Friday, 10 January 2014

Review: The Last Thirteen Book One: 13 by James Phelan

The Last Thirteen Book One: 13 by James Phelan is the first book in a new multi-platform series for 10-14 year olds. The publisher compares this book to Inception and The Da Vinci Code, but I also see similarities with Divergent and with Rick Riordan novels. Essentially the plot is this: thirteen kids are prophesied to save the world from impending doom with their powers of true Sight and mysterious ability to dream things before they happen or to dream the answers they seek.

The series skews towards a male audience. The characters are fairly flat, but the lack of character development allows for more action, destruction, and suspense. The series features teen heroes with a lot of power and responsibility. These are characters to look up to, who make selfless and logical decisions based on the greater good of others. The adult characters in this book tend to be unreliable and suspicious, if not dangerous. Make of this what you will, but all the heroics are achieved by the younger characters.

There is violence, but it's fairly muted in the use dart guns and smoke grenades. No matter what potentially fatal situation occurs, the characters remain as resilient as cartoon characters. They walk away from explosions and helicopter crashes without as much as a broken bone. For readers who like this kind of excitement, parents can feel good that the kids are reading something they like, something with as much destruction as Allegiant, without the deaths and gore.

There was something that bothered me in the opening scene. The main character (Sam) is dreaming of Solaris (the enemy), who is telling him to surrender a mysterious and obviously important crystal that has appeared in his pocket. I'm a #Potterhead... this scene was a little TOO familiar to me. Really? A powerful magical item appearing in one's pocket and a villain creepily taunting a kid? For example, Harry Sam wouldn't surrender the stone crystal to Voldemort Solaris, even when he threatened to kill everyone he knows.

"So brave, right until the end…” Its voice rattles around inside my skull. “At the final battle, just like the prophecy says, you will lead me to my rightful power, thinking all the while that you are saving these foolish people.”
"I have no idea what it is talking about but then I sense a weight in my pocket. I have something important that this thing wants… this heavy, round object.”

Regardless, it didn't sway my enjoyment of the story. The book ends with a heart-stopping cliffhanger, which will definitely get readers excited to start reading Book Two: 12. I was lucky to have access to both books, so I closed book one and went right to book two! These books are short, fast-paced, and great for reluctant chapter book readers. The book is accessible, full of action, destruction, and suspense. There are thirteen books in all; Book Two will be released February 1st, and then one book a month after that!
3.5 Stars
 Thirteen books. Thirteen Nightmares. Are You One of Them?

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