The Other Side of the Whale Road

The Other Side of the Whale Road Promotion BannerI’m happy to be part of the blog tour featuring The Other Side of the Whale Road by K.A. Hayton. Below is the official blurb for the book, and below that are my thoughts which are kept at a minimum to avoid spoilers but hopefully give you enough information about the book to help you decide if you would like to read it yourself.

When his mum burns down their house on the Whitehorse estate, sixteen-year-old Joss is sent to live in a sleepy Suffolk village. The place is steeped in history, as Joss learns when a bike accident pitches him back more than 1,000 years to an Anglo-Saxon village. That history also tells him his new friends are in mortal peril from bloodthirsty invaders. Can he warn their ruler, King Edmund, in time? And will he ever get home?

I think there are many good things happening in this book. A juxtaposition of different ways of life (present and across time), a troubled teen struggling to find his place in the world after being through the ringer of social services and a debilitated mother, and expectations fostered both internally and externally that are influenced by society. Overall, it is an adventure that touches on a lot of interesting points, a few I feel could have been explored further or in greater detail.

There were many things I liked about this book, but unfortunately several things I did not like about it, which was a bummer because I had high hopes for this story. Perhaps my expectations got the better of me this time around. The overall plot is good and it is easy to read. The time travel element is cool and interesting. I just had trouble personally connecting with the main character. This simply means that I didn’t enjoy the book as much as others will, and have, and that is okay. It could simply have been the fact that I was unable to connect with the sixteen-year-old Joss since I am now a crotchety old man at 30 years old (this is a joke…I think), or it could have been my perception that Joss never seemed at risk despite being placed in dangerous situations, or perhaps I don’t read enough young adult fiction to properly appreciate this story.

To put it bluntly, I think the real reason was simply how Joss treated the women he supposedly cares for within the story and the, albeit somewhat justified, chip on his shoulder. You might find Joss more interesting though and possibly enjoy this story much more than I did. I hope so.

The Other Side of the Whale Road releases on September 2nd.

Happy Reading.

House of Many Ways

House of Many Ways Book CoverHouse of Many Ways is Diana Wynne Jones’s sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle. However, much like the companion novel Castle in the Air, this book spends the first half following a new character without any connection to the world of Howl’s except where magic is involved. It is really just before the halfway point that we get to see the connection, which is primarily Sophie.

Our main character for this book is Charmain Baker, who I must admit is not a very likeable character (despite the fact she is an avid reader herself). She is tasked with watching over her great uncle’s magical house while he is away receiving medical treatment from the elves. She does grow throughout the book, as good characters should, but she is a bit self-centered in a way that doesn’t leave much room to connect. The overall story and magic are fun much like the previous novels so it is definitely worth a read, and it is always good to see more of Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer.

I am glad I decided to read the three Howl books in order of publication because the events of Castle in the Air take place roughly two years prior to House of Many Ways and a few characters show up in this final installment. Though it is not necessary to read Castle in the Air to understand what occurs in House of Many Ways, the experience is enhanced having read the companion novel first. In all honesty, I would dare to call this book a companion novel as well instead of a true sequel because it focuses on new characters and events quite outside that of Howl’s Moving Castle. Some of the locations and the magic are similar, but the same could be said of Castle in the Air. They are all linked but none are truly cohesive in a way you would expect of a continuous story. Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer are more support characters and the overall story has little to do with the first book.

House of Many Ways was first published in 2008. This is 18 years after Castle in the Air and 22 years after Howl’s Moving Castle (and 4 years after the Howl’s Moving Castle film). Despite the time between publications, these stories are all magical in their own way and read as if they could have all been written at the same time. Diana Wynne Jones was truly a gifted and magical writer.

Happy Reading.

Castle in the Air

Castle in the Air Book CoverCastle in the Air is another magical, wholesome story by Diana Wynne Jones. It was published in 1990 and is considered a companion novel (not a sequel) to her book Howl’s Moving Castle which was published in 1986. I wasn’t sure how it related to Howl’s because it had no real connection until about halfway through the book. The entire story has elements that reminded me of Aladdin, with a flying carpet and a genie, but then the second half enters a realm similar to Howl’s Moving Castle. Fans of both will likely love this book, as I did.

Overall, it is a fun read that gets better as you go along. I felt there was a slower period in the middle when things begin to transition, but the action ramps up and all the pieces fall together in the end. This is one thing I really enjoyed about this book. Things that occur in the first few chapters either persist or reappear in the end to show their impact on the overall story. Some of it is whimsical, sure, but there is never anything superfluous, out of place, or unexplained in a Diana Wynne Jones novel (at least from my experience). Though I expected this book to be entertaining, I was yet again surprised how much I enjoy Diana Wynne Jones’s work.

I must admit that I plan to read this book, and many others, to my kids as they get older. I think Diana Wynne Jones weaves incredible stories that children will love and us adults (aka physically grown children) also enjoy. I will be reading the true sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle shortly to complete the Howl’s “trilogy” and I will discuss that book here as well.

Happy Reading.