An extremely enjoyable and unique MG Fantasy with lots of humor and plenty of heart.
In Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis' first installment of a fantastical new series, adventure, magic, and hilarity collide in the treacherous skies and dangerous waters of the Pirate Stream. Heart-pounding escapades and a colorful cast of characters will have readers setting sail through this wholly original and unforgettable tale.
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Source: I purchased this book myself from Audible.
This is Book #1 of 2 (so far) in “The Map to Everywhere” series. The 3rd book, Iron Tide Rising will be released in late 2016 or early 2017.
Finding books like this is why I read. After months where almost everything I had read could have been drafted using the same fill-in-the-blank form, it was so refreshing to find something different. Although, having read very widely in the fantasy field, I occasionally saw flashes of other stories, I never felt like I was reading something derivative.
At its heart, this is a story about family & friendship. You have a girl, whose lifestyle has limited friendships, and boy, whose very nature makes them impossible, learning what it means to be a true friend. And they are each on a quest involving their mother.
Misc Notes: I love the cover; it really captures the spirit of the book. On the other hand, I’m not very pleased with the full Publisher's Summary. It somehow manages to be both spoilerish and somewhat inaccurate at the same time.
Fin: a young orphan with a big problem. No one remembers him. If they look away, people can even forget him right in the middle of a conversation. I generally have a problem with books that make criminals out to be the heroes, however that does not apply in this case. He has been on his own since he turned 7, and has NO legal options for staying alive. I was on his side from the following (he was only 4 at this time):
Reports of hungry ghost stealing food from kitchen and phantom snugglings at night were investigated, and a child was ultimately located and brought in for processing by Mrs. Canaly Parsnickle, mistress of three- to six-year-olds.
Marrill: has loving parents, but her mother is suffering from an unnamed serious illness, which requires that the formerly globetrotting family settle down in Arizona. Although she has never lacked for love, their wandering ways have prevented her from forming any lasting friendships.
Ardent & Coll: Ardent is an elderly wizard, who despite what you might read in one of the publisher’s summaries, doesn’t seem all that bumbling to me. He just more than a bit odd and quirky. Coll is the young (looking?) and very mysterious captain of the ship they are traveling on.
The Naysayer: Joins the crew towards the end. I am very glad that he is in the sequel as well. He is quite funny and prickly, but may just be hiding a heart of gold.
The Pirate Stream is a varied & wondrous place where reality is always changing and anything can happen.
The Enterprising Kraken is the ship they are traveling on, and is one of my new favorite fantasy settings. Some great characteristics include: the rope bone man (animate ship rigging & great playmate) / moving murals / 9+ stories with octopus like hallways / decks that move (and even wander off to other ships) / changing décor in the berths (bedrooms)
The book starts with a prologue consisting of Fin's personal record from the orphanage ("Do Not Eat!"). It cleverly introduces the strangeness of the world ("GENDER: __MALE __FEMALE __PLANTIMAL __INDESCRIBABLE"), creates sympathy for him (see the quote above, which is from here), introduces the word play (see the quote in the Narration section below, which is also from here), and foreshadows his situation
Boy is currently in the care of Mrs. Parsnickle, who seems to be the only person who can remember him for any length of time. So long as she doesn’t forget him, I’m sure the boy will be just fine.
Marrill, Ardent, and Coll are introduced equally well. I especially like that Coll, who is very enigmatic, is just the voice of someone Marrill can't see at first.
Although very little is resolved by the end of the book, the first adventure is complete and we reach a satisfactory stopping point.
HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
- The whole first meeting with Ardent, especially the Q&A exchange (of which this is a part)
She wasn’t getting much information out of him so far. She thought for a minute, contemplating her next move. An idea came to her. “Tell you what,” she called up. “If I agree to answer a question of yours, will you answer a question of mine?”
“Yes!” the old man cried. “Well, that’s my end of the bargain. Your turn to answer.”
- the “montage” of their time on the boat as they seek the next piece of the map; it sounds (mostly) wonderful although occasionally dangerous, especially the dropping things over board
I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: bull snot & puke pills
Great phrasing & emoting / good accents & voices for various different characters (including a great pirate) / Listened on my usual 1.25 speed / Handled the frequent word play quite skillfully (the below coming out correctly as “Ms. Not a Real Name” & “the port of Nowhere Near Here” and yet still, somehow, sounding different enough that you understand the joke without seeing it)
Ms. Notah Reelnaym, hailing from the foreign-sounding port of Nowareneerheer
Talk to Me (pretty please)
- I really enjoyed how much fun the authors had with words and language in this book, any recommendations for other verbally playful stories?
- What is your opinion on the heroification (no it's not a word) of thieves and pirates in literature?
- Do you "cast" actual actors/actresses in your mental movie as you read? (see the interview below for the narrator's unique casting choices)
- If you are a first time visitor, how did you discover my blog?
- I recently debuted my redesigned blog. What do you think?
Bonus Narrator Interview
I am happy to present this short interview from the narrator, who responded to my request by saying:
This one is near and dear to my heart for a lot of reasons (mom issues, wishing I was a wizard/could access a magical side-reality, cancer), and I'm very flattered that you listened to all of it and for some reason want to write about it too.
Who was your favorite character in the book and why?
I'm particularly fond of Ardent for his wit, humor, and magical mad skills. I wish I'd had a compassionate and insightful old guy around when I was a neonate to explain how the mysterious parts of my universe worked.
What was your favorite scene or quote?
There's a great moment when the main characters sail into arctic waters and find that when they try to speak, their words come out in a jumble of frozen letters. Ardent strings a bunch of them together, saying "YOHA TNORF DLOC," before realizing he has it backwards, and flips it around to say "COLD FRONT AHOY." This is one of many quirky and clever parts of the magical world Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis crafted.
Which actor/actress do you think should play the lead character(s)?
You could have a field day casting with the actors from The Princesse Bride. Or just have Cary Elwes play all the parts.
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