Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
Dr. Dan's Elixir
Potent Magic for Young Minds
    by Dan Shade
December 2007

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown, Copyright © 2005
498 Pages, $18.99 Hardcover
Age Group: 15 up
(out of five) -- I loved it!

When I first opened Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, I must admit that I did so expecting yet another book about humans and Vampires that fall in love. A Vampire and a human do indeed fall in love in Twilight, but the book is so much more. I was most interested to sample Meyer's book because someone had told me the third volume, Eclipse, was outselling Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. I have not been able to confirm that such was indeed the case. Yet, just the idea of another book outselling Potter intrigued me enough to open the first book of the trilogy. Outselling Harry Potter would a record breaking event.

Four-hundred-and-ninety-eight pages later, I am glad I opened Twilight. I have been uplifted by the human (and non-human) spirit, enlightened regarding our capacity to accept the difference in others, enlivened by a well-told tale and educated regarding the potential of Vampire stories. This book is not a Vampire romance novel nor is it the source for knowledge about Vampires. However, because this novel told a sweet story with believable even loveable characters who are pitted against the cruelest of enemies, it qualifies as a sure winner.

Here, to me, are the questions this book raises. Can good come from what has traditionally been cast as evil? Is there good in evil and can it come to the surface and develop? And if good Vampires exist, would they not be very much like you and me? Finally, how much and what role do stereotypes play in our interactions with others? Ms. Meyer has some interesting answers to these questions and more in her masterful work.

Isabella (Bella or Bell) is a displaced 17-year-old. Her parents divorced years ago, and Bella has been living with her mother. But now her mother has a boyfriend and they move to Florida. Bella doesn't want to be a part of that new relationship, so she voluntarily exiles herself to live with her father in Forks, Washington. In the novel we get a little of the rundown on Forks and it's not good. I have friends who live in Forks and it does receive the most rainfall in a year and the days you can see the sun can be counted on one hand. On the other hand, it's thirteen miles from the majestic pacific coastline. That part gets left out of the novel.

Bella is totally spaz. She cannot even walk to school without falling. And in gym she is a lethal weapon. Put a racquet in her hand and some innocent student is going to be injured. Bella practically has a near-death experience once a week according to Edward (of whom we shall speak later). She is saved from a near-death experience that would have resulted in real death early in the book. Bella nearly died when another car collided with her parked truck, but Edmond pulled her out of the way. It took lightening speed and reflexes to perform that trick.

Edward is a Vampire. He's a few hundred years old but locked in the 17-year or so body he had when he was made a vampire. So he masquerades as a high school student wherever he and his "family" decide to reside. Edward is a good Vampire from a close knit "family" of Vampires who do not feed on humans. Bella is struck by Edward's "beauty" the first time she sees him. But can a human and a Vampire have a love relationship? Can they have shared interests? Can the Vampire keep his teeth out of the human's neck long enough for a relationship to develop?

Introduce some rogue Vampires and the story tension increases at a rapid pace. I recommend this novel with so much enthusiasm I can barely keep from telling you the details of the story. I was unable to put the book down and read as often as I could. I lost a lot of sleep to this book and I want you to suffer as I did. Read it! You won't be sorry!

For those of you who care, Stephenie Meyer graduated from Brigham Young University.

I have nothing against Harry Potter books. Anyone who can get children to read books of 800 pages and more is my kind of writer. I admit to having read most of the Harry Potter books and my hat is off to J. K. Rowling. I hope to catch up to the latest volume soon.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Miramax, Copyright © 2006
375 Pages, $7.99 Trade Paperback
Age Group: 10 up
(out of five) -- I liked it.

Recently the movie The Golden Compass, which is based on the book with the same title, by Philip Pullman, hit the theaters. The release of this movie raised the dead. Zombies were everywhere, waving their hands and yelling, "Don't let your children read this book because it teaches them there is no God." I don't know about you, but my inbox was flooded with Zombie emails for several days. Having recently reviewed these books, I knew they were harmless. My nine-year-old read the trilogy and she hasn't turned "godless" on me.

I write this to warn all Zombie parents that The Lightning Thief does indeed leave out the Godhead we know as the Father, his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. The gods of this book are quite literally the Olympian Gods. There are no other gods to deal with. You know who I mean; Zeus, Poseidon, Hades and the rest. People in this book or universe (after all it is fiction) worship these gods. Will that teach your children there is no God? Not if you have a talk with them about whom we worship on this planet and that it might be different on other planets. Or, just don't say anything at all and let them enjoy this wonderful, harmless fiction that does not teach there is no God.

If you like adventure, then The Lightning Thief is the book for you. There is adventure and high risk on nearly every page. Percy, Annebeth and Grover have their attempts to achieve their major goal thwarted at every turn of the paper.

When we begin the tale, we don't know that Percy Jackson is a demi-God(Olympian Gods still fall in love with humans and often bear children who are half human and half Olympian). Percy doesn't know it either. He sees himself as a loser with ADHD who get thrown out of a different private school every year.

Percy Jackson is based upon the Olympian god Perseus, who slays Medusa and claims Andromeda, having rescued her from a sea-monster. Percy Jackson has a minor skirmish with a Medusa, kills her and is on his way. One other similarity is that Perseus was also famous for killing many horrible monsters, as does Percy in this book. If I knew my Greek mythology better, I'm sure I could draw even more similarities. Percy's father was Poseidon.

Percy's quest is to find Zeus' thunderbolt and Hades' dark helm. Percy has two companions: Annabeth whose mother was Athena, and Grover a Satyr. Annabeth is his companion and Grover the Satyr has the job of protecting Percy. They are given their task, a few magical items and a word of encouragement.

Percy has more motivation than pleasing the Gods. On the way to Camp Half-Blood, he must fight a Minotaur, a monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull. Percy wins the battle but not before the monster has the chance to make Percy's mother disappear is a cloud of golden dust. So, in addition to the tasks set by the Gods, Percy wants to save his mother. And if he has to do that by bringing her back from the land of the dead, so be it.

Percy and his friends fight a potpourri of monsters. There is new action with almost every turn of a page. I think most young adult readers would enjoy all the action and adventure. I would have preferred fewer but harder obstacles for Percy to hurdle to reach his ultimate goal of retrieving the thunder bolt and black helmet. I wouldn't have minded an end run or two. Hero's Percy's age can't always concur every impediment to his goals. A little more realism for me.

As an adult reader I found The Lightning Thief to be somewhat monotonous. There is little growth and development in the characters until the end of the novel. The end of the book is a super surprise ending that makes one glad you read the book.


Book Rating Key
- I loved it!
- I really liked it!
- I liked it.
- I didn't like it!
- I hated it!


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