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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Farworld: The Fate of Two Lands Lie in the Hands of 2 Unlikely Heroes

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Thirteen year-old Marcus Kanenas appears to be the least likely hero in the world. Orphaned and crippled, he has little to rely on, except the wheelchair that helps him get around. Marcus' disabilities make him the target of school bullies who see him only as a freak. What the cruel boys don't realize is that nothing is ever as it seems, including their classmate. Disfigured though he may be, Marcus has unique abilities - he's determined, brave and just a little bit magic. So, when a strange creature disguised as a government agent approaches, Marcus is able to disappear long enough to distract the phony ... at least for a little while. Then, he feels himself being yanked so hard his stomach turns inside out and his whole world changes. He wakes up somewhere far, far away from the Arizona desert he's known all his life.

This, he comes to realize, is Farworld. It's a magical land where trees talk, horses tell corny jokes, lizards fly and wizards shape shift into wolves. Spells and sorcerers abound. Although it's unlike Earth in lots of ways, there's something familiar about it - it's a place Marcus has dreamed of hundreds of times. Has he leapt inside his imagination or, as strange as it seems, has he actually been in Farworld before? When he interrogates his new friend, Kyja, he learns little that makes sense. Only three things are apparent: the pair are connected; their worlds parallel each other somehow; and they must save both Earth and Farworld from the evil that could destroy them both.

Thus begins Farworld: Water Keep, the first in a new YA fantasy series by J. Scott Savage. In this, the debut novel, Marcus discovers that he is the hero of Farworld's legends, the man who allegedly saves the land from the Dark Lord who seeks to rule it. He learns that Master Therapass, a kindly old wizard, swapped Marcus and Kyja at birth in an attempt to hide Marcus from his enemies. Now that the evil ones have found him, they won't stop until they have Marcus in their clutches. As Marcus and Kyja flee from a host of nightmarish creatures, they hatch a crazy plan: If they can reach each of the Elementals - beings representing fire, water, land and air - they can open a rift between their worlds, return Kyja to her proper home, and save both their worlds. The problem? Elementals can be a little ... uncooperative. Still, it's their only chance.

Their first objective: Convince the rulers of Water Keep to aid them in their quest. Easier said than done. Their journey takes them past a sinister Summoner, into a forest full of trees with uncertain motives, to an underground prison, into the talons of an enormous ice dragon and into an icy wonderland where humans are decidedly unwelcome. It's a harrowing journey that will try Marcus and Kyja to the very core of their beings. Along the way, they will make important discoveries about themselves, each other, and the true nature of magic. Oh yeah, and they will jump back and forth between worlds with dizzying frequency, take on some truly sinister beings, and fight for justice in two increasingly apathetic worlds.

Although Farworld: Water Keep packs plenty of action into its pages, I had a bit of trouble getting into it. I found the beginning a little disparate and confusing. By about Chapter 5, however, I was completely hooked. The characters don't exactly leap off the page, but they develop into an interesting and endearing cast. Archetypal characters border on cliche, but Savage also introduces some wholly original creatures. I was especially entranced with Water Keep - I loved the descriptions of the city as well as those of its residents and rulers. The writing could have been tighter and I would have liked better character development, but all in all, I enjoyed this fun romp through a fantastical world full of twists, turns and (mostly) delightful surprises. Savage is no J.K. Rowling or C.S. Lewis, but he's not bad. Not bad at all.

Grade: B+

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't get into this one at all... maybe I needed to give it to Chapter 5!


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