Tag Archive | fantasy

Review: The Field Guide

The Field Guide
The Field Guide by Holly Black

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“In a man’s torso you will find
My secret to all mankind
It false and true can be the same
You will soon know of my fame
Up and up and up again
Good luck dear friend.”

Spiderwick Estate is not a grand place to move in to. But their mother and father have just divorced, so 13-year-old Mallory Grace and 9-year-old identical twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace should be grateful that their great-aunt Lucinda Spiderwick let them live in that house.

However, Spiderwick Estate is not mysterious in appearance and name only. The old house holds greatest secret of humankind. Starting from their curiousity to find what they suspect a rabbit moving inside the wall, they stumble upon secret ways leading to a secret library where Jared finds a hidden old dusty book titled: Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You. There begins their adventure in a dark and fascinating world of Faeries.

What I do like from this book:
• What’s not to like about the world of Faeries? For young readers, particularly children, a world of Faeries is a world to be liked or attracted to? Am I right?
• I always love the idea of an old and big house with many secrets. You don’t need to find your adventure somewhere else.
• Up to this point, I still wonder about the truth of this series. In the first pages of the book, the authors put a letter from the Grace kids, implying that the three kids along with the book and the Faeries and the misfortunes they encounter are real deal. To what extent that the story is real? Is the entire story real? If the book does exist, I truly want to have it.
• This is the perfect book for quick reading. Of course, it is meant for young readers, but still, I still enjoy reading it even though I read it when I was a teenager. The illustrations are terrifically well done, making the book more enjoyable to read.

What I don’t like from this book
• Jared seems the most troublesome kid in the family. Even so, I truly pity him that everyone else in the family keep blaming him for all the misfortunes happened at that house. I mean, is he really that troublesome that he dare to put such a cruel prank to his own sister no matter how he might be angry at her after the argument they had last night? Indeed, there are nobody (human) else in that house, but is it too much to blame him just because he’s the most likely culprit? Scratching your sister’s arm, tying your sister’s hair to her bed end, pouring chocolate syrup and orange juice down the floor, throwing eggs at the windows, throwing plates and glasses over the floor, and laying food leftovers everywhere are much too cruel and nasty for pranks by a 9-year-old boy.
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Review: The Immortal Rules

The Immortal Rules
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“We are vampires. It makes no difference who we are, where we came from. Princes, Masters and rabids alike, we are monsters, cut off from humanity. They will never trust us. They will never accept us. We hide in their midst and walk among them, but we are forever separate. Damned. Alone. You don’t understand now, but you will. There will come a time when the road before you splits, and you must decide your path. Will you choose to become a demon with a human face, or will you fight your demon until the end of time, knowing you will forever struggle alone?”

This is a journey of a young girl to find her humanity while being an undead…

The world as we know it has ended when Red Lung attacks. Flulike symptoms evolve to raging fever, necrosis of the lungs, and finally asphyxiation as the victims choke and drown in their own blood. A worldwide emergency is called, towns are emptied, cities lay in ruins, and the airborne virus continues its deadly march toward human extinction. To make it worse, the few remaining humans face another catastrophe when researches conducted to find the cure have gone wrong. The mutated virus doesn’t only kill its victim; it turns the victims into Rabids: mindless bloodthirsty corpses with fangs. Concerned with the depletion of the human population as their sources of food, vampires devise a way to keep the few remaining humans close and create a never-ending food supply in exchange for protection from Rabids. This is the world where vampires reign…

“In this world, you were either strong, or you were dead. You did what you had to if you wanted to survive.”

Allison Sekemoto does everything she can to survive in this mess-up world, but living as a blood cattle in a vampire city is not her way. Instead, she chooses to live a dangerous and risky life in the fringes with her small group of four, scavenging food during the day and hiding from vampires and Rabids during the night. Her hatred towards the vampires gives her the strength to endure and survive such life, until one night her groups are attacked by Rabids and she realizes her frail mortality. She is only given two choices: to die as a human or to live as the demon she despises the most.

“You are a monster. You will always be a monster, there is no turning back from it. But what type of monster you become is entirely up to you.”

Allie has to learn the rules about vampires and immortality. She must accept the fact that even though she is alive, she is practically dead. She must learn how to move and fight with her new body and strength. She must change her perceptions about humans and accept humans’ perceptions about her now. But, the most important thing is she must face her greatest fear: to feed on human’s blood. The humanity left inside Allie is in jeopardy. And she realizes that if she doesn’t want to lose to the hunger inside her and become a monster completely, she must strive and struggle hard…

“I’m not like you. I’m not like the vampires in the city. I might be a monster, but I can be human, too. I can choose to be human.”

Forced to flee from the vampire city, she meets a group of pilgrims seeking for Eden, a legendary safe haven rumored to be run by humans only. Unaware of her nature, the groups let her join them on the long and dangerous road. Once again, her humanity is tested when her nature is revealed and she is expelled from the group. Once again, Allie must decide what and who is worth dying for when the group is captured by a group of raiders led by a vampire. And for the very first time, she learns that she shouldn’t have fallen in love with a human…

What I do love from this book
• Honestly, I never thought I would read this series ever. First, the covers are unpromising. Well, BIG NOs. Second, the vampire is the heroine. Well, I love stories about vampires, but I prefer the male vampires as the main character rather than a female one. The idea of a strong female vampire ends up with a weak human boy is totally unappealing to me (yeah, somehow I prefer the male character to be more dominant than the female character). But I love Julie Kagawa’s books, especially the Iron Fey series, and it portraits a less dominant heroine who in the end turns to be more dominant than her lover, and I’m still madly in love with the story. So I thought, why not give Blood of Eden a chance? After reading the series, I HAVE NO REGRET. If I should have any, it will be: WHY DIDN’T I READ THE BOOKS SOONER?
• This is a series about vampire, but it is more than that. It is more about self-exploration and self-development, packaged into a dark twisted story that runs so smoothly from beginning to the end, with some romance and action that do not take over the main focus of the story. Are you tired of cheesy, feeble, and worthless plot for shallow entertainment offered by many young adult books? Are you tired of reading inner dialogue of stupid and inconsistent heroine who always in need of saving? Are you tired of bad boy as the main hero of a story? And are you tired of finding that bad boy unbelievably and impossibly end up together with the stupid heroine? If you are, I recommend you to read this series, because it offers you none of those. Believe me.
• The first most intriguing about this series is: the setting of time. I have read so many books about vampires and they always take place in the past time or present time. Ancient setting or modern setting. Blood of Eden is beyond my expectation and imagination. A dystopian and post-apocalyptic setting? Well, this is totally new for me, but no less magnificent than the usual ones, if not more.
• The second most intriguing fact: THE REAL VAMPIRE IS BACK!! Julie Kagawa portrays the vampires as they should be: a true monster and predator inflicting fear on humans, not some friendly and hospitable immortals coexisting with humans portrayed in some young adult stories, which sadly, make them look less vampiric. The vampires are dangerous bloodsucker with great strength and speed and fast healing who can’t walk under then sun without being burnt to ashes, afraid of fire and stakes, and must drink human blood to survive. If they ignore the last fact, the hunger and bloodlust will consume them and turn them into a monster. Even Kanin implies that one day, intentionally or not, Allie will kill a human, no matter how hard she tries not to. Yayy. Real vampire should be like that!
• Allie is a hard-ass character and I like her so much. Life is being so cruel to her yet she doesn’t give up, doesn’t cry or something like a damsel in distress. No. She’s not a kind of girl who waits for her prince charming to save the day. No. She’s not the kind of girl constantly in need of saving. No. She’s strong, capable, brave, and independent. She’s the one coming to save the others instead. She’s loyal and consistent. Even in the world when you must be self-oriented to survive, she does still prioritize others over herself, even when it costs her life. Even if she can choose an easy way by giving in to the hunger and becoming a monster, she still struggles and sticks to her principle to not be a monster. Her life is full of hardship but she always faces it strongly. As far as I know, Allison Sekemoto is a perfect heroine I ever meet in young adult fictions.
• At first, I don’t put too much hope and expectation for Allie’s love interest, Ezekiel Crosse, or Zeke. What is a mere human compared to vampire who is far superior after all? But Zeke changes my mind completely since the very first time he meets Allie. Even though it’s always Allie who comes to his rescue, I never get the impression that Zeke is powerless, dependent, or weak. Far from that. He might not have Allie’s physical superiority but he has great faith, humanity, and generosity, things that Allie lacks of. They complete each other. In the end, I can’t help but admit that Allie’s lover indeed should be a human because without Zeke, Allie might not be able to find her self-actualization and preserve her humanity.
• Kanin: Oh how I love this man. A Master vampire who turns out to be the mastermind of the experiment on vampires to find the cure for Red Lung leading to the spread of Rabidism to the world. Sire of Allison who is deeply tormented and feeling guilty, wandering to find redemption, to atone for his sins. Yet, his words, demeanors, attitudes, behaviors, everything, are the epitome of an ancient vampire. I love the way he offers Allie immortality. I love the way he teaches her the rules of vampire world. I love his strength. He takes bullets into his chest like they are nothing. But I’m so sad when he must be separated from Allie and hope to read more about him in the next books.
• Caleb. The young boy somehow intrigues me. He is the reason why Allie meets Zeke. He is the only human, besides Zeke, who accepts the fact that Allie is a vampire but still believes in her good nature. He spends his time with Allie shorter than Stick, but he doesn’t judge Allie a monster just because she is a vampire. For an innocent young boy who has been convinced by the adults around him that a vampire is a monster, he has a truly big heart.

What I don’t like from this book
• Stick. It can be said that he is the opposite character of Allie. A boy, weak, dependent, cry-baby, and everything that Allison is not. Allie tries her best to protect and care for him, even when it costs her life. For what? For nothing. Not only he accuses Allie to be a monster, despite everything that she has done for him, he also betrays her, leading to her separation from Kanin.
• Ruth. I never understand her hatred toward Allie, even long before she knows that Allie is a vampire. Is that her nature to be suspicious of and jealous of any girls of her age coming to the group and speaking with Zeke? Because, it seems that her being bitchy to Allison is for no reason other than Zeke. Normally, a nasty character like this is needed to show the good side of the main heroine. But, honestly, Allison is doing fine even without her. So, I should say that her appearance in the story is worthless. Well, don’t blame me to be very glad when she is dead a painful death, though I pity Caleb for losing her only sister.
• I know that this series is darker than most of young adult books, involving violence and gore, which means that the death of one or more characters shouldn’t be a big deal. However, I feel a bit disappointed that the small group of pilgrims becomes smaller, especially when it turns out that Eden does exist. The most upsetting deaths are those of Jeb and Darren, particularly Darren. How I hope that he and Ruth exchange positions.
• Why oh why oh why Zeke should kiss Allie in front of the others while they have been terrified-over-heels with her being a vampire? It’s not that I dislike it, but can’t he do it when they are alone? I mean, there are so many chances when he is alone with Allie. Why should the first kiss they share be witnessed by others?
• The ending. Yes. It actually lies in the gray area between happy ending and sad ending. On one hand, Allie and Zeke manage to save their group from Jackal’s hold and bring them to Eden. However, as a city without vampire, Eden also symbolizes the painful reality: that a vampire cannot be together with a human. So in the end, after they, especially Allie, overcome their hesitation about their love and their difference, they should be separated? It’s not fair.
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The First Snows of Summer: the Awakening

2

By Enelis C

It was another hot Sunday at the peak of summer in Magica. The sun had begun to descend into the horizon, yet the heat it radiated was still unbearable for most people that they chose to stay indoors being lazy and doing nothing. No one ever thought that one act of innocence that afternoon would make the rest of the day one of the most horrible days in the history of Magica…

To the west of Valdemar, in the village of Erskine on the foothills of Aspasias, two young boys, one was short and plump while the other was lean and tall, were seen playing chase among the tall trees in the outer side of the Oakwood bordering the village. Despite his plumpness, the shorter boy proved to be a strong and agile boy, since he almost managed to catch up the lean boy, ducking under the low and lush branches, climbing and jumping the roots sticking out from the ground.

They reached one of the oldest trees as wide as houses with thick roots as tall as adults spreading around it and the lean boy tried to put some distance between them among the roots when suddenly he vanished with a sharp cry and crash.

“Romeo?” the short boy called, terrified. He stopped midway in his effort to climb a root. He called again in panic. The lean boy answered, but the sound was weak and far he almost couldn’t catch the word. He went to the spot where he last seen his friend. Some of the ground was disappearing into a round hole. He approached carefully and knelt, peering into the dark hole. He saw the lean boy at the bottom of the hole, looking up at him. “Are you okay?” he shouted into the hole.

Romeo nodded and got up, dusting the sand, leaves, and anything falling down with him. He looked around at his surrounding curiously. It seemed he had fallen into a small wooden room. Most of the walls had been covered with moss and roots. There were only a mattress, a small table and a shelf on that room. The shelf was full with books, scrolls, parchments, jars, and other things, but like the rest of the furniture, all of them were covered in moss. He tried to check on the books when his friend called him again.

“Darren,” he called back to the peering boy, “get down here.”

Darren’s plump face was gone from the opening of the hole, letting the sun shone on the small room. Something at the bottom of the shelf reflected the light and made him squint. He squatted down at the same time Darren climbed down the roots to join him and took a small rectangular box from the shelf. He stood back with the box in his hand when Darren jumped and landed with a big thud beside him, making the small room felt smaller. The boy looked around and gasped.

“I can’t believe there was someone living here,” he exclaimed.

“Look at this,” Romeo interrupted. He shoved the box in front of Darren’s face and the boy gasped again.

“A box! What’s inside?”

Romeo took a long look at the box. It had small hinges on one side but there was no keyhole or padlock. He tried to pry it open but it wouldn’t budge. He tried and tried to no avail.

“Maybe it’s broken? It looks so old,” Darren suggested.

“But it is so strange. The other things in the room are covered in moss. But this one is clean like a brand new.”

“You’re right, Romeo. Don’t you think there might be treasure within? Here, let me try,” his friend took the box from his hand and tried to open it but it still wouldn’t budge. “It must be broken!”

Romeo turned back at the books and scrolls scattered on the table beside the mattress. He went to do what he wanted to back then before his friend called him, but, seeing the thick moss covered them all, he pulled back his hand in disgust. Turning around, he saw Darren raising the black box above his head to let the sunray piercing into the hole shone on it and observing it closely. Romeo gave a loud gasp.

“What’s wrong?” Darren lowered his hand and the box was shielded in the shadow of the room. Romeo caught his friend’s hand and shoved it under the sunray. Darren looked terrified. “Wh-what, Romeo?”

“There are words written there!” he exclaimed. The sun ray revealed a thin line of words encircling the black box. Romeo was pretty sure that he had never seen such lettering, but somehow it was not unfamiliar.

“What words, Romeo? I can’t see any.”

He traced the words with his finger, starting from one end of the hinges to another end. Without realizing it, he read them so easily even though he didn’t know and had never heard the words he’d just spoken loudly. Darren looked at him with bulging eyes, as if he had just grown another head, his hands were still raised above his head. And suddenly the box burst open.

***

Darren never felt so frightened before. He was curious about the black box Romeo had found inside the hole. When his friend couldn’t open the box, he took it and tried to open it himself. No matter how strong he tried to pry the lid, it wouldn’t budge. Then he raised his hands and brought the box under the sun’s light to see it more clearly when Romeo gasped. Instinctively, he lowered his hands when Romeo gripped his wrist so roughly and raised it back.

Romeo admitted that he saw some kind of words on the box, yet he couldn’t see any words. The surface was smooth all over, except the random lines on the lid. And the boy suddenly traced the lines with his finger and said something he couldn’t understand aloud. He looked at Romeo’s gaze fixed on the lines and swore that there was something different in his eyes. At that short moment, his friend suddenly became a stranger.

Then the world exploded.

The lid of the box burst open not long after Romeo finished uttering the strange words. A chill wind gushed out from the box with such force that he fell backwards and knocked Romeo down. The wind roared and disappeared from the surface of the hole.

“Wh-wh-what was that?” he squeaked.

Romeo didn’t answer. In fact, the boy had been in a complete daze, laying on his back, his eyes staring into the space. Darren sat up and shook Romeo’s shoulders until the boy jerked and his eyes gradually focused on him.

“What was that?” Romeo asked weakly.

“I don’t know. You opened the box, Romeo,” he managed to say, helping the thin boy sat up. The boy looked so terribly weak.

Sitting there side to side on the damp floor, they peered down at the black box thrown to the corner of the room. It was totally empty. Romeo laughed weakly.

“Why someone keeps an empty box for?”

“I don’t know, Romeo. I had no idea that it was empty. I also had no idea that you could read.”

“But I can’t read.”

“But…” Darren started, more confused than ever, but he couldn’t say anything. They kept silent for a moment, his mind racing, his heart beating fast. Then, he heard a voice outside, and his heart almost skipped a beat. Relief washed over him when he noticed the voice as Heidy’s, big sister of Romeo, calling them out.

“Let’s go up, Romeo,” he managed with a hoarse voice.

***

Romeo never felt so exhausted before. He didn’t understand what just happened back then inside the hole. He remembered that he just spoke aloud unfamiliar words he’d never known before, but he couldn’t remember the exact words. He even didn’t understand how he could read the words. It just as if he knew the words very well. And he suddenly felt so terribly weak as if he had just run for a mile instead of read some words. As if the wind pouring out the box took some of his energy. But that was impossible, wasn’t it?

Anyway, why there was a pretty box with nothing inside except wind? And what kind of person trapping wind inside a box? How could wind got trapped inside the box at the first place?

He felt as if his whole bones had turned into pulp. He barely could climb up the roots back to the surface. Darren went up first and practically dragged him up. He couldn’t help but notice that his friend was scared. He suddenly became so distant and wouldn’t look at him in the eyes. After they got back to the ground, Darren got up and walked in front of him, occasionally glancing over his shoulder to see whether he followed behind or not. He looked concerned but afraid. Afraid of him?

Was there something else he couldn’t remember back then? He winced and groaned inwardly. He just wanted to go to bed soon and rested his exhausted body. He would ask his friend about what happened later.

“Romeo! Darren!” His sister’s calling ringing through the wood. Her footsteps were getting closer. Darren called her back to give her their direction and she found us almost immediately.

“There you are. Let’s go home, kids. The wind is getting stronger.”

Her words just made Romeo realize his surrounding for the first time since he was climbed out of the hole. He could hear the roar of the wind and the rustling of the leaves, feel the wind cold in his skin. Was it this windy before he fell into the hole?

“What’s wrong, Romeo? You look so pale,” his sister touched his face.

“Umm… there’s something we need to tell you, Heidy,” said Darren softly.

Romeo gazed up and just about to say something when suddenly black spots danced in front of his eyes. Then, he couldn’t remember anything else besides his sister worryingly called out his name.

To be continued