Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pendragon Book 1: The Merchant of Death Discussion [Summer Reading Challenge]

Hey, y'all! I'm here with another summer reading challenge post! I've finally reached my July challenge: The Pendragon Adventure!

Series Info

Since this series is a little less well-known than the other series in my Summer Reading Challenge, I decided to discuss the premise of the series as a whole. The Pendragon Adventure is a 10 book series centered around our main character, Bobby, and his adventures through multiple dimensions (or territories, as they're called in the books). The books are told from a dual perspective. Our main perspective is of Bobby, told in first-person through journals which he sends to his best friend to keep a record of what is happening. The secondary perspective is of Bobby's best friend, Mark, and pseudo-girlfriend, Courtney, who receive the journals and go through their own problems on Earth. The majority of the books focus on a single territory each, as Bobby travels there to thwart the evil Saint Dane.

Book Summary

Bobby believes he's a normal fourteen-year-old kid. One day, however, his Uncle Press shows up from out of the blue and insists that Bobby accompany him on a mission to help a group of people. What Bobby didn't realize was that these people live in an alternate territory (or dimension) called Denduron. Bobby learns that his Uncle Press is a Traveler, a person tasked with the duty of maintaining balance within all of the territories (referred to as Halla). When he arrives at the territory of Denduron, he discovers that Saint Dane, an evil, shape-shifting traveler, is attempting to cause the territory to fall apart into chaos, and that Bobby is one of the only people who can stop him.

Overall Thoughts

Non-spoiler section!

It's been quite a while since I've read this series, so it's nice to get back into it and to read it for the first time in at least 5 years. What I noticed immediately was that it definitely read like a fourteen-year-old was speaking. That's both good and not so great. Obviously, Bobby is fourteen and so it needs to sound like he's fourteen, but there were moments when it was a bit over-the-top. Most of the time, I really enjoyed Bobby's voice. He's a pretty humorous narrator. There were a couple moments, however, when I thought that something he said seemed to be kinda... dumbed-down. Like an adult was trying just a touch too hard to sound like a fourteen-year-old.

One thing that I appreciate about Bobby as a character is how he reacts when thrust into this new fantasy world. A lot of times in fantasy books where the main character discovers something magical or supernatural, they react rather illogically. Rather than being shocked or confused or skeptical, they just kinda accept this totally illogical thing to suddenly be fact. But not Bobby Pendragon! Bobby is confused. Bobby panics. Bobby asks 20 million questions. Bobby tries to run away. Bobby insists that something's gone wrong and that he should really be back in New York. He reacts as any real fourteen year old guy would.

I've noticed that I tend to prefer the Pendragon books set in the territories that I find most interesting. Denduron falls somewhere in the middle for me. I like it, but not as much as some of the other territories. But it's certainly not my least favorite. It's almost got a kinda medieval thing going on. Kinda. It's interesting, to say the least.

When comparing this first book in its series to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I tend to think that this is a better opener. Now, I'm not saying this is a better book than Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It's not (obviously). However, I do feel that Merchant of Death does a better job of setting the tone for its series. The first two Harry Potter books (and the first one especially) have a pretty different tone from the rest of the series. Merchant of Death, however, is action-packed and exciting from cover to cover with minimal info dumps, and that definitely gives us a good insight into what the whole series will be like.

As far as rating, I'm not quite sure. I feel like it's going to fall somewhere between a 4.25- 4.5 out of 5, but I'm just not totally sure. For now, I'll just go with 4.25 and see if I feel differently when I get to my series discussion.

Spoilery Discussion!

Let's talk about Alder. I guess this isn't really spoilery, but we don't really find out who he is until we're around 100 pages in, so I figured I'd put it down here. Alder is one of my favorite travelers. He's kinda that lovable, bumbling sidekick, but at the same time he's a warrior and can fight. I've always just really liked him. And speaking of people I like: LOOR. The first time I read the series, it took me a really long time to warm up to Loor. But in the end, she became one of my favorite characters in the series. Yes, she's a great warrior, but she's smart, headstrong, and independent. Even though it takes her a little while to come to like Bobby, I love the friendship that they form and maintain throughout the series.

At this point, I'm just the tiniest bit confused about Saint Dane's power of changing his appearance at will. In my mind (not sure why) I thought that his eye color never changed, and that's how Bobby knew who he was pretending to be. However, while Saint Dane was transformed into Figgis, he didn't have those blue eyes. So clearly he is able to change his eye color as well. I guess I'll have to wait and see how that works (especially since I remember literally nothing about the plot of The Lost City of Faar)

I was surprised at how much of the plot that I had forgotten. I couldn't really remember anything past Osa's death. I remembered that tak was the problem and that Bobby's items ended up causing problems, but apart from that, I couldn't remember anything. I guess that's partially because this is a pretty action-packed book. There's always something going on, and it makes for a plot that is completely packed with events and scenes.

Also, quigs were said to be animals that Saint Dane used to keep Travelers away from the flumes. However, the normal people of Denduron clearly know about them and use them, although the dogs on Second Earth seem to be solely used for guarding the flume. That makes me wonder what these animals actually are on Denduron. Or maybe the people just call them quigs. Also, they have yellow eyes no matter what form they take, which makes me think of Saint Dane's eyes that (from my memory, except for Figgis) remain a piercing blue regardless of the form he takes.

Overall, this book was a nice re-read. It's the book I'm the most familiar with and remember the most, so it'll be fun to get into the ones I remember less.

Favorite Quotes

Page 29: "Bobby, the door!"
Right! The door with the star and the abracadabra. Got it.
Well, at least he got the right word eventually. Abracadabra wouldn't have helped much.

Page 48: "Bobby, I know you're confused about-"
"Confused? Confused doesn't begin to cover it!" I stormed over to the mouth of the tunnel and screamed, "Denduron. Denduron!" I'd say anything to get out of there. But nothing happened.
"This is Denduron. We're already here," he said as if that were supposed to make sense.
"Okay then," I looked into the tunnel and screamed, "Earth! New York! The subway! There's no place like home!"
C'mon, Bobby, you're in Denduron, not Oz.

Page 54: "I hope you know how to drive this thing," I said.
"Hold on tight," was his answer. Yeah right, like I planned on waving my hands in the air like on a roller coaster. Give me a break.
Such a sarcastic jerk. But I love him.

Page 280: Whenever you look back and say, "If," you know you're in trouble. There's no such thing as "if." The only thing that counts is what really happened, and the truth was that every chance I got, I screwed up. Even when I thought I had done something good, it always turned out bad.
Bobby got so close to getting deep.

Page 297: Alder then spun around and ran back toward the Milago village. Now it was just the three of us. The warrior, the boss, and the kid who was so scared he had to pee. Guess which one I was?
This quote actually made me lol. That's literally the epitome of Bobby.

Page 302: I felt like I needed to say something important, but the only thing that came to mind was, "I really wish you had let me go to that basketball game." Okay, maybe not the most eloquent last words, but it was how I felt.

Page 357: Of course! I should have known! Quigs on Second Earth are monster dogs, quigs on Denduron are monster bears, and quigs on Cloral are monster sharks. It was so simple. Everybody knew that. Mental note to self: Stay away from Cloral. 
Good luck with that one, Bobby. Guess where you're headed next?

So, there you go, that's all for this summer reading post! Have you read the Pendragon series? What do you think of the series? Let me know in the comments!

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