Monday, December 9, 2013

The Raging Fires

Rating: 8 of 10

Merlin’s life seems perfect now that he’s been reunited with his teacher, Cairpre, his mother, Elen, and his sister, Rhia. But a terrifying prophecy has suddenly come to life—and Merlin is, as even a poem says, apparently the only one to do anything about it. Valdearg, “Wings of Fire,” a terrible dragon, has awakened from a sleep enchanted by Merlin’s grandfather, Tuatha, determined to avenge “his dreams yet unhatched.” As Merlin must journey to find a way to stop Valdearg, presumably heading to his death—for the poem forewarns of it—he meets two deer people, Eremon and Eo-Lahallia “Hallia.” Tragedy befalls the threesome and leaves two left to grieve for the one lost. In spite of the sorrow, they must carry on the quest Merlin began—and unravel the riddle of the poem, and the riddles elsewhere in Fincayra, in order to save the people they love most.

I had a great time reading this novel by T.A. Barron; however, the lack of depth in the plot prevents me from giving it nine stars. There’s always a surprising cliffhanger at the end of each chapter that forces one to keep reading (and thankfully the end of the book is always resolved!), there’s always some humor roundabout, and there’s always danger which could cost Merlin his life. But . . . come on. By now we know that in an eleven- or thirteen- or whatever-book-series-this-is, Merlin just ain’t gonna die anytime soon. And it was written in such a way that it didn’t sound nearly as dangerous as it obviously was—and there were, yes, some places in the plot which were rather unrealistic. As always, the characters weren’t incredibly well-developed—I can understand that because it is a young-adult book, but I, personally, love well-developed characters. (They’re not the icing on the cake—they’re the cake itself. And if the cake isn’t good, what kind of frosting can cover it up?) Hallia, for example, seemed too much like Rhia a lot of the time, though she is much more distrustful and cold where Rhia is fun-loving and optimistic.

As with The Seven Songs, the best part of this book was its lifelong truths. Love is always a better route than anger. Understanding is far more powerful than physical strength. And even when magic is stripped away from us—even if we only believe that it’s been ripped from our flimsy grasp—we find that love is, by far, the most powerful magic of all.

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