Friday, April 21, 2006

The Sword of Straw

Nathan is traveling in his dreams again, but this time instead of a futuristic city, he visits a medieval-like kingdom with an invalid king, a lonely and desperate princess, and a plague of monsters. Could this place be the location of the Sword of Stroar, the second of the three objects of power? Meanwhile, his best friend Hazel is learning about the use - and misuse - of power, and the consequences may be more than she bargained for.

The Sword of Straw is, if anything, better than its predecessor, The Greenstone Grail, although it is a mite darker. It's one of those books that you just can't put down until you finish it. Many of the characters from the first book return. Bartlemy is his same, implacable self; I loved the scene where, after two teenagers break into his house and are subdued by Hoover, Bartlemy feeds them cookies and gently questions them as they sit nervously awaiting the police to arrive. There's not enough of Eric in this book, but I was pleased to see the return of Inspector Pobjoy, a character I really enjoyed in the first book.

There's plenty to appeal to teens in this book; besides the modern references to popular culture and text messaging, Nathan and Hazel experience the angst of teen crushes, peer teasing, and parental conflict.

My only complaint about the book is that apparently, the Grandir saves Nathan several times. I would rather see Nathan get out of these situations using his own wits. But this is a minor complaint, and didn't diminish my enjoyment of the book.

If you haven't started the Sangreal Trilogy yet, I highly recommend the series. Author Amanda Hemingway skillfully blends fantasy, folklore, and particle physics with a great insight into human nature into a fascinating story that will appeal to teens and adults. If you've already read the first book, The Greenstone Grail, then you simply must read The Sword of Straw.

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