Monday, July 28, 2014

The eighth day by Dianne K. Salerni

Jax Aubrey has found himself drifting in the past few months, ever since his father died suddenly and left him orphaned, Jax has found himself living a somewhat surreal version of reality.  After his fathers death left him an orphan he went to live with his mother's cousin, but then Riley Pendare appeared and swept him away by producing a letter from Jax's father awarding Riley guardianship of Jax if anything happens to him - written only a few weeks before his death.  Living with a guardian who is barely eighteen is bad enough, but it feels to Jax like he is the real guardian in the house - buying the groceries and taking care of things.  His life with Riley is an uneasy one at times, partly because it feels like Riley is keeping secrets from him.

When he wakes on the Thursday morning after his thirteenth birthday, Jax finds a world that is empty of people and he panics, thinking the worst.  When he wakes on what should be Friday morning he discovers that he is the only one who thinks a Thursday has already happened, and when he finally catches up with Riley he discovers that he has found the magical Eighth Day - an extra day squeezed in between Wednesday and Thursday that is invisible to most people.  Jax is not most people though, he can see and be in the normal world and the Eighth Day - which Riley calls Grunsday (a name that sticks for Jax too).  With his knowledge of Grunsday, Jax also learns that there is a race of people called the Kin who only exist in Grunsday.  Some of the Kin are relatively benign, like the Kin who lives in the house next door, but there are others who would like to see the barrier separating Grunsday from the normal world brought down - an act that would destroy one of their worlds forever.  As he learns more about Grunsday and the origins of Grunsday, Jax also discovers that the Kin who lives next door is the key to the spell, and she can be used as a weapon in the wrong (or right) hands.  Caught up in a war he does not understand, Jax will have to make some difficult decisions if he wants to save the day.

The Eighth day caught me a little by surprise as I was not expecting much and as a consequence got way more than I anticipated.  Jax is an engaging and endearing character who makes you want to be part of his world, and it is very easy to see the world through his eyes.  The rest of the cast of characters has some of the stereotypes you would expect from an epic fantasy (the reluctant hero, the unlikely hero, the selfish fool, the double-crosser, and the power mad tyrant) but they are blended smoothly into the story and become more than just pale stereotypes - they exist because it makes the story so much better.  The world building is also impressive, there is a whole mythology keeping this world afloat, a mythology that has incredible depth and logic and that makes total sense.  Grunsday weirdly makes total sense, it is easy to feel when you transition from the normal world to Grunsday, and the first transition into a scary empty world makes it so much easier to suspend belief in the future transitions without being bogged down in boring details - this allows the plot to move forward without too many tedious descriptions.

Characters are very important to a story like this and Salerni has done an amazing job of creating complete characters that seem to jump off the page and into your imagination with no barriers - everyone has their flaws and their strengths, even the good guys have their Achilles heels but it is completely "normal".  The mythology of King Arthur and his court is an interesting choice for source material, and could easily have become convoluted and intense, but it is there enough to provide a sensible foundation for the world rather than becoming the be all and end all of the story.  The pace is just perfect too, the story starts at a good pace, builds towards a finale, and then settles back down for a satisfying conclusion.

One of the best things about The Eighth day is that it is a true 'tweens read - it will suit younger readers with an advanced reading age and vocabulary, but it will also appeal to younger teens who enjoy a good adventure story with a splash of fantasy.  This is not an easy read, but it is also not particularly challenging, which means it has a wider audience than your traditional children's fiction series or teen series.  There is a slight feel like this may not be the last we see of the world of The Eighth day, there are little hints that there could be more to come for this world and these characters.  This is a real treat, an unlikely find that kept me glued to my seat until it was finished, and every time I had to put it down was a little but like torture because I needed to know what happened next.  A highly recommended read for 2014!

If you like this book then try:
  • Legacies by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
  • Raven's gate by Anthony Horowitz
  • The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland
  • The half men of O by Maurice Gee
  • Pangur ban the white cat by Fay Sampson
  • The star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson
  • Stone heart by Charlie Fletcher
  • Red rocks by Rachael King
  • The mysterious howling by Maryrose Wood
  • Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo
  • Northwood by Brian Falkner
  • Finding the fox by Ali Sparkes
  • Hollow Earth by John Barrownman and Carole Barrowman
  • Harry Potter and the philosophers stone by J.K. Rowling
  • Spellbinder by Helen Stringer
  • The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
  • Ella enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Reviewed by Brilla

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