Saturday, April 28, 2007

Searching For The Ultimate Adventure

I had a hard time finding "real" information on Elizabeth Haydon the author of The Floating Island, though she has published a number of fantasy titles for adults. The Floating Island is the first in a series for children ten and up.

I had trouble accepting the basic premise of the book, which carries the subtitle The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme. According to the preface, these journals were the basis of two of "the most important books of all time," within, of course, the world of the book. But they've been lost. Only fragments of the journals still exist. "Great care has been taken to reconstruct the parts of the journal that did not survive, so that a whole story can be told."

Well, of course, I'm kind of nitpicky, so my thought is, How? How can they possibly reconstruct the story? And who's doing this? The journal fragments really are just fragments.

But once I was able to just put all that out of my mind, the story is engaging. It reminded me of Monster Blood Tattoo in that it is an adventure fantasy with sophisticated writing. Monster Blood Tattoo has a story line that sticks to its premise, though--a world dealing with monsters. The story line in The Floating Island is a bit like a pinball game. Ven is dealing with pirates, with mermaids, with ghost-like beings, with royalty, with prison. He bounces from thing to thing.

Child readers may not have a problem with that. Or with the fact that one aspect of Ven's character isn't developed at all. He's not a human, but a Nain, beings that live much longer than humans because they age so slowly. He looks thirteen but he's actually fifty. But that isn't picked up on at all in this book. (Though one of his friends does notice that for a fifty-year-old, he's an awful lot like a kid.)

Perhaps Haydon plans to build on Ven's race in a future book. My bias about making each book complete, though, leads me to feel that anything that was brought up in this book should have been dealt with in this book. Dragons, for instance. One appears on the cover, and they're mentioned in the preface. They don't appear anywhere in the body of the book. This led Fuse #8 to award the book a Golden Fuse Award for Most Misleading Cover.

After all these complaints, I still feel the actual sentence-to-sentence, paragraph-to-paragraph writing is well done. This would make a good book for readers whose interests lean to adventure but who have good enough reading skills to handle a little more sophisticated writing.

By the way, Haydon has a curriculum for the book available on-line.

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