Saturday, September 05, 2009

Book Review: Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse

Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse
by Kaleb Nation

Desperate to protect her son from the people chasing her, Emry Hambric sent him away, without knowing where he'd end up. And so six-year-old Bran Hambric was found one morning in a locked bank vault in the city of Dunce, with no memories and only a scrap of paper with his name written on it. Sewey Wilomas, who worked in the bank, found the boy, and under the Finders Keepers Law was obligated to keep him. So Bran became an unwelcome member of the Wilomas family.

Dunce has strict laws against magic: No Mages, No Gnomes, No etcetera. When Bran discovers that he has magic powers, he knows that he's in trouble. But Bran has bigger problems to worry about. Someone is trying to find him. And that someone might just be connected to his mother's dark past.

I wanted to like this book; I really did. According to the interview at the beginning of the Advance Reading Copy, Kaleb Nation started writing the book when he was fourteen, wrote it in six to nine months, and then spent four years completely rewriting it multiple times. Revising like that is hard enough for adult authors; someone who can do that as a teen has my admiration.

However, as much as I wanted to like it, I just couldn't find a lot to like about this book. The ideas were creative, but the execution fell flat for me. The characters were one-dimensional and clichéd and the story elements were highly derivative. The Wilomas family has a lot in common with Harry Potter's foster family, the Dursleys, and the villain, Baslyn, was just a bit too Voldemort-like. (In fact, every time he came into the story, I couldn't help picturing him as looking like Voldemort from the Harry Potter movies).

I didn't even find the humor to be all that funny, although I'm told by some young fans that Kaleb Nation is a pretty funny person. Somehow that sense of humor just didn't translate well into his writing, at least for me, and it read too much like someone trying too hard to be funny.

The first half of the book didn't hold my interest at all; the second half did improve somewhat.

I hate to write a review like this, especially when the author is a young person. I don't want to discourage any young writer, and I also don't want to discourage any of his young fans who enjoyed the book. All I can say is, if you read it and you liked it, then I'm happy for you. Everyone has different taste in books, and I'm glad for anyone who finds a book they love. This book didn't do it for me, though.

Advance Reading Copy provided by the publisher at BEA.


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