Friday, October 16, 2009
Brief comments about Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow by James Rollins
I've got SO MANY books to read and review, so this isn't a full-fledged review, just a once-over-lightly treatment.
In this Indiana Jones-style adventure fantasy, 8th-grader Jake and his big sister Kady, left essentially orphaned when their archaeologist parents disappeared in southern Mexico three years ago, are magically swept into a strange land called Calypsos. In Calypsos, groups of Mayans, ancient Romans, Neanderthals, Vikings, and more folks from different places and time periods all live together - along with dinosaurs, saber-tooth tigers, and a very bad guy called the Skull King. Clearly, this place - and Jake and Kady's sudden appearance in it - is linked to the disappearance of their parents.
The good: The plentiful action and thrills, as well as the exotic setting and people, should grab and hold the attention of readers who love adventure. Even reluctant readers may give this one a whirl if it's booktalked with maximum verve, and it might be a fun read-aloud for a 5th or 6th grade class.
The bad: The sentence structure is short and choppy - perhaps this is good for a reluctant reader but it certainly detracted from my own reading pleasure. There is very little character development and, although some information on Mayan culture and other historical/cultural matters is bandied about, I didn't get any sense about how these folks actually lived. Although supposedly the various groups in Calypsos are living in their traditional way (in the hopes that they'll be transported back to their own place and time one day), nothing about their way of life seems particularly historically authentic.
The ugly: At times, the fast pace is broken up by goofy events that reminded me of some b-grade kids' movie. For instance, Jake's teen sister Kady leads all the Amazon gals in an American-style cheering session, complete with high kicks, during a Coliseum game. Puh-lease...
The verdict: This was not my cup of tea at all, but I'm willing to bet that some kids will find it exciting enough to be impatient for the sequel that is to come. For grades 5 - 8.