbmaster and pyromaniac knight Sir Oswyn. Batson manages to keep his main characters--both the Glimpses from each other and Antoinette from Aidan--very distinct so that we do not lose track of characters for the number of them.

Teenagers who enjoy fantasy will love this second book in the Door Within trilogy. Woven within the fast-paced tale is a lesson of trust and obedience--and the consequences of ignoring wise counsel. The only problem with the book is that it is the middle of the sequence. The ending leaves one wanting more! And that is hardly a true problem.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Door Within: A Review

When Aidan Thomas and his family have to move halfway across the country to care for his aging grandfather, the disgruntled teenager knows that life will never be the same. What he doesn't know is exactly how different life will be. The discovery in the basement of mysterious scrolls with a fascinating but unfinished story leads Aidan to seek the Door Within and travel to a world of noble knights and fair maidens. In The Realm, he learns more of the story found in the scrolls and faces the choice that will define his life forever--follow King Eliam or Paragor the Usurper.

Some of the characters are rather broadly drawn so that they seem rather exaggerated and thus unrealistic, but they are delightful nonetheless. Captain Valithor, Sentinel of Alleble, employs hilarious adjectives as he urges those in his charge to work harder. One fun thing about the characters is the way their build and temperaments tend to mirror their weapons. Archer brothers Nock and Bolt are slight and quick, while hammer-wielding Mallik is built like a rock.

In this adventurous tale full of truth and treachery, rambunctious and hilarious characters, Aidan learns what it means to never be alone. Though written for Junior High and early High Schoolers, the story contains enough depth to satisfy an older reader while remaining simple enough for children many years younger. "The Door Within" is sure to delight any reader of adventure and fantasy.

By: Wayne Thomas Batson