Children's Book Reviews

The Internet Writing Journal, April 2006

Seeker (Book 1 of The Noble Warriors) by William Nicholson

Harcourt, May, 2006
Trade paperback, 432 pages
ISBN: 0152057684
Ages 12 and up
Ordering information: |

Seeker (Book 1 of The Noble Warriors)
by William Nicholson On the island city of Anacrea, the All and Only is protected by a highly trained group of warrior monks who carry no weapons, yet wield great power. They are called the Nomana or the Noble Warriors. Each year, all the 16 year-olds gather at the monastery, hoping to be chosen to be taken into training in the order. 16 year-old Seeker After Truth has always wanted to be a Noble Warrior but his father has mapped out his future: he is to be a teacher (just like his father). Seeker's older brother is already a Noble Warrior and Seeker would do anything to follow in his footsteps. A young girl named Morning Star also wishes to become as Noble Warrior: she is following in the footsteps of her mother. Both Seeker and Morning Star eventually meet up with a third teen named Wildman. Wildman (who is aptly named) was a river pirate but has now decided that being a Noble Warrior sounds like a pretty good deal. None of the three teens is chosen by the monks; bitterly disappointed, the three band together in a mission to the enemy city of Radiance in order to save Anacrea from a doomsday weapon and prove to the monks that they are worthy of being Noble Warriors.

Bestselling British author and Oscar-nominated screenwriter William Nicholson (Gladiator, Shadowlands) hits a home run with this new fantasy series aimed at teen readers. Nicholson excels at creating interesting characters: Seeker is a boy who wants to prove himself and who isn't really sure yet what his strengths are; Morning Star can read people's auras and determine their true character; and Wildman is a young man who turned to piracy to escape poverty. His exuberance (he demands "Do you LOVE me??) to everyone he meets, for example) is at first rather annoying. But as the story evolves, Wildman shows some very interesting depths to his character. The mythology of the series is just beginning to unfold and it has an intriguing mystery about it, with clever foreshadowing of some very evil entities who haven't fully made their appearance into the story. Things are not quite as they seem in this very entertaining and vividly imagined coming of age fantasy.

--Claire E. White

Sir Thursday (The Keys to the Kingdom) by Garth Nix

Scholastic, March, 2006
Hardcover, 344 pages
ISBN: 0439700876
Ages 12 and up
Ordering information: |

Sir Thursday (The Keys to the Kingdom)
by Garth Nix Arthur Penhaligon is having a tumultuous week. In his last adventure, Drowned Wednesday, the unfortunate Lady Wednesday died (she had been cursed never to stop eating everything in sight, eventually swallowing up entire cities) and handed over the Third Key to the Kingdom to Arthur as he is the Rightful Heir. After his harrowing adventure on the high seas, Arthur and his friend Leaf are more than ready to return to the normal world. But just as Arthur is leaving, Dame Prius (who is really a collection of the various parts of the Will that Arthur is slowly recovering) informs him that he can't go home because a positively revolting Spirit-eater called the Skinless Boy has taken Arthur's place and is slowly unleashing a mind plague on Britain. While figuring out how to defeat this newest threat, Arthur is drafted into the Army by Sir Thursday. The term of his enlistment is 100 years and there's nothing he can do about it. So while Arthur goes off to fight an army of invading Nithlings made of deadly Nothing (think anti-matter), Leaf must go back the normal world and try to defeat the Skinless Boy. Arthur must avoid having his memory totally wiped (SOP for new recruits), avoid dying in the middle of dangerous battles and then find some way to take the Fourth Key to the Kingdom from the monstrously tyrannical Lord Thursday.

One can only wonder what goes on inside Australian author Garth Nix's head. Just when you think you've figured out where a story is going, he turns all your theories upside down and heads off into a new, fascinating direction. Arthur is maturing quite nicely during his adventures, and the addition of Leaf is a welcome one. Garth Nix excels at creating fantastic worlds and imaginative adventures: he also manages to slyly sneak in a very funny satire of military life while he's at it. As the series progresses, it seems to grow progressively darker; the more that Arthur uses his newfound powers as the Rightful Heir the closer he comes to being a Denizen who will never be able to return to his own world and family. Next up is Lady Friday; it's going to be difficult to wait an entire year to find out what happens next.

--Claire E. White

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