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*Darkest Age II: The Book of the Sword* by A.J. Lake- young readers fantasy book review

Darkest Age II: The Book of the Sword
by A.J. Lake
Ages 9-12 240 pages Bloomsbury USA May 2007 Hardcover    

In a move that both muddies and deepens the experience, the author tells two stories simultaneously in this second Darkest Age book, The Book of the Sword. The bulk of the tale centers on the young hero and heroine we were introduced to in the first book, The Coming of Dragons. A.J. Lake also delves into the history of the land, its people, and the gifts the kids have had thrust upon them.

This book follows the journey to the mountain of fire, where the ornery and evil god of mischief is chained up, awaiting his freedom to wreak more havoc with people. Even bound in magical chains, Loki is able to awaken the dragon Torment to do His bidding.

As the two kids learn to accept and control their gifts - as well as accepting the destiny those gifts draw them into - their tentative friendship grows deeper. They both learn a lot about themselves and their personal family backgrounds in the process of journeying ever closer to Loki’s fire mountain.

The second story told in this volume is the one of the history and making of the infamous Sword, the sword that chose Elspeth and bound itself to her hand. There is a great deal of very well done foreshadowing that takes place in these short parts of the tale. A deep mystery is set up, done in such a way that it assumes intelligence on the part of a young reader, rather than spelling it all out the way so many books written for kids do.

The cover art for these books is just incredible, vibrant colors boasting modern tools that somehow still draw you into an older, deeper fantasy world. The colors and designs urge you to pick up this book and promise a story to keep you turning pages long after bedtime.

In the end, in all despair, Elspeth offers a shard of hope to carry us into book three, The Circle of Stone, expected to be available in September of 2007. While I wouldn’t say this is “ground-breaking” in the world of young adult fantasy, it is definitely unique in parts and consuming in whole. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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  Carolynn Evans/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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