Monday, December 26, 2011

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Alex and his brother Aaron live in the world of Quill, where on their thirtenth birthday every child is sorted according to their future value to Quill.  The Wanteds are destined for University and a bright future amongst the leaders of Quill.  The Necessaries help to keep things working in Quill, working the farms and doing the hard labour that supports the Wanteds.  Last of all are the Unwanted, the creative minds that disturb the balance of quiet, dull, boring Quill.  Each year the Unwanteds are sent away to be Eliminated.  This year Alex knows his fate before he hears it, he has known he will be Unwanted for some time, but it is a dreadful shock when Aaron is declared a Wanted.  Taken away with all the other Unwanteds, Alex thinks he is going to his death but instead he finds himself under the care of Mr. Today, a strange man who keeps his world of Artime a secret.

Artime is not the fate that Alex or any of the other Unwanteds expected, and it is a shock for all of them to realise that the very acts that made them outcasts and reviled in the land of Quill are encouraged in the land of Artime, and that if they hone their skills they can even become weapons.  As Alex settles into the routines of Artime and his new life, he can't help but wonder about Aaron and what is happening to those left behind, but in his desire to connect with his brother again Alex may place all of Artime in terrible danger.  If Artime is ever discovered for what it really is then all of them are in terrible danger, and if Alex gives in to the need to see his brother then he may expose them all.

The Unwanteds is a fantastic read, a change of pace from a lot of the fantasy written at the moment.  There are no cliches - there are some stock standard characters like the hero and the villain, but the world is also populated with fantastical creatures that you will find nowhere else.  While at times the wording or turn of phrase is a little awkward, overall this is one of the most readable books I have read this year for the 9-13 year old age group.  Alex is a fantastic character, and the cast around him is full of life, laughter, talent, and loss.  There is a feeling like this could be the first book in a series, but it also finished in such a way that you are left feeling very satisfied with the ending.  At times it does feel a little like this was written as a screen play as it would translate quite easily to the screen, but it also reads so well that you don't really mind.

A fun read for all ages, but not recommended for younger readers as there is a battle scene that may leave them a little uneasy - it is not full of graphic violence as such, but it is a realistic battle with loses and some fights that may make younger readers a little upset.  While this may be an easy read for some teenagers, if you know a teenager who loves fantasy but struggles a little with their reading then this may be a good suggestion - it is engaging but not too challenging.

If you like this book then try:
  • The half men of O by Maurice Gee
  • Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda
  • Northwood by Brian Falkner
  • Harry Potter and the philosophers stone by J.K. Rowling
  • Spellbinder by Helen Stringer
  • Ella enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Reviewed by Brilla

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