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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Pen"ed to the Pages: A Pageturner full of Twists
At first sighting, this book looked distinctly, er, okay, boyish, from the apparently gruesome title and sinister looking cover. It took one of my friends saying "you HAVE to read this" to get me to buy it. Even then I suspected that "the Merchant of Death" was definitely not something I was going to buy into.
SUPRISE! I opened the cover and was shocked to discover...
Published on June 11, 2003 by liaden

versus
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange plot device is this book's biggest problem
First, in the interest of full disclosure, I am not a tween and the only reason I read this book is that it was free on the Kindle. Further, even though YA fiction is not something I typically read, I did very much enjoy the Potter books, the Narnia books, the Iron Cauldron books, etc. as an adult. In other words, I am able to appreciate a well-crafted novel targeted at...
Published on February 17, 2010 by D. Josephs


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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Pen"ed to the Pages: A Pageturner full of Twists, June 11, 2003
By 
"liaden" (Somewhere Over the Rainbow) - See all my reviews
At first sighting, this book looked distinctly, er, okay, boyish, from the apparently gruesome title and sinister looking cover. It took one of my friends saying "you HAVE to read this" to get me to buy it. Even then I suspected that "the Merchant of Death" was definitely not something I was going to buy into.
SUPRISE! I opened the cover and was shocked to discover that the first thing Bobby Pendragon (our protoganist) was doing was kissing a girl! The book was certainly more appealing now with a tad bit of romance and I started to enjoy the story.
Bobby Pendragon's Uncle Press shows up unexpectedly and sweeps him away to another "territory" called Denduron, through a doorway in a New York subway tunnel (no easy access here!) despite being chased by wild beasts called quigs. Bobby soon realizes that his notions of reality are way off.
Bobby is fated to help save the Milago people from their oppressors, the people of the neighboring Bedoowan. Reluctant and scared, Bobby wants to return to his perfect life at home, where he was considered smart, popular, a jock, and not to mention the love interest of the coolest girl in his grade. But no such luck; he must learn how to use his Traveler powers to help save this world...and all the others...from complete distruction...
I really enjoyed this novel. It is told in narrative form as Bobby writes scrolls back to his best friend Mark and sort-of girlfriend Courtney back on Second-Earth to tell them what is happening, and then switches to third-person once in a while to describe what Courtney and Mark are doing. It was fast-paced and Bobby's witty comments made me laugh.
Be warned, this novel also contains explicit language and the afore-mentioned making-out scenes. These parts are appropriate however, and I think that they added a sense of humanity to the read. I'd say do not let this stop you from reading the book!
So go grab the book at your local bookstore and spread the word: its not just for boys! 4 stars for lots of action, not a 5 because the plot was simplistic. I hope the sequel, the Lost City of Faar, is just as good! Happy Reading!
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Start to An Exciting New Series, April 1, 2004
By 
Erika Sorocco (Southern California, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Fourteen-year-old Bobby Pendragon has always thought that he had a normal life. He has a great family, great friends, was lucky enought to have kissed the most perfect girl, has a perfect dog, Marley, and has a super-cool Uncle. But there's something that Bobby never knew about himself, and is about to find out. He's destined to save the world. No, not in ten years from now, but at this very instant. And no, not on this Earth, because life on this Earth is different than Bobby ever thought it could be. Bobby will be saving the world on an alternate dimension called Denduron, a territory inhabited by many strange beings, that is plagued by a dangerous revolution, and ruled by a magical tyrant. Now Bobby is forced to accept his role as savior to the people of Denduron, or else he won't ever see his family again. Besides, Denduron is only the beginning.
D.J. MacHale is a fantastic author who has created an interesting, and out-of-this-world dimension that will pull readers in from the very first page. Bobby is a fun character, who, even though he has to save the world, and is in an alternate dimension, uses teenage lingo of today (i.e. cool, awesome, etc.), that readers will be able to relate to and understand quite well. PENDRAGON: THE MERCHANT OF DEATH is told in alternating chapters between Bobby's journals, and his friends (Mark and Courtney) quest to find Bobby and save him from untimely death, which gives the reader the chance to read both sides of the story. This is an interesting and exciting addition to the science fiction / fantasy genre. A must read.
Erika Sorocco
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fasten Your Seatbelt. It's Gonna Be a Killer Ride., September 17, 2002
Fantasy is one of the hottest genres for teens right now, and there's plenty to choose from. For those fans new and old who are looking for something more contemporary than, say, His Dark Materials or Lord of the Rings, check out Bobby Pendragon. He's 14. Lives a bit north of New York City. Plays a pretty mean game of basketball. Loves video games. Family, house, dog. Life is good. And then his ultra-cool Uncle Press shows up at his front door one evening, and whisks Bobby away to another dimension, one of ten Territories known as Denduron. And life, as he has always known it, ceases to exist.
Bobby's uncle tells him that he has been chosen to be a Traveler, and his job, should he decide to accept it, is to help his uncle save the Territories from a villain among villains, the evil Saint Dane (who can shape shift and raise all sorts of hell). In this first heart-stopping installment, Saint Dane pits two co-existing societies against each other. If either is destroyed, it'll be easy for him to come to power. Meanwhile, Bobby, who's been thrown into a completely alien environment, has to figure out how to prevent anarchy and manage to stay alive himself. There's nonstop action--and plenty here for girls to enjoy as much as guys, by the way. Bobby is helped out by the beautiful Loor, who can kick some serious butt!
Even if you don't like to read, you will love this book! Whatever you do, don't miss it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate way to start the kids on audiobooks, April 4, 2005
The Pendragon books are an excellent youth adventure series to begin with. You have a reluctant hero -Bobby Pendragon- that excels through a great mixture of brains, courage, loyalty, creativity, humor and heart. Although Bobby is no slouch, it's not his physical prowess that gets him out of tight situations time and again. All Pendragon stories are very fast-paced, captivating and unique and mostly written from Bobby's perspective - in the first person. So the language is that of a smart and hip teenager and therefore fun and very easy to digest for that age group. My three kids (9-11) inhaled the books and keep asking me to check when the sixth book will come out (July 1. 2005).

Our family loves audiobooks, we listen to them while we do arts/crafts or chores in the house or on car rides. Because most audio books are so expensive here in the States (in Europe the prices are significantly lower due to the much higher demand for audio productions there, especially for kids/youths) I usually get the CDs in the library, rather than buying them, even though I typically have to check out the good ones more than once. But I didn't have to think twice before I bought this set of 10 CDs, the price is perfect - just where a good hardcover book would be too. William Dufris is a marvelous narrator, he catches Bobby's spirit perfectly. I didn't care for the music at the beginning and end of each CD and the occasional slip into audio-production-like sound effects, as for instance when one of the characters speaks through a walkie-talkie. But those are nit-picks and wouldn't deter me for an instant to buy the set, which I will probably do many times as presents for kids in the future.

If you have never tried audiobooks for your kids, this is the perfect one to start. Do you have a 90 minute car ride to the grandparents? Slip a CD in and enjoy the trip in peace and quiet. (Caution, if you are the driver, you'll get hooked on the stories yourself)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange plot device is this book's biggest problem, February 17, 2010
First, in the interest of full disclosure, I am not a tween and the only reason I read this book is that it was free on the Kindle. Further, even though YA fiction is not something I typically read, I did very much enjoy the Potter books, the Narnia books, the Iron Cauldron books, etc. as an adult. In other words, I am able to appreciate a well-crafted novel targeted at a younger audience, but Death Merchant is a puff piece no matter who is reading it. On the other hand, I have little doubt that most 11 to 14 year-olds (boys and girls) will enjoy the universe and characters Mr. MacHale has created, thus the 3-star rating.

Parents can take heart in strong male and female characters, none-too-subtle themes of doing what is right instead of what is easy and that your child is reading a 300+ page novel that occasionally slips in a vocabulary word. Kids will appreciate that the framework Mr. MacHale has created allows for an unlimited number of adventures for Bobby and his cohorts. Sure, these adventures will be completely predictable, but so were The Three Investigators, and I loved those books.

** POSSIBLE SPOILER **

My inability to empathize with the fourteen year-old 1st person voice of the novel was not my biggest hangup with the book. Rather, MacHale employs an strange plot device in which the story is told along two timelines. Roughly a third of the chapters are in our here and now in which the protagonist's friends Mark and Courtney read about the adventure being had by our youthful hero, Bobby. The other two-thirds of the book are essentially Bobby's diary entries that have been sent to Mark and Courtney through a wormhole, and these two frames of reference alternate in a roughly Bobby's Diary...Bobby's Diary...Mark+Courtney discussing the diary fashion. While interesting at first, I quickly came to realize that because all of Bobby's narrative is told after-the-fact in journal entries, the reader need never worry about Bobby. Since he was able to write about this or that and send it to "Second Earth" for his friends to read, he obviously got out of whatever predicament he might have been in. So, all suspense removed from the plot, things got boring really quick. But I'm not 13.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never boring, November 8, 2008
A Kid's Review
I am 8 years old, and my Dad is typing this for me. I liked this book because it was very exciting. It was so good, I don't know what to say. I would recommend this book to people who like action and adventure.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not The Ordinary Boy, January 25, 2003
Bobby Pendragon is a fourteen-year-old boy, and his mission is to save the world. Bobby was a normal kid, until his uncle came to him, asking desperately for help. Bobby soon learns that he is a traveler, a person that can travel through space and time. After traveling to a distant planet, known as Denduron, with his uncle, Bobby has to try to save the planet from an evil traveler. If the evil traveler, St. Dane, is able to cause war between two tribes on the planet Denduron, the whole universe will be destroyed, including Earth, as we know it. It's up to Bobby and some other "good" travelers to stop him and the two tribes from clashing. Does Bobby fulfill his mission and save the whole universe's destruction?
Pendragon: The Merchant of Death, by D.J. MacHale, is one of the greatest stories ever written and I am sure the sequels will be just as good. This book is filled with action and adventure throughout the whole story. Not once was there a boring part of this amazing tale. The book is very similar to Harry Potter books, but maybe a little bit better. I recommend this book for all readers who enjoy adventurous stories. Pendragon: The Merchant of Death is one of the greatest books I have ever read!
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One boy tips the balance against evil and yadda yadda yadda, November 6, 2005
When I was babysitting neighborhood kids back in the 1990s, one my guiltier pleasures came from watching that Nickelodeon kiddie horror show, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?". The stories were fine if not particularly well-written. They were exciting and interesting and filled a half an hour of brain fluff that never required much thought or intelligence. Now the man responsible for that show has decided that he's going to create the next big fantasy series. D.J. MacHale may not be writing these books with the intention of being remembered as an important figure in twenty-first century children's literature, but he definitely has a handle on rollicking good adventures and fast-paced writing. In this first installment of the "Pendragon" series, we meet a hero with a birthright. And no. In spite of the title, he's not King Arthur. Sorry.

Bobby Pendragon was having a great life. Was. Everything seemed to be going so well. He was a popular kid at school with a wonderful best friend and a great place on the high school basketball team. He'd even gotten a kiss from the beautiful and fun Courtney Chetwynde... that is, before he'd been interrupted by his Uncle Press. When Uncle Press told Bobby that he needed to accompany him somewhere, his nephew didn't really question it. It wasn't until the kid found himself in an abandoned subway tunnel running away from a crazed cop with a gun and some yellow eyed dogs called "quigs" that it occurred to the boy that maybe old Uncle Press was getting him into something both big and downright dangerous. Now Bobby has found himself transported to a world called Denduron where an impending civil war will determine the fate of the universe itself. And it's up to our hero to tip the balance one way or another.

"Merchant of Death" is infinitely readable. This may have something to do with its video game-like action sequences. One minute Bobby's dodging big mutant dogs and the next he's speeding down the face of a mountain in a sled ala "Willow". It was actually rather refreshing to have a hero who continually points out that he's just a regular joe without any swashbuckling tendencies clinging to him. Of course, MacHale's self-referential wit backfires from time to time. He loves having Bobby make fun of bad-fantasy conventions. Things like all the characters in the foreign land having one name. MacHale has a ball with that, letting Bobby ponder when a civilization actually reached the last name stage of the proceedings. Also, when Bobby enters the serf-like village of the oppressed Milago people, he ponders whether or not there'll be a big ole castle hovering above them somewhere. Sure enough, there is. And it's a doozy. But the fact that MacHale embraces these over-worn gotta-have-this-in-every-fantasy elements in spite of his own better instincts... well it makes for a slightly depressing read.

Fortunately, there's a lot in this book to cheer the reader up. The repetition in this book, for example, is lotsa fun. I was amused time and again by the fact that Bobby bursts into tears constantly, but just as frequently exclaims that tears aren't usual to him. Whenever our hero says he's, "not a crying kind of guy", don't believe him. There are waterworks ah-plenty in this tale. Twice Bobby also says that he thinks the bad guy, Saint Dane, has done something evil for our hero's "benefit". There's also the fact that roughly 100 times in this book Bobby will ask a perfectly straightforward question, be given an elusive answer, and before he can clarify what that might mean is interrupted by some kind of distraction. You get this in bad fiction all the time and you usually hope that the author will limit his or herself to only one or two instances. I didn't keep a tally on "Merchant of Death", but I can say with reasonable certainty that it happens here at least seven times. Adults in this book perpetually withhold important information for no particular reason whatsoever just so that the tension of the tale is maintained.

*sigh*

Which isn't to say that it's a bad read. It isn't. Kids who enjoy video games will instantly glom onto it. MacHale is also so concerned with negative stereotypes of women that every girl in this book (with the exception of the fat evil queen) has the ability to kick the butt of all the boys around her. I'd complain about this, but I kinda like it. It may not be realistic, but from someone who's spent a lot of her life watching "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on t.v., it's cozily familiar. I can honestly say that almost any kid you hand this book to is going to enjoy it. Plus, the outdated slang is going to render it unreadable in about five years, so enjoy it while you can. It hasn't the great writing of "The Dark Is Rising" series or the wit of "Harry Potter", but it's like delicious fatty popcorn. You just keep munching.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forget the Wands and Rings!! Pendragon All the Way!!, February 28, 2003
Pendragon: The Merchant of Death is the best book in the world other than it's sequel Pendragon: The Lost City of Faar. This is a must read book with many interesting characters. It's a story of a normal 14-year old boy who is placed with the job of helping to save everything, time, or place that exists! A pretty tough job for our young Bobby. We are able to read of his journeys with his new friends who help him through the journals that he writes and sends to his friends back on his home planet. That's right, his _own_ planet. With this task it includes saving the universe, not just Second Earth (where we live). This is a short review because I used all of my good ideas on a book report just created on Pendragon for my class.
For more information on Pendragon and for information that can be found NO WHERE ELSE, check out the official forum and page at (...) This site gives plenty of information and even talk about it with friends there as well. DJ MacHale himself hangs out there and will proide you with the special information! Check it out and join the forum!
I would give this book an infinite amount of stars if I could, but well you know...enjoy!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor, June 9, 2006
By 
Brant (Alexandria, VA, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
After receiving a few recommendations to read this book and the rest of the series, I picked up a copy. I could not read past the first chapter. The writing style, which I think was meant to help the reader relate to the protagonist, grated on my nerves. The overuse of slang did not help either. I found very little to like about the main character within the first chapter and, as the book is written in the first person, an engaging protagonist is required.

There are many better fantasy choices. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Riftwar Saga, the Discworld Series, Good Omens, and if you like the premise of someone being pulled out of the real world to a fantasy world try and find "A Two-Edged Sword" by Thomas K. Martin and the two books that follow it, "A Matter of Honor" and "A Call to Arms".
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The Merchant of Death (Pendragon)
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