Seventeen

Seventeen, Published by Creative Cover Art, is a fictional tale of two sisters having to survive in a suddenly vastly different world, in e-book by Suzanne Lowe.

A plane crash in Japan lets loose contaminants that gradually spread throughout the world and become known as the KV virus. It strangely appears to affect only adults, causing a terrible death. Upon the epidemic’s arrival in Australia, many flee the cities including the close friends of sixteen year old Lexi and her 12-year-old sister, Hadley in Perth. Their parents decide to stay in their home but also succumb and are removed by persons in contagious guard suits. No one comes to do anything about the two children and gradually they adjust until thieves invade. They decide to leave for a smaller town. Their parents’ automobile has been stolen, but their neighbors’ older car still works and has petrol sufficient to reach their destination. Since they also are dead, the two girls take the car and begin their journey. They meet another young boy along the way, take him along and just before sundown reach the small town of Jasper’s Bay. This town retains their electricity because it is a model community that had established a complete and well-functioning system of solar power. The town is inhabited only by children and is run by the eldest of them, Elisha and Ethan Mathews who were the children of the town’s Anglican priest. They are given permission to stay and matters begin to settle into place until Broc, a young bully type and his gang from outside start to upgrade attacks on the town’s children. Problems escalate further when a mutant version of the virus appears that first produces a noticeable rash on the arms and legs and is followed by increasingly uncontrollable rage and is reported as beginning to attack children when they reach seventeen. Elisha is the first to become infected and is forced from the community because of her resultant activity. Ethan, although her twin, seems immune. He is devastated however, and takes to drink. Further problems ensue to threaten the town’s already shaky survival structure when Kevin, one of the young siblings of Zac, the eldest son running the nearby only productive farm, deserts to join Broc and his gang creating devastating destruction to the town’s infrastructure. Eventually, the young town dwellers band together to fight the invaders and some order is reestablished with Lexi taking charge but as she turns seventeen, the question surfaces as to whether she will be immune or if she too will succumb.

Discussion: The author states “I wanted to write a story for young adults that featured two sisters having to survive in a world that was suddenly vastly different from one they had grown up in. One without adults or any rules. This was a scenario that my own two teenage daughters would often discuss and theorize about at the dinner table. I wanted to set the story in Australia, somewhere that is quite isolated and a unique setting for most dystopian stories.” The statement speaks for itself and describes exactly what was intended and what has been accomplished. As an aside, the activity of the bully Brock and his gang appear to be pictured at an appropriate level for the age group. Some further editing might have been helpful for any more mature readers, but generally the tale appears to follow the purported thought lines of her targeted audience.

5* Fascinating plot, setting and presentation for target audience.

Ghostwalker (The Spiderlily Series),

Ghostwalker (The Spiderlily Series), a fantasy in e-book by Nicole Martinsen.

Plot: Difficult to delineate. The story opens with Daerin leading Heron and Ballard on a trip. The three were friends and business partners on the brink of total success when suddenly all disintegrated. Once pleasant Daerin returned to rural Rivertone from a trip. Now greatly troubled, he weeps almost uncontrollably and becomes reclusive and dominant in all relationships. The reader discovers that he, a sailor (actually as later described, seemingly an accomplished ship’s captain and navigator), must make a horrendous decision with respect to Jade, one of his children whom he fathered with the ruling Queen of the realm in the nearby city of Lydia. The child is clairvoyant and with such power would be a disaster if becoming dominated by the wrong influences (although another possibly darker reason is hinted) for dictating the following action. Consulting with Ezra, a famously wise elf, a decision is made to send her to a monastery where she can be taught to control her abilities. Meanwhile, and seemingly more or less simultaneously, the reader is introduced to Renee, Tera and Alyon in a forest garden in Rivertone which is the home of many elf-born sons and daughters. The two girls discover an unusual flower, a Red Spider Lily, which Renee explains to the younger Tera is known as “The Flower of Goodbyes” because when it flowers, its leaves fall off. Legend has it that Nature had assigned two elves, one to guard the flowers and one the leaves till the ‘end of time’. Unfortunately, the elves fell in love, neglected their duty and Destiny punished them by separating them so they never again could be together. Renee leaves, and little Tera asks the much older Alyon who is reading nearby, if the story is true. He says it more probably is a myth. Later, Tera, wishing to be helpful, is told by Jade “You will only hurt everyone you ever will care about”. Tera runs away, comes to the garden encountering the Spider Lily and to prove Jade wrong, attempts to destroy it. She dies but in doing so awakens the sleeping Feyt, who similarly had attempted to change Destiny. Feyt offers to help her in her attempts and Tera becomes somewhat of a ‘ghostwalker’. The story continues in a complicated manner including destruction of the realm by the guilds uprising, Alyon’s ascension to ruler and eventually thoughts of rebuilding, all while Tera continues actively through early to mid to late teens actively most prominently attempting to thwart Destiny.

Discussion: The author has presented a fantasy replete with humans, elves, human/elf hybrids, children of the hybrids, dwarfs, or more properly dwarves, and clairvoyant activity all in a sweeping panorama of activity. In this reviewer’s opinion it seemingly is directed toward an attempt to teach the young reader tolerance, equality, understanding and above all perseverance to overcome any seemingly impossible barrier. (Very early the author proposes the question: “How far will you go to defeat destiny?”)

The author’s altruistic theme is most commendable. However, a little bothersome to this reviewer with respect to young readers is the rather dark theme. Besides the above quote “You will only hurt everyone you ever will care about”, there is a rather jaundiced, almost bitter quote included from Jean de La Fontaine: “Children begin by loving their parents; after a time, they judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them” and these, along with much of the activity, as well as the environs seem to combine to give a somewhat depressing atmosphere to the tale. Also parenthetically, the manner of presentation – often quite rapid and even confusing movement from one depicted area and activity to another as well as the individuals’ participation in them – ridiculously no doubt, but fleetingly and prominently brings to mind the rapidly changing of commercials one is subjected to on TV. Granted, the average attention span now has been determined to be just slightly over 8 seconds, but this need not be reflected in the story design. It would seem that more cohesive movement from one action/person to another and more ‘filling out’ of individual characters with attempts to establish greater empathy could have arranged to overcome much of the problem and help mitigate many of the frequently unexplained, often cruel appearing activities in which prominent characters indulge.

Conclusion: A story for young readers whose level of acceptance this reviewer believes will depend largely on their attained level of sophistication and pragmatism. This element especially would seem to be pertinent in this time when even the very young are exposed daily to large quantities of both through their ever present electronic devices.

3* Possible level of enjoyment if reader’s pragmatism level has remained low.