Author: D. J. MacHale
Pagecount: 384 (paperback)
Publishing date: January 1, 2003
Goodreads rating mean: 4.19
Goodreads rating mode: 5 (44%)
Goodreads summary: Fourteen-year-old Bobby Pendragon is not like other boys his age. His uncle Press is a Traveler, and, as Bobby has learned, that means Uncle Press is responsible, through his journeys, for solving interdimensional conflict wherever he encounters it. His mission is nothing less than to save the universe from ultimate evil. And he’s taking Bobby along for the ride.
Fresh from his first adventure on Denduron, Bobby finds himself in the territory of Cloral, a vast world that is entirely covered by water. Cloral is nearing a disaster of huge proportions. Reading the journals Bobby sends home, his friends learn that the desperate citizens of the endangered floating cities are on the brink of war. Can Bobby—suburban basketball star and all-around nice guy—help rid the area of marauders, and locate the legendary lost land of Faar, which may hold the key to Cloral’s survival?
I liked the idea of this book a lot (even if I was disappointed with the series as a whole when I found out that Pendragon had nothing to do with King Arthur – come on!), and I would love to live on Cloral. MacHale does a pretty good job of balancing description of the world (excuse me – territory) with things actually happening, and he doesn't give us any more information than he does Bobby, which really gives the reader a chance to empathize with Bobby's confusion.
That said, the main story just didn't hold my attention. It wasn't bad, necessarily, and I did enjoy it overall, but I got bored if I tried reading more than a couple of chapters at once. I thought the Mark and Courtney plot was much better done, and a lot more interesting, though I had problems with it too – see below. I think one of the reasons I got bored was that MacHale really prefers to tell than show. I can understand it; telling is easier, and I know that when I write, I have the same problem. But it does get boring to read.
He also skips some scenes that I think really should be included, passing over them in a couple of sentences instead. I really didn't care about Spader, because almost the entire friendship between him and Bobby was reduced to a couple of pages. Bobby keeps saying how much fun they had together and how awesome Spader is, but the reader doesn't get to see that. We just see Spader being a loose cannon after his father is killed. Granted, being totally focused on vengeance in that situation is reasonable, but it's not the kind of thing that endears a character to me.
Another thing that was skipped – and my major problem with the Mark and Courtney plotline – is the scene when Mark told Courtney about the whole problem with Andy. It was skipped to give the plotline a bit of suspense to fit with Bobby's situation. In my opinion, it comes out looking cheap and forced. It's third person limited. We're supposed to be inside Mark's head. Why was he flipping out so much about going to the police station and whether Courtney wanted to punch him if they had planned for it? This set-up works for the first read-through; on later ones, I just want to reach through the pages and shake Mark.
Minor/borderline petty complaints: Can someone tell me if girls actually are allowed to play on the boys' team when there is a girls' team for the same sport? Because if it actually happens in real life, I'll withdraw my objection, but as it stands, it is uncomfortably close to the "a credit to your sex" line of thinking, and I really wish MacHale would quite mentioning it.
And finally, every time they mention that Mark and Courtney live in Stony Brook, Conneticut, I giggle and can't take the next couple of pages seriously because the Baby-Sitters Club was from Stoneybrook, Conneticut, which is just a little too close for my brain.
My rating: 3.5/5 stars. I've read the first three books before, though it's been a while, and at some point I'll probably finish the series, but it's not really at the top of my list.
Cross-posted to simply_shipping and books.