Today, I'm thrilled to review the awesome, awesome The Eighth Day, by Dianne K. Salerni. This is a wonderful mix of contemporary + Arthurian fantasy, and I cannot wait for all of you to read it!
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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 22nd 2014 by HarperCollins
Format read: E-ARC via Edelweiss
Synopsis via Goodreads:
When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it's the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he's really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who's been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day.
And there's a reason Evangeline's hiding. She is a descendant of the powerful wizard Merlin, and there is a group of people who wish to use her in order to destroy the normal seven-day world and all who live in it. Torn between protecting his new friend and saving the entire human race from complete destruction, Jax is faced with an impossible choice. Even with an eighth day, time is running out.
Stay tuned for The Inquisitor's Mark, the spellbinding second novel in the Eighth Day series.
First, the fact that Jax immediately thinks it's a zombie apocalypse when he wakes up to an empty world. That's clearly the sign of a kid that is in-tune with his survival skills and pop culture, a.k.a. the type of kid I want to read about. *Grin*
Second, the blurb's claim that fans of Percy Jackson will like this book. I'm a huge Rick Riordan fangirl, so anything that gets compared to Percy Jackson will pretty much pique my interest. While most comparisons haven't always panned out, the first point + the second point = solidified interest.
I was right. The Eighth Day is a fun, clever novel that combines contemporary lessons with urban fantasy, and I was completely enthralled from beginning to end.
Things that worked:
Jax Aubrey won my heart from the very first page.
Like all young heroes - Percy Jackson, Lyra Belacqua, Harry Potter - Jax is a funny and snarky teenager, who also has a thoughtful, contemplative side developed from some sudden and hard changes in his life. Readers learn very quickly just how and why Jax went from a fairly ordinary existence within dad, to living with an incompetent (but well-meaning!) eighteen-year-old guardian named Riley.
Even as Jax transitions from his normal day-to-day life, into the strangeness that is the Eighth Day, Salerni wonderfully shows just how Jax's good humor and teenaged savvy allows him to cope with this unexpected development. One of Jax's first instincts upon discovering the Eighth Day is to break into a Wal-Mart to stock up, and I found that both incredibly smart and kind of endearing of him.
As for the secondary characters, Salerni did an excellent job of making me fall in love with them too. Even though this is very much Jax's coming-of-age story, her little details about Evangeline's life, or Riley's background, all made me want to know more about the characters.
* The writing
Salerni is a hilarious thoughtful writer, with a perfect ear for the teenaged voice. Lines like this:
"That spell's too hard to hold for more than a couple minutes," she said. "It would have to be something else. Do you think you can remember a brief incantation in Welsh?" (Evangeline)
"I'll be freakin' Harry Potter if you need me to be." (Jax)
Had me laughing out loud. It's a skilled writer that can bring humor into tense-situations, and Salerni has that skill in spades.
This is one of those stories where the writing flows so smoothly, you'll pick up the book and be done with it, before you've realized it - as many other reviewers have claimed, as well!
* The bigger life lessons
As Jax delves deeper and deeper into the world of the eighth day, Salerni also slips in some thoughtful life lessons. Through the introduction of key characters - e.g. Riley; Evangeline - Salerni makes readers question just how something which initially seems fairly cool like the Eighth Day can impact a person's life, and their autonomy.
Salerni also does what other great MG/YA stories do - she shows how Jax, Riley and Evangeline are able to use their relative youth to comprehend and deal with significant, adult issues and still remain optimistic and hopeful about the future.
I'd go into more detail - but heck, I want you guys to read the book. :)
* Salerni's explanations of Arthurian legend
I came into The Eighth Day with a pretty strong advantage: I've read a lot of Arthurian books, including Le Morte d'Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table. So I had a pretty good idea of who was who from the get-go.
But even without any of this background, Salerni does an excellent job of explaining and connecting figures from Arthurian tales, with their contemporary counterparts. She provides just the right amount of explanation to show the connections between the characters, but also leaves enough out so that readers won't feel overwhelmed.
However, I can easily see readers being intrigued enough to pick up more books about Arthur and his knights on their own - and that's the best possible thing any book can do.
* The ending
Without giving any spoilers away, I will say that Salerni writes a fantastic ending. She ties up all of the loose ends of the story neatly, but also manages to develop the connection between the characters and readers to the point where we just can't wait to find out what they're going to be up to next.
I know that I personally went "Aww, that's it? I want more!" as the book ended, and immediately went on Twitter to find out if there would be a sequel to the book. Fortunately for us - there are two more books planned in this trilogy!
Things that didn't work:
Readers will undoubtedly bond with Jax, as he navigates through a strange and magical world with good humor, savvy street smarts, and an innate kindness for his fellow man that readers, educators and parents will undoubtedly appreciate.
I highly recommend this book for fans of MG fiction, and for fans of books like The Lightning Thief and The Golden Compass. This is a book that will capture the imagination of readers both young and old in the same way, and will leave them raving over its merits.
As for me personally, I can't wait to see where Dianne Salerni goes with The Inquisitor's Mark, and what other MGs she might possibly write in the future!
About the author:
The Caged Graves is a Junior Library Guild Selection, and We Hear the Dead was the inspiration for a 10 minute short film, The Spirit Game, which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.http://vimeo.com/64738099
In her spare time, Dianne is prone to hanging around creepy cemeteries and climbing 2000 year-old pyramids in the name of book research.