Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Defenders of the Scroll - Shiraz

Defenders of the Scroll
Shiraz
iUniverse
Copyright Date: 2009
978-1440144776

The Amazon.com description:
A teenage boy.A dark wizard.A mystic scroll. And the fate of a world hangs in the balance. . . When Alex "the Axeman" Logan is pulled from his world to help young princess Dara save her kingdom from the Shadow Lord, he thinks there has been a mistake. He's a teen guitar player close to failing 11th grade, not some defender of the realm. All he has are some school books, his wits, and his love of fantasy movies. Overnight his life is history. Alex must confront the Shadow Lord and his minions when he is thrust into a land that has changed from a magical paradise to a barren, hopeless, helpless realm invaded by a dark army. But Alex is not alone. He has the help of Dara, a magic scroll, and a band of unlikely companions drawn from his own history books: a hardened Roman Legionnaire, a swift Japanese Samurai, a mighty African Warrior, a fiery Amazon Archer, and a spirited Shaolin Monk. Can Alex become more than he believes and lead his small band of Defenders to the Hall of Shadows, the birthplace of the Shadow Lord? The fate of the realm and everyone in it rests on him.

This is in many ways an absolutely spectacular book. Each page is set on the background of a rolled scroll, which is a little detail I've never seen done before. And yet, despite the darker background, the text is still clear and easy to read. Also spectacular are the full page illustrations of the events and adventures the characters go through.

I said that I thought the book was marketed to the Young Adult segment of the population when I first got it. Now, having read Defenders of the Scroll, I'd like to revise my guess a bit. It's definitely geared to teens and young adults, but also, I think, to the nine to twelve year old set.

The characters are an interesting mix, even though some of them felt fairly stereotyped at the beginning of the book. They soon develop (mostly) out of that though, and start to become their own characters. I like the way Alex becomes more aware of reality (despite the fact he's in a fantasy realm). I think he becomes a better person for it too.

Some of the characters are definite surprises, making you think one thing, while something entirely different is going on.

This book does have a sequel, something that wasn't even hinted at anywhere (until the last page), and as a result, leaves the story and many questions completely unresolved. Despite this, I found Defenders of the Scroll to be quite a good read, and I think the book deserves the many awards it has won. It's certainly the most original fantasy I've read in a while.
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