23. Defenders of the Scroll by Shiraz

Defenders of the Scroll: History, Legend and Lore by Shiraz, illustrated by Steve Criado (Canada) -(US)
Book 1

Pages: 317
Ages: 12+
Finished: Feb. 12, 2010
First Published: June 29, 2009
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

In a different time, in a different place, Mornak ruled the realm of Mythos from the city of Aspiria.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the author.

Reason for Reading: The combination of members who joined the quest in this fantasy is what initially intrigued me enough to want to read the book.

Summary: Alex is your typical high school teen with one major obsession, playing rpg/mporg video games and a secondary fixation as the leader and lead guitarist of a band called the Axemen. Alex's biggest dilemna in life is whether to skip a history exam to go to a real studio audition with the band. Meanwhile, in another realm of existence , Mythos, the dark forces have started to take over. Kidnapping and torturing the king to get the source of all his power, the magical scroll which is in possession of his 11 year old daughter, Dara. The King's army, aptly named the Axemen have become lost in an ensorcered wood with no way out. When Dara summons the leader of the Axemen, Alex appears before her and he is stuck in her world until he has completed his mission, protect her until her father is free. As they search for the Hall of Shadows where her father is imprisoned and try to stay clear of the Shadow Warriors as they track Dara in search of the scroll they call upon teen warriors to join them in their quest: Scorpius, a Roman legionnaire, Genjuro, a Japanese samurai, Bantu, an African warrior, Maya, an Amazon archer and Tenzin a Shaolin monk.

Comments: First off this book is unique in that the pages have been designed with a scroll background which makes for a very attractive presentation. However, this left the reading page a very light grey with black text which I think did interfere with my normal reading speed as it did take me longer than it should have to read this book and I know it was not from lack of enjoyment. While the story follows the basic 'group of companions on a quest' format, a lot of originality has been brought into play making this a very enjoyable treat. They must follow many mini quests on the way to their larger goal and they face many dangers from the elements, monstrous creatures and their pursuers. At the beginning of the book, I did find it a bit confusing as it jumped back and forth between Alex in the modern world and Mythos as the trouble started. I had this lost feeling as to who were these people and what was going on but rather than distracting from the story it made me determined in the beginning to keep reading until the two sets of characters merged, as I knew they would. I started reading the book in bed and my dh asked me to turn the light off so he could sleep and I told him plainly, "No, not until this Alex guy somehow gets to Mythos so I can figure out what's going on!"

I loved the group dynamics of the various races and cultures of the group members. Each person comes from such a strong ethnic group/profession that they all must also learn to get along with each other. As they struggle to flee from the enemy they also struggle to reject some of their own bias along with accepting other's different ways. Each of the characters has a very strong character and their background life is developed enough that I formed great feelings for each of them even though I liked them in varying degrees. Bantu, the African teen who was a very strong warrior in this group but who had just gone out on his mission to prove his manhood in own real time, was my favourite of the bunch. Young Dara was characterized very well. While she needed protecting, she was still portrayed as a strong character with smart ideas who added to the group's overall success, yet accepted when her role as child meant she had to obey the others or stay away from the danger.

The creatures (good and bad), the adventure, the fighting, the excitement, and the general theme were all very entertaining and I really enjoyed the story very much. My only complaint here is the the ending. If you read my reviews regularly you'll see it coming. The book ends by letting us know it is the end of book one and has no proper ending. In fact, it ends mid-story, mid-action, a cliff-hanger if you will and I am not fond of such endings. I much prefer books in a series to contain individual mini-plots that have a resolution within the book while still remaining a part of the overall story arc. But at least this leaves you wanting more!


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