Friday, August 1, 2008

Farworld: Water Keep

Written by J. Scott Savage
Shadow Mountain Publishing
Release date: September 12
Reviewed by Melissa

I'm always tickled when I like a book more than I think I will. This was one of those cases: I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the story and the characters. Savage has written a grand high fantasy adventure, a good set-up book for the series, and an all-round enjoyable read.

Marcus is not a normal 13-year-old boy. He's an orphan, having been bounced from foster home to foster home before being shipped off to boarding school after boarding school. He has no idea who his parents were. On top of all that, he's disabled from an accident he nearly died from when he was a baby. To escape his miserable existence he imagines a world -- Farworld. One day, however, when someone whom Marcus knows (somehow) is evil, comes to take him away, he discovers that Farworld is not imaginary. It's very real. And his destiny and the world's -- and that of a Farworld girl, Kyja -- are inseparably intertwined.

There will inevitably be comparisons to other fantasy works; I have to admit that I saw elements of Harry Potter (not only the brief reference, but in the plot as well) and Lord of the Rings, as well as other fantasy works. But, I think Savage managed to avoid falling into copy-cat traps. He kept the plot fresh and exciting -- Marcus and Kyja not only have adventures in Farworld in the course of their quest, but also spend time in this world, making for an interesting twist on the standard fantasy fare.

I thought the action sequences, while not as intense as they could have been (for older readers anyway, this book really is aimed at the 11-14 crowd), they were still well written. Savage has created a compelling world, with many fascinating characters. If I had a complaint, it would be that Savage probably tried to crowd too much into his book. Every chapter, it seemed, there was a new character to meet and keep track of. While I don't think it hindered the plot overall, there were times that I felt like he was throwing in someone new just so we could meet another cool character he'd created. The other complaint was that Kyja is a little heavy-handed with her moralizing; it fit with the character, but it was a bit blatant for my tastes.

Even so, it was a strong novel to begin a series with, compelling through to the end. The ending even had good closure to it, while leaving the adventure open to continuing, rather than a cliff-hanger, which always irritates me as a reader. I'm curious to see what Marcus and Kyja experience next, what new adventure in Farworld they can have, and how they can accomplish their ultimate task of saving Farworld. It promises to be an exciting journey.

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