Middler Books and More

This blog contains Bruce DuBoff's book reviews, info on other media, and related topics. It is a collaboration between the librarian and both the students of Pennsauken Intermediate School and Phifer Middle School in Pennsauken, NJ, and the general middler book reading community. The books featured here are appropriate for grades 5-8, though not all books reviewed here are appropriate for all of those ages.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

McNamee, Eoin. The Navigator by Eoin McNamee (2 1/2 out of four stars)
Fantasy has come a long way since being revitalized (again) by the Harry Potter series. Not only have our students returned to the classics in the genre (i.e. The Chronicles of Narnia series and The Lord of the Rings series), but they have demanded new material (i.e. The Golden Compass, Gregor the Overlander) and authors have delivered. Many fantasy plots, like all of those mentioned above, are epic, sweeping sagas that take several books to develop and resolve. Although The Navigator by Irish author Eoin McNamee contains a complete plot, it is clear from the long period of setting and character development in the first hundred pages of the novel that this series will last a while.
In this latest fantasy offering, protagonist Owen begins the novel under a shadow. His father is the victim of an apparent suicide and his mother has lost her will to live after her husband’s death. Feeling lonely and alone most of the time, he spends much time at a private place in the woods he calls the Den: “The floor was earth and the walls were a mixture of stones and soil. Owen had found it two years ago while looking for chestnuts . . . He spent as much time as he could at the Den” (6-7). Owen’s life and reality itself are shattered when the enemy of Time, known as the Harsh, alter reality and cause time to flow backwards to an era before humanity so they can have the world to themselves. Owen finds himself (at first) an unwitting partner to the Resistors, a group that has spent History battling the Harsh and thwarting their inhuman plans. It is an extreme challenge, but Owen is up to it, and with new friends Cati and Wesley, he commits to the cause and must play a key role in the restoration of normal existence. Ironically, as his life becomes more dangerous and threatening, Owen finds and knows himself better than ever: “He missed his home and his room, and he missed his mother . . . He realized too that he felt fitter than ever . . . And when he looked in the mirror of the old dressing table he saw a fuller, more cheerful face looking back at him” (110). Owen finds a home among the Resistors and prepares for the great challenge that faces all of humanity.
If you like fantasy, will like this novel. It has all of the elements you have come to expect: unusual humans with special skills, supernatural villains who appear larger-than-life, alternate realities that confound the mind, and characters who find more inside of themselves than they expected. I grew impatient with this book because it started slowly and built gradually until the action finally started occurring. Sometimes the payoff is less satisfying when it takes too long to get there. I admit a bit of boredom during the first hundred pages. However, despite a slow build-up, The Navigator by Eoin McNamee is a cleverly plotted and conceived novel that will appeal to many of you, and like many other series, its unique universe will be around in sequel form for a while.


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