Stargazer (Land of Elyon #4) by Patrick Carman

Stargazer by Patrick Carman

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: 2008
Synopsis Source: 
http://www.patrickcarman.com/enter/elyon/

Rating:
Characters- 20/20
Plot- 20/20
Writing- 19/20
Originality- 20/20
Recommendation- 19/20
Overall- 98/100 or A+

Synopsis: When we last saw Alexa Daley, she had defeated a threat in homeland and was sailing with Roland Warvold across the lonely sea. She had no idea what adventures awaited her until now. After a tragic attack by an evil force, Alexa and her friend Yipes are stranded in a strange community known as The Five Stone Pillars. Each pillar of rock has its own secrets and its own challenges. As darkness descends, Alexa must risk everything to defeat it, even if it means taking to the skies.

My Thoughts: Stargazer is the fourth and final installment of the Land of Elyon series. It concludes the story of Alexa Daley as she struggles to triumph over the forces of evil while finding her true destiny. There are particular reasons why this novel should be commended as an excellent read. It combines unique and strong characters with an intriguing plot. Patrick Carman incorporated a bit of his soul in this novel, as all good authors do. For long-time fans of the series, Stargazer is no disappointment.

The book starts out with Alexa, Roland, and Yipes traveling upon the Warwick Beacon. The majestic ship is traversing the Lonely Sea, on its way to a land other than Elyon. Alexa greatly anticipates what Roland has to show her. The prospect of a new adventure is one she hungers for the most. I can relate to this in the way that I hunger for a good book. Every story is its own adventure. Fantasy can truly bend reality in a way that only readers understand.

When the trio arrives at The Five Stone Pillars, disaster strikes. The Sea Monster, Abaddon, who escaped from his pit of a lair in Elyon, had secretly followed the ship across the sea. Sporting a massive body and tentacles that can electrocute, Abaddon is looking for a new place to call home. And Alexa, Yipes, and Roland led him to the perfect place. In a rage, the sea monster destroys the Warwick Beacon, although an even greater tragedy is soon to come.

Hope seems nearly lost as Alexa clutches the top mast of the sinking ship. She believes her time is up and grief, but not for herself, overwhelms her. Just as her feet near the water below, a figure swoops out of the sky upon a swinging vine and saves her from an almost certain watery doom. Now upon the Five Stone Pillars, Alexa must fight to save the people she has befriended. She must convince them to trust her, and take her word that their home must be abandoned. Making new friends and adventures is only part of Alexa’s life on the pillars. Her destiny calls to her from the sky.

A fantastic and beautiful storyteller, Patrick Carman weaves a tale of imagination and destiny. Stargazer promises much excitement and even more colorful characters than the previous novels. A unique way of writing dominates Carman’s talents: the ability to instill a positive and spiritual outlook on life. This shines most brightly out of Alexa:

“My strength was returning as we went on. It occurred to me than that it was in times of struggle that I found the best parts of myself — courage, loyalty, and an unexpected peace — and I always discovered what I needed to break through and go on.” 

Overall Grade: A+ 
 Stargazer is the fourth an final installment of The Land of Elyon series. It represents the best of Patrick Carman and what the essence of faith and destiny is all about. Readers should look forward to much excitement and beautifully crafted characters. 
Carman, Patrick. (2008) Stargazer. United States: Scholastic Press

Into the Mist (Land of Elyon) by Patrick Carman

Into the Mist by Patrick Carman

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: 2007
Synopsis Source: Back of the book

Rating:
Characters- 20/20
Plot- 20/20
Writing- 20/20
Originality- 19/20
Recommendation- 20/20
Overall- 99/100 or A+

Synopsis- Before the walls went up. . . before the battle between Abaddon and Elyon. . . before Alexa Daley was born. . . there were two young brothers, Thomaas and Roland Warvold, whose pasts were as mysterious as their futures. Raised in a horrible orphanage and forced to escape into a strange, unknown world, Thomas and Roland found adventure wherever they turned–and danger wherever they looked. Their story is one of magic, exploration, fellowship, and secrets–all of which need to be revealed as the chronicles of Elyon unfold.

Review: Into the Mist is a fantastic inclusion to the Land of Elyon series. It brings veteran readers a much needed understanding of the plot and new readers an excellent introduction. I would label this installment a semi-prequel, as the book starts out directly after the events of The Tenth City, but the majority of the story is of Roland’s past as he tells his tale to Alexa. There are many interruptions in his tale (mainly by Yipes) and the story is brought back to the present-day events on the Warwick Beacon.

Into the Mist is a beautiful adventure of two brothers as they traverse a magical wilderness and make new friends. The magic of fantasy is evident in this book, along with the many qualities that contribute to a truly phenomenal story. It could very well be one of my favorite fiction novels of all time.

The story starts out with ten-year-old Roland and his eleven-year-old brother Thomas. Neither remember their parents, and they only have each other for family. Their earliest memories are of an orphanage, but their mischief and pranks eventually get them transferred to The House on the Hill. This cruel and horrible place is run by an even fouler woman by the name of Madame Vickers. The House on the Hill is run down and perched upon a town’s worth of garbage. Madame Vickers and her terrible son capture any unwanted orphans and force them to dig through the stinking, rotting garbage to find anything worth selling. The orphans are fed meagerly, and their sleeping quarters are located in the dark basement below the house. Roland and Thomas are in a nightmarishly grim situation.

One day, amid the rubble, Thomas and Roland find an old saddlebag that contains a strange piece of paper. The paper is inscribed with the words “Western Kingdom” and “Wakefield House”, plus an interesting symbol that matches a design on the brothers’ knees, a birthmark that resembles a tattoo. This is a calling for the boys to discover their true destiny. Out of curiosity (and maybe something greater) Thomas and Roland flee The House on the Hill to discover what the strange symbol means.

There are many reasons why I particularly favor this installment of the Land of Elyon series, but one is more prominent than all the others. During the story, Thomas and Roland are seemingly guided by curiosity throughout their adventures. One eventually learns that the godly force of Elyon has been the main influence on the lives of the brothers. He has been the drive that caused the boys to discover their destiny. Readers learn that Elyon has a plan for everybody and everything. Some people (Thomas and Roland for example) play a greater part than others in the grand scheme of things, but everybody has a part.

Into the Mist is both a fantastic prequel and continuation of the Land of Elyon series. This amazing fantasy is aided by its beautiful morals in creating a superb novel. After reading it, fans of the series should feel immensely satisfied and curiously thoughtful. It’s definitely a book that turns your attention to the more magical and philosophical aspects of life.

Overall Grade: A+
A beautiful continuation of the series awaits readers. A new outlook of the land of Elyon should arise after understanding the past of Thomas and Roland Warvold.  I highly recommend this book to those who like a good combination of adventure and morality. 

Carman, Patrick. (2007) Into the Mist. United States: Scholastic Press.

The Tenth City (Land of Elyon #3) by Patrick Carman

The Tenth City by Patrick Carman

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: 2006
Synopsis Source: Amazon

Rating:
Characters- 19/20
Plot- 19/20
Originality- 19/20
Writing- 20/20
Recommendation- 20/20
Overall- 97/100 or A

Synopsis: This is it; the final battle. On one side is the evil Victor Grindall and his horrific leader, the imprisoned Abaddon. On the other side is a girl named Alexa, who holds the fate of Elyon in her hands. If good is to win, Alexa must find a way to overcome the Lonely Sea, rescue her friend Yipes, and unlock the mystery of the Tenth City. Along the way, she will be attacked from above, betrayed by someone close, and guided toward a final gambit where everything will be put at stake – and great secrets will be revealed. This is the moment for Alexa to become a true hero…and to discover her real fate.

Review: The third and final installment of the core Elyon trilogy offers a very satisfying continuation to the series. Perhaps the best yet, book 3 reveals many mystical truths about the Land of Elyon. Alexa’s destiny begins to unfold as she fights to rid the world of Abaddon, the source of all evil. She isn’t alone is this pursuit, although. With the help of of her friends aboard the ship, Warwick Beacon, the forces of good may triumph.

The Land of Elyon series is comprised of a core trilogy, a semi-prequel, and the concluding novel. The first three books detail Alexa’s adventures in the Land of Elyon, as she struggles to fight evil. The semi prequel (Into the Mist) takes place directly after the events in The Tenth City, but most of the story is taken up by Roland’s tale of his childhood. The final novel (Stargazer) is of Alexa’s adventure at the Five Stone Pillars where she discovers her true destiny.

Once again, Patrick Carman weaves his faith into his writing. The descriptions of the Tenth City being akin to heaven is the final confirmation of the Elyon-as-God analogy. It is the place where those who have left the realm of the living go to have new and better adventures in Elyon’s own city. Often, Alexa mentions returning to the Tenth City when her own adventures are complete. This gives the entire story an epic feeling.

Unlike the previous installment, Alexa’s character is much stronger. It undergoes a great deal of growth and development and she ends the book both wiser and sadder than she began it. She realizes and understands the power of Elyon as the greatest force of good in the world, and her destiny to be his agent. Alexa learns that the beauty of the Tenth City will be waiting for her. Most surprising, though, is the final revelation about Alexa’s true lineage. She finally learns where her love for adventure comes from. I don’t want to give away any big spoilers, so you will have to read it for yourself!

The third installment of the Land of Elyon series could very well be the best yet. I enjoyed this adventure immensely and will cherish the spiritual impact it’s allegories have had on me. Patrick Carman managed to create a tale that is infused with moral themes such as power, lust, and friendship. Contemporary issues such as respect for the environment also arise in the plot. His characters are very original, diverse, and definitely believable. They have both good and bad qualities. All in all, this a great book which I encourage anyone to read. Although, for the necessary flow of events, I recommend reading the series from the beginning.

Overall Grade: A
A fantastic adventure and diverse characters await readers. Moral allegories such as God and Heaven are infused throughout the writing. It is recommended that the series be read from the beginning.

Carman, Patrick. (2006) The Tenth City. United States: Scholastic Press.

Beyond the Valley of Thorns (Land of Elyon #2) by Patrick Carman

Beyond the Valley of Thorns by Patrick Carman

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: 2005
Synopsis Source: Amazon

Rating:
Characters- 18/20
Plot- 20/20
Originality- 19/20
Writing- 19/20
Recommendation- 19/20
Overall- 95/100 or A

Synopsis: The second dazzling installment in Patrick Carman’s masterful Land of Elyon trilogy

Alexa thought her troubles were over when she defeated the man who had threatened to bring down Bridewell from within. But now that the walls around her land have fallen, a new, unexpected threat has risen from outside. Suddenly, Alexa is involved in a battle much, much larger than her own life . . . a battle in which she is destined to play a key role. In order to help good defeat evil, Alexa and her friends must venture farther than they’ve ever gone before — confronting giants, bats, ravenous dogs, and a particularly ghoulish mastermind in order to bring back peace.

My Thoughts: Beyond the Valley of Thorns, Patrick Carman’s sequel to The Dark Hills Divide, is a fast-paced, enjoyable, and much darker read than its predecessor. The Land of Elyon is a very mysterious place, and readers of the first novel are only too aware of this. Many of these mysteries are revealed in Beyond the Valley of Thorns, yet even more remain unsolved. Readers learn about the history, tragedies, and the balance of good and evil of this troubled land. As much as I am fond of the first book of the series, the second installment is obviously a richer fantasy.

While delving through this intriguing novel, I sensed a Lord of the Rings-ish essence in the plot. Indeed, the Dark Tower of Victor Graindall was reminiscent of the two towers in the second of Tolkien’s novels, save the second tower. Abaddon, the source of all evil in The Land of Elyon, could be compared to Sauron. Grindall could be seen as the counterpart of the wizard Saruman.   

Indeed, this a fine fantasy. The only criticism I have is the lack of character in Alexa. The Dark Hills Divide portrayed her as a free-spirited, independent, and adventurous girl, but all of these qualities fell flat during the majority of the second novel. Even though this may be true for one character in the book, Patrick Carman successfully incorporates an array of new characters into the plot. Odessa, the quiet and thoughtful wolf, and Arman, the proud yet gentle giant, are only a couple of examples.

Beyond the Valley of Thorns has a very dark nature. The presence of evil is much more evident than the previous book. What really struck me was the sad state of the people living in Castalia. These suppressed and downtrodden citizens harbor a valiant and persistent nature that I really admire. They are governed by a tyrant and policed by foul ogres. The ogres, in my opinion, are the worst of the Castalians problems. These giant, ruthless brutes have been infected by Abaddon’s evil and are literally rotting from the inside.  

For readers of The Dark Hills Divide, Patrick Carman’s second installment of the series will come as no disappointment. Though dark in nature, this is a very pleasant read that captures the spirit of adventure and the essence of faith its many allegories. Though the lack of character in Alexa is evident, this is an excellent read for fans of the series and fantasy alike.

http://www.patrickcarman.com/enter/elyon/ 

Carman, Patrick. (2005) Beyond the Valley of Thorns. United States: Scholastic Press.

The Dark Hills Divide (Land of Elyon #1) by Patrick Carman

The Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: 2005
Synopsis Source: I own this book

Rating:
Characters: 18/20
Plot: 19/20
Originality: 19/20
Writing: 19/20
Recommendation: 19/20
Overall: 94/100 or A-


Synopsis: Twelve-year old Alexa Daley is spending another summer in Bridewell with her father. She looks forward to exploring the old lodge where she stays each year, with its cozy library and maze of passages and rooms. She’s also eager to finally solve the mystery of what lies beyond the immense walls that ere built to keep out an unnamed evil that lurks in the forests and The Dark Hills–an evil the townspeople are still afraid of.


As Alexa begins to unravel the truth about what lies outside the protective barrier she’s lived behind all her life, she discovers a strange and ancient enchantment. Armed with an unexpected new power, Alexa exposes a danger that could destroy everything she holds dear–and change The Land of Elyon forever.

My Thoughts: I’m usually not a reader of middle-grade fantasy, yet The Dark Hills Divide is a novel I’ve enjoyed throughout my childhood. The book begins with twelve-year old Alexa Daley and her father. Readers will notice the strong bond between the two as the story progresses. To me, this is an important aspect of the book. Alexa proves herself a caring daughter, but also and independent adventurer. She deeply loves her father, yet she is not afraid to stray away from him at times to satisfy her curiosity and inquisitiveness. It is these characteristics that propel young Alexa to solving the great mysteries surrounding her home.

The spirit of adventure is obviously the prevailing theme of this fantasy. The demolition of the immense walls surrounding Alexa’s home signifies breaking away from safety and taking risks. Alexa herself takes many risks to save her home and in the process discovers a magical secret that will indefinitely change her life. I found her character bold, daring, loving, and a loyal friend. Her actions attest to her loyalty. Everything the does is for the benefit of somebody she loves or to help someone in need. The author did a fine job in constructing a suitable persona for her character.

The Land of Elyon is a very mysterious setting for the events happening in the story. The map provided in the front allows readers to foreshadow where Alexa’s destiny will take her next. It alludes to coming adventures.  

This is a fast-paced novel that I would deem most suitable for a middle-grade audience. Although the writing suggests such, an adult could still enjoy the shroud of intrigue and resourceful characters that fill its pages. Indeed, The Dark Hills Divide is a great introduction to a surely captivating series that anyone should like.

http://www.patrickcarman.com/enter/elyon/

Carman, Patrick. (2005) The Dark Hills Divide. United States: Scholastic Press.