Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: Penumbras by Braden Bell

For starters, I'm going to announce here that I soon plan to put up several articles about how to write comedy. My goal is to get those started by September, so if you don't see anything by then, remind me because I get easily distracted. But for this week, I have a review for you.

Penumbras, the sequel to Braden Bell's middle-grade fantasy The Kindling, is a fun book that can carry readers, young and old, through an exciting new world of mayhem, magic, and middle school. It continues the tale of three thirteen-year-olds, twins Connor and Lexa Dell and their friend Melanie Stephens (who has a super-cool last name), as they come to grips with their “kindling”. When they kindled, they discovered that they had command of various magic powers and the ability to talk to each other through a kind of telepathy.

The story continues when they are on a field trip and, as usual around these three kids, things get a little wonky. Here's a blurb from the book:

Connor Dell didn't mean to blow up the school bus.
Or the bathrooms.
In fact, he only wanted to go to sleep and possibly dream about Melanie Stephens.
But explosions had a funny way of happening when Connor and his friends were around.

Connor Dell wants to be good--he really does. But he is terrified that he might be turning into a Darkhand, especially when new powers start to surface. What's worse, the Stalker is following Connor, but no one else seems to be able to see him. The Magi think he might be hallucinating, the guilt of what happened in the Shadowbox keeps weighing on him, and his relationship with Melanie Stephens is complicating things. Even for a Magi, Connor knows is life is anything but normal. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I like stories with lots of action but that also show us growth in the characters. This book does both. Not only that, it is a clean read and I have no reservations about recommending it for any age.

The main character arc belongs to Connor Dell as he struggles with the age-old question of whether he is turning evil or not. Will he be able to do good even when more and more “Darkhand” powers are manifesting themselves within him?

And then there's Lexa's growth that happens at the end of the book. At first, she seemed a little obnoxious. Finally, something happened to her that I've been through many times myself. I completely knew the feelings that she was going through. I've also been in the same position as Dr. Timberi, their mentor, and have had to make hard decisions when choosing between students. I know I'm being vague, but you'll have to read it for yourself to see what I'm talking about. Let's just say that Braden did an excellent job of setting up the situation and creating a powerful emotional experience. Whether you're in music or not, though, there is a powerful lesson there about how we treat people and deal with our disappointments in life.

I recommend both the first book, The Kindling and now the sequel, Penumbras, to any reader who likes action, character development, and a clean read that provides good morals. I should mention that the story arc for the book is complete, but it also ends on a cliffhanger. Now we have to wait for the third book. 

Okay, Braden, no vacation time for you until it's done. You hear me?


Braden Bell said...

Thank you, Berin. I enjoyed reading that review. You somehow make me laugh no matter what you write. I appreciate your thoughts about that ending part. Having been there, you understand. Thanks again!

Shawn said...

Will your next book have a character named Lisa Bell?