Thursday, December 31, 2009

Review of Ever Breath by Julianna Baggott

Baggott, Julianna. Ever Breath. Random House, 2009.

I wasn't hooked by the Anbodies trilogy, written by Baggott under the name N.E. Bode, but her Prince of Fenway Park was fresh and unusual, so I turned to The Ever Breath with great anticipation.

Long, long ago, the world was inhabited by all sorts of folks and creatures, magical and mundane, before it was split into two worlds. Our world is the Fixed World, a place of no magic but whose creativity and imagination derive from our proximity with the Breath World, where all the magical creatures live. The worlds are connected by the Ever Breath, which resides in a passageway and has been guarded since time immemorial by a special family with ties to both worlds.

Twins Truman and Camille learn that they are members of this family when the Ever Breath is stolen and things on both sides of the passageway begin to fall apart. And if the passageway is severed completely, both worlds will begin to die. Truman and Camille journey to Breath World, where they must help a desperate group of revolutionaries find the Ever Breath before it's too late.

Anyone who has traveled in a very foreign land will appreciate Truman's disorientation as he puzzles over the strange food, customs, politics, and history of Breath World, details that are fluently relayed in a way that made me believe in this complex society and want to know more about its people. Mewlers, locust fairies, talking mice, people with horns - Breath World teems with unusual folks who get along with one another or don't. And all is not well by any means, as the Office of Official Affairs uses fear and intimidation to rule its people. Its slogan - "Us versus Them! The difference is simple!"

The first part of the book, before the twins get to Breath World, is a bit too long, and the last part is a whirlwind, too-quick effort to get the Ever Breath back, revealing a master villain who is a bit of a disappointment. In-between, however, the story is fascinating - and there is bound to be a sequel exploring more of the magical Breath World.

Recommended for fantasy fans who enjoy tales of magical worlds connected to ours, such as the Chronicles of Narnia.

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