Just saying the year sounds so unbelievable. Seems like yesterday we celebrated the new millennium. Well, it’s time to move forward with more reviews, more Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays, and someday my own story for the world to enjoy. These 20’s may not be roaring like they were 100 years ago, but I like to think they’re going to be marvelous.
A good friend commented to me over the holidays, “There doesn’t seem to be a book you don’t like. All of your reviews are heavy with praise for whatever published story you write about at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE.”
I let her in on a little secret: I don’t love every MG book I pick up. Last year I read over 120 middle grade books and posted 100 reviews. I’m very careful about which books I choose to read, but even I sometimes miss the mark. Those 20 plus books I never reviewed were ones I couldn’t find five things to like about the story.
Writing is difficult. Whatever heaps of criticism I could pour on a book would not change the fact it is already published. I’m here to recommend books I enjoy. Ones you’d want to give to your own children or students. Those with mystery, great characters, humor, and adventure. Books you can’t wait to turn the page and have you guessing right to the end.
Which brings me to my first MMGM review for 2020—a double dose from Australian author A.L. Tait: THE BOOK OF SECRETS and THE BOOK OF ANSWERS.
THE BOOK OF SECRETS gets the story moving from the get-go with these enticing first lines:
Gabe stared in horror at the small book in his hand. The light from the low fire danced across its golden cover, setting off a shower of sparkles from the rainbow of jewels that adorned it. Its beauty dulled only in one corner, stained by a dark, spreading smudge of blood.
Gabe knows nothing beyond what goes on inside the monastery walls. He arrived as an infant and never knew his parents. Some day he’ll become a full fledged monk. Gabe is obedient and follows the rules—at least until he’s given the task of safeguarding the book.
When Gabe is asked to hide and protect this special manuscript and do so beyond the boundaries of the monastery, the journey doesn’t go well. He’s captured by a rowdy band of thieves and soon, to his shock and dismay, learns their secret: they’re all girls!
The adventure and mystery that follows focuses on the Ateban Cipher, the book Gabe has been given to protect. It has images of trees and plants and words that don’t make sense. Told in third person and staying close all the way with Gabe, the story is engaging and just the right length. He learns the truth behind most of the secrets but leaves a major one for THE BOOK OF ANSWERS.
Here’s the official background blurb from Kane Miller Publishing:
Forced to flee his home to uncover the secrets hidden in a coded book, sheltered orphan Gabe discovers a world of danger, intrigue, adventure and unexpected friendship. When a dying man hands him a coded manuscript, Gabe is hurled into a quest that takes him beyond his monastery home and into a world of danger, political intrigue and adventure. Gabe learns that survival must be earned and that some of life’s biggest lessons are not found in books … and that the biggest secret of all may be his own.
The BOOK OF ANSWERS picks up where the first novel left off. The character arcs continue to evolve as Gabe and his new friends take a treacherous journey to an imposing castle. It’s there where Gabe has been told to take the book.
The plot twists and danger throughout make this a real page turner. Just when you think things are heading toward a resolution, another tension filled problem is thrown at the group. Gwyn, their leader, is one tough cookie and Gabe is always trying to figure out how she got such an take over attitude. He also knows she’s his best bet for survival.
Gabe will uncover many more answers along the way including his heritage, the book’s purpose, and his own future. The only real answer I can give you is to give this series a try. It will be time well spent.
Here’s the official background on THE BOOK OF ANSWERS
Gabe and his companions journey to a remote mountain citadel where they learn the secret of the mysterious, encrypted book that Gabe has been tasked with protecting. But with their enemies close behind them, and new dangers lying ahead, Gabe discovers that the biggest secret of all may be his own.
SIX MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT
THE ATEBAN CIPHER DUOLOGY by A.L. Tait
- The perceived medieval time period comes to life with crooked leaders, secret passageways, and a young boy learning how the outside world works. It all blends together perfectly.
- The huge tree the girls live in was a marvelous touch of setting the right tone for their existence. I’d have loved to explore the insides of the tree myself. Give credit to the author for that feeling.
- The meaning of family gets a whole new look for Gabe as he witnesses the bond these girls have and how unlike their life is to his upbringing in the monastery. The dedication page before the story starts sets the mood: “For all the girls who go where they want, when they want. Or will, one day.”
- The young characters include the four girls along with Gabe and another boy who joins them under different circumstances. Six characters is a big task to ensure each one has a unique personality and focus. It’s pulled off without a hitch.
- Humor helps break up the serious nature of the story. From their wardrobe to Gabe’s nickname, Sandals, the scenes often had me smiling
- A book leading into a sequel should be one of excited anticipation. I was lucky to start book two immediately following the first and it did just that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her author website)
Allison Tait (A.L. Tait) is the internationally published bestselling author of middle-grade adventure series The Mapmaker Chronicles and the new Ateban Cipher. A multi-genre writer, teacher and speaker with more than 25 years’ experience in magazines, newspapers and online publishing, Allison lives on the south coast of NSW (Australia) with her family.
I received copies of the books for my honest critique. Feel free to comment below..