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The Broken Lands Hardcover – September 4, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-This spine-tingling, action-packed, and emotionally powerful prequel to The Boneshaker (Clarion, 2010) can stand on its own and has much to offer discerning readers. Once upon a time, a woodsman was granted three wishes by a beautiful, uncanny woman, but he used them in a selfish, foolish way. So great were his crimes that not even the devil would let him enter into Hell. So Jack roams the world, searching for a place with a powerful crossroads. In 1877, New York City seems the perfect place to make into hell. He has sent his evil emissaries to kill or convert the five pillars of New York: five people charged with protecting the city. Fifteen-year-old orphan and cardsharp Sam Noctiluca is an unlikely hero, but when he befriends Jin, a young Chinese fireworks-maker, they are drawn into the battle. Soon they, and a ragtag cast of heroes, are the only ones who stand between New York and the supernatural forces of evil. While on the surface this is a simple tale of good versus evil, the book is richly fleshed out and overflows with folklore, Chinese alchemy, and historically accurate details. It also beautifully addresses the themes of friendship and loss and the healing power of innocent love. Offermann's delicate black-and-white illustrations contain a sense of innocence that further accentuates the contrast between Sam's group and the frightening evil that threatens the city.-Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, COα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In this prequel of sorts to The Boneshaker (2010), Milford again paints a painstaking portrait of a time (1877) and a place (Coney Island), and she casts the whole affair as a dark fairy tale pitting folk heroes against well-mannered demons happy to engage in, say, a card game with very high stakes. Our not-quite-human villains have decided that New York City would be a fine place to start up a new Hell. But to do it they must kill or turn the “pillars”—a group of five people who guard the true power structure of the city. Heading up the defense is 15-year-old huckster Sam and his new friend (and perhaps more?) Jin, a fireworks expert in a traveling show. Both kids have tortured pasts—Sam lost his parents and Jin was a Chinese “small-foot girl”—but their relationship is a joy, simultaneously stubborn and halting, rambunctious and shy. This is a tad on the long side, though you can’t fault Milford for getting carried away. By and large, this is subject matter left untouched by other YA authors. Grades 5-8. --Daniel Kraus
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An absolutely wonderful read, filled with things that made me grin in glee. (Santine! OMG the game of Santine!). It's not a book made of deep complicated characters, there are no anti-heroes here, but the characters are bright, firework bright, and I love the meeting of folktale and myth, and the history of New York and Brooklyn. This is urban fantasy at its finest, where the fantastical and the city meet and mingle, and it becomes impossible to separate the two.
Kate Milford has written a book that can sit comfortably alongside Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and Clive Barker's Abarat, and seasoned it with a dash of Tim Power's Last Call.
I will most definitely be reading more of her work.
BONESHAKER, you see, was wonderful. It had a great cast of characters --good and bad-- and it had a well paced story with a decided 'voice' and tone. THE BROKEN LANDS has interesting characters, but a bland tone and little voice. Overall, it felt like a fog of verbiage stood between me and all that went on in the story. Everything seemed overwritten, and much of it not all that crucial to moving the story ahead.
When brings me to the length. I know that long books are all the rage for middle-graders. But personally I grow weary of gratuitous length, and would add that if you are going to have lots of pages for this age group, for heaven's sake fill them action and not descriptions of architecture.
Not a book I'd suggest as a read for guys. Patient, mature readers (more patient than myself) might want to track this one down if they enjoyed BONESHAKER. The concepts are interesting, the characters okay. The story never quite grabbed me, but it's important to remember 'that not all books are for all people'. Some people, after all, don't like Shakespeare.
The principle characters, Sam Noctiluca - a young card sharp whose father was killed during construction of the Brooklyn Bridge - and Jin - an orphaned Chinese girl whose background is even more tragic - are allowed to develop as individuals and to grow in their relationships with others. Sam learns to trust in himself; Jin in herself. The two learn they must trust in one another and in others to achieve their goal. They are allowed to mature and are given a depth of character that moves the story forward and makes their actions believable. Secondary characters Tom Guyot and Walter Mapp, in addition to Liao who is Jin's mentor, provide an element of mystery and mysticism. Susannah, whose half-sister sacrificed her own life so that Jack Hellcoal's plan might be stopped; Constantine Liri, Sam's friend; and Illana Ponzi, the landlady's daughter play important roles in the story.
Detailed, descriptive passages add to the appeal of this novel. "The Broken Lands" is a wonderful and exciting book. In the grip of this novel, I found myself silently cheering for Sam and Jin; hoping they would be able to defeat Jack Hellcoal's plan. On pins and needles, I turned page after page as the "pillars" are hunted and the novel races toward its conclusion. Evil characters are menacing; their threats are frightening. The situations, emotions, and characters are often so authentic that one may forget this is a fantasy.
The novel's story contains elements that brought memories of the 9/11 attacks on Towers 1 and 2 of the World Trade Center. Jack Hellcoal seeks to create Hell on earth - Hell is a place of fire and death. The attack by Hellcoal's minions is to take place at the two towers of the Brooklyn Bridge; fiery explosions will either further Hellcoal's goal or will thwart his attack. Walker, his front man, creates and directs Bones - the instrument of bringing deaths which will terrorize the populace - from sand. That sand is found on the waterfront of New York City, it was already inside the "targeted" location. Ordinary citizens must overcome their own fears and band together to rescue the city and its people; courage and self sacrifice will be called for.
Well written and imaginative, "The Broken Lands" is a book that can be enjoyed by all ages of readers. Parents should note that it does contain some intense scenes of violence which might disturb less mature readers. I look forward to reading other novels written by Kate Milford - "The Broken Lands" is an excellent novel and deserves its 5-star rating.
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My " in a nutshell" summary...
A story of a bridge, fierce evil, and two orphans determined to save the...Read more