Half World by Hiromi Goto

“WANTED: For having appallingly become with child and risking the Half Lives of all citizens of Half World.  Fumiko and Shinobu Tamaki are considered pregnant and extremely dangerous.  Last seen seeking passage into the Realm of Flesh.  They must be caught and the pregnancy must be terminated.  Under no circumstances must a child be born in the Half World.

All sightings are to be reported to Mr. Glueskin at the Mirages Hotel. Creatures found harbouring the fugitives will be treated with perpetual cruelty, psychological, emotional, and physical.”

The three ancient realms have been thrown out of balance, dooming those in the nightmarish Half World to a life of perpetual suffering under the chilling reign of Mr. Glueskin, with no possibility of moving from the Realm of the Flesh to that of the Spirit.  Also lacking hope of ever moving into the Spirit Realm, those in the earthly Realm of the Flesh become destructive and violent.   It has continued in this way for millennia.

Everyone is waiting for a baby, the baby that will save them all.

When Melanie’s mother disappears, Melanie learns of the prophecy, and understands that she is that baby.  She and her mother were granted passage from the Half World into that of the Flesh, but only for fourteen years.  After that time, her mother had to return, or else risk the torturous death of Melanie’s father, who had to stay behind.  Melanie must venture into the horrors of the Half World, find her family, and restore balance to the Realms.

This innovative fantasy enthralled me; I finished the book in five hours.  While the plot appears formulaic at first glance, I promise you, it’s the good kind of formula: the one that brought us Lord of the Rings and The Odyssey.  Furthermore, the mythic base is embellished with a cast of unforgettably ghoulish horrors that feel as though they’ve been transplanted from a Bosch painting.  Seriously, Mr. Glueskin is a literary monster rivaling the Crooked Man, and the nightmarish tableau of the Half Realm is truly a horrible place.  This ALA Best Book also won the Canadian Sunburst Award for Literature of the Fantastic, and both awards are richly deserved.  This is a great starter book for readers who would like to explore more fantasy books, but are put off by the elaborate backstories that sometimes characterize the genre.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.hiromigoto.com/

Half World website (it’s pretty!): http://www.halfworld.ca

Goto, Hiromi.  Half World. Illus. Jillian Tamaki. Puffin: Toronto, 2009. 230 pp. Ages 14 and up.

Read this one first before you decide to read it out loud, ok?  It’s a perfect story for sharing, but the monsters are quite dreadful, and not for the faint-hearted.

If you liked this book, you might want to explore Neil Gaiman.  His book Neverwhere is a great place to start! Other read-alikes are Malinda Lo’s Huntress and Rick Riordan’s Lightning ThiefIf you loved the beautiful illustrations, you should check out the graphic novel Skim, also the work of artist Jillian Tamaki.

 

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The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

“But a whole sea of monsters–how could you hide something like that?  Wouldn’t the mortals notice weird things happening…like, ships getting eaten and stuff?’

‘Of course they notice.  They don’t understand, but they know something is strange about that part of the ocean.  The Sea of Monsters is just off the east coast of the U.S. now, just northeast of Florida.  The mortals even have a name for it.’

‘The Bermuda Triangle?

‘Exactly.'”

I didn’t get to give this book as much attention as I wanted to; it was finals week, the last week before graduation, and I suddenly needed to find a job.  Then, my favorite nine-year-old, who often shares books with me, begged me to finish it, because he was just getting to his last few pages in the first book of the series, The Lightning Thief.  So, thanks to Sam, I had the motivation to get through this exciting book.  I’ll hand it off to him tonight, and then undoubtedly have to climb up the stairs and encourage him to stop reading and turn off the light at least three times before he falls asleep reading it.  That’s the best kind of sharing, I think.

Anyway, back to The Sea of Monsters.  This is the second in the series, and the story picks up at Percy’s new school.  When a routine dodgeball match gets ugly, and Percy and his team is attacked by a mob of cannibals, he’s forced to flee to the safety of Camp Half Blood.  However, things aren’t they way he left them last summer.  Something terrible has happened, and the magic borders that protect the campers are beginning to disintegrate.  Percy suspects a curse, or perhaps poison.  But if someone can’t lift the curse, there will be no safe place on earth left for the demigod campers, those children of mortals and gods.

So, Percy sets out on another dangerous quest.  His satyr friend, Grover, is in mortal peril.  Grover had been searching for Jason’s golden fleece, which has the powers to heal and rejuvenate the land.  In his attempts to grab the fleece and save Camp Half Blood, though, Grover has been taken prisoner by a giant cyclops.  The cyclops may not be bright, but he sure is mean…and hungry!  Percy and his friends must brave the Sirens’ tempting songs, many-headed monsters, giant whirlpools, and risk getting turned into guinea pigs, all in order to save a friend.

Older readers will appreciate the twists that Riordan applies to Greek mythology.  I, for one, loved The Odyssey, and this book covers a lot of the same adventures.  In a way, it’s almost better, because Riordan offers a lot of details, like why Circe wants to turn people into pigs (well, guinea pigs, in this case), and just exactly what the sirens’ song sounds like.  Also, I didn’t find that the book falls into the Middle Book trap.  You know, how the middle book of a trilogy can sometimes feel a little incomplete, because its beginning and end are taken care of in other volumes?  That is definitely not the case here; this is a short, fast-paced, adventure story, complete in its own right.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: www.rickriordan.com

Riordan, Rick. The Sea of Monsters. New York: Disney-Hyperion, 2006. 279 pp.  Grades 6-8

If you liked this book, be sure to check out the next in the series, calledThe Titan’s Curse.  Or, if you’ve read the entire series and everything else by Rick Riordan and you need something new, I really like Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer.  However, they might be for a slightly older crowd. But if that’s you, go for it!