Category Archives: Young Adult

Storm at the Edge of Time

Title: Storm at the Edge of Time

Author: Pamela F. Service

The Orkney Islands hold much history, and many secrets. Three children from across time are called to band together to find the three wands necessary to fortify ancient defenses against the forces of Destruction. Arni, an 11th century Viking boy. Jamie, a modern girl. Tyaak, a 26th-century half-human. None of them have experience with magic, but they will need more than ordinary power to prevail . . .

This was okay, but the plot felt too repetitive and predictable after the initial setup. Go into the era of one of the kids, use that kid’s local knowledge to get around, while the group tries to sense the location of the staff, then try to snatch the staff out from under the agents of Destruction who are also after it. The specifics vary, of course, depending on the century, but it’s hard to feel too much tension since this is obviously a stand-alone book and not part of a longer series. (In other words, there’s no time for failure. The page count alone tells me they have to succeed.)

Jamie, being the modern representative, gets the most narrative focus. She would have gotten a little more of my sympathy if she hadn’t been so determined to just fall into some great talent that none of her family enjoyed (hint: even natural skill in the areas her parents and brother succeed in takes a lot of hard work to become that big a success). At least she’s not instantly great at magic (mostly due to a failure of imagination about how to use it).

Overall this wasn’t a bad read, but I did find myself more bored with the story than not, so it’s not one I’d come back to. I rate this book Neutral.

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When The Night Wind Howls

Title: When The Night Wind Howls

Author: Pamela F. Service

Sidonie and her mother have recently moved to a small Indiana town, and as a way of fitting in, they’ve gotten involved in the community theater. But this theater appears to be haunted. When Sid starts digging into the rumors of ghosts, she finds far more than legends . . .

This is a solidly-written book, but I didn’t like it much. I’m not huge on ghost stories, and not familiar enough with theater to recognize the various plays and musicals, so I didn’t have a lot invested in the plot. And when the big reveal comes out, I got annoyed by a lot of theological points (some of which is just annoyance at Sid and her minister for taking movies more than Scripture as a guideline for how to deal with the devil).

It was an amusing take on what makes a theater “haunted.” Sid, her friend Joel, and the mysterious Byron Vincenti are the heart of the book, and I like how the two kids keep changing their minds about Byron as they figure out more of the problem.

I’m not so fond of the use of witchcraft, the lack of involvement on God’s side (for what’s supposedly a two-sided dispute, one side is not exactly shown participating), or the spotty use of Christian theology. I realize this is just an updated take on the same play the theater is performing, so it’s not like the book is trying to show how to deal with demons as much as it is retelling an old folk tale.

Overall this isn’t necessarily a bad book, but I didn’t care for it, and won’t be reading it again. I rate this book Neutral.

Vision Quest

Title: Vision Quest

Author: Pamela F. Service

Kate Elliot was used to a military family that moved around constantly. After her father dies, though, she and her mother have a more permanent home in an old run-down town in Nevada. Kate is tired of losses, and determined not to make friends. Determined not to get hurt. But an ancient Indian artifact draws her into the lives of two ancient shamans . . .

This story is more about the shared visions that link an ancient shaman boy with Kate and later Jimmy. The story can be a bit more literary, but still fast-paced due to the short length.

The characters are well-drawn. Kate’s grieving and loneliness has turned into a determination not to be hurt again, which leads her to isolate herself. She’s particularly irritated at having to rely on Jimmy for anything—because her mother will consider them friends, and want her to be social. Jimmy was amusing too. He thinks Kate is crazy, but when the visions start coming to him too he commits to helping her get rid of them. I also really liked his insistence that Pete’s racial slurs be correct—he’s less offended by the slur and more offended that Pete keeps confusing him with other nationalities, even after he corrects him.

Wadat’s portions were good too. He’s not sure he wants to be a shaman, but his mentor and father-figure is, so he’s sort of fallen into the training. He keeps having visions of a strange spirit who follows him around, but as he’s familiar with spirits in general, he’s not bothered by the visions as much as curious what this spirit might want. He’s used to placating the spirits, and if this one wants something in particular, he’ll try to do what he can for it.

Overall this is another solid title, though not my favorite. I rate this book Recommended.

The Reluctant God

Title: The Reluctant God

Author: Pamela F. Service

Lorna Padgett is the daughter of an archaeologist, and more at home in Egypt digging up sites with her father than at her boarding school in England. But when a chance find uncovers an untouched tomb, her knowledge of the ancient world is needed in an entirely different way . . .

Ameni was the second son of the pharaoh. Constricted by a life of duty, he longs for adventure. But his life has a destiny he never imagined, and soon he will get an adventure he never wanted.

It’s been decades since I last read this, but I still remembered enough of the plot for it to feel like a reread than a new read. The two individual stories alternate long enough to build up both Lorna and Ameni before the single event that changes each life. After that it turns into a race to recover the missing urn.

I liked the hints of mysticism around Ameni. He’s in the line of Pharaoh, who is considered a living god, but he doesn’t understand what that really MEANS until the mantle passes to him. He’s still a man, somewhat. But he has a different relationship now with the gods, and can speak to them and hear back from them. And the ways Anubis particularly keeps stepping in for him are really neat.

I’m not as sold on the message of Osiris being a god of love, or the other gods actually loving the people who worship them. That’s not exactly evident in the myths. I can go with it for the sake of the story, but it does pull me out a bit now.

Overall this is a fast read that has an interesting concept, but it’s not a story I see myself going back to. Still, it was an entertaining read. I rate this book Recommended.

Weirdos of the Universe, Unite!

Title: Weirdos of the Universe, Unite!

Author: Pamela F. Service

Mandy is determined to be weird. When she meets Owen, who is even weirder than she is, she’s happy to have a friend who shares some of those ideals. But after a homework assignment goes strange, mythological creatures are suddenly invading their lives, the world is in danger, and their group of misfits seems to be chosen by the Fates to stop it . . .

This was an amusing mashup of various characters from several mythologies banding together to stop an alien menace, with plenty of Star Trek and Star Wars references sprinkled in. Unfortunately, the short length felt like a detriment, because no one ends up with a lot of depth. This is more about the absurdity of Coyote, Baba Yaga, Sigfried, Lung Nu, and the Wild Huntsman banding together (with a tribble!) to fight aliens whose main fault is that they have no imagination.

I suppose the main reason it didn’t grab me was that with the exception of Lung Nu most of these characters were too familiar to feel weird, and the short length works against substantially adding to or deviating from some of the expectations. Knowing Coyote, the “dog” routine was obvious from the moment it showed up. Same with the rest. To people who aren’t as familiar with mythology, the story probably flows better.

Overall this was another fast read, and amusing enough. It’s a standalone story and ties up well by the end. I rate this book Neutral.

Being of Two Minds

Title: Being of Two Minds

Author: Pamela F. Service

Connie and Rudy are two teenagers on opposite ends of the globe, but they’ve been connected since birth. Each one is prone to strange spells which leaves their mind inside the other’s. It’s a condition both of their families would like to cure, but Connie and Rudy themselves don’t want it to end. But Rudy is a prince of a tiny country, and when politics intervene, their connection might be the only thing that can save him.

One thing I really appreciate about older children’s books like this is that the story doesn’t waste any time. Connie’s predicament is clear from page one, and the relationship between her and Rudy is both a blessing and a curse to the both of them. They desperately want to share more than they are—taste and smell don’t translate, nor can they communicate while in each other’s consciousness—but at the same time, randomly passing out causes those around them to consider them seriously unhealthy.

The only real complaint I have is that I’d like to see more of these two and where they go in the future. This being a stand alone book, any future adventures will have to stay as hints.

Overall, though, it’s a very quick (less than 150 pages) read that tells a solid story. I rate this book Recommended.

Dark & Day (Dark & Day #1)

Title: Dark & Day

Author: Israel Grey

Series: Dark & Day #1

Jonothon lives in the Twilight—the border country that separates Dark and Day. But when he finds an ancient artifact, he might have set off the end of his world. Now he’s racing to keep the artifact out of the hands of the Queen of Dark, before the forces of Day are crushed . . .

This book is made of awesome. The sheer amount that’s packed into the story should make it feel confusing, but it all just works. Because Jonothon is of the Dark, we get more detail about the Dark. Loosely, it’s science versus magic, on a world where the sun only ever shines on one side of the planet. Both sides have a multitude of races, but the Dark also has mechs, cyborgs, and “hollows”—holograms. In fact body modification is so common in Dark that staying “natural” is equivalent to choosing to live like a caveman. And given the way they do computers, it’s also true.

I liked the layers of mythology with the stories of the seven seraphim, and the way it’s never quite clear how much of this is true. I liked how the story challenges Jonothon about dealing with reality, and how both Dark and Day have their own stories that blind them to what they might otherwise see. I liked that it wasn’t quite as black and white as it initially appears.

The illustrations are gorgeous. My only wish is that they’d show up in color when I read it on the computer. It was great to see all the characters, and some, like Celeste, were a reference I didn’t catch until I saw the picture.

Which was the other thing that made me smile. There are callbacks to Final Fantasy, Tolkien, and more. It’s not so big as to be a ripoff, or so obvious as to be distracting, but it’s a nice little wink to those who recognize names like Wedge and Biggs.

Overall, if you have any interest in fantasy adventure stories, read this. The world is bursting with detail, the pace never lets up, the story careens around all sorts of twists and turns, and the end pulled everything together in a satisfying conclusion. I rate this book Highly Recommended.