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

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

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

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. 

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

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.

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

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Sometimes the task of reviewing a book can be quite daunting. This could be great for the book, or it could express the readers ill-favor. Sometimes though, the reader may just be at a loss of words as to how to begin. This is an obviously tough predicament for the reviewer but if books were alive, I’m sure they would be flattered. Finding words to describe the particular complexity of certain literature is a task that must not be taken lightly, especially when reviewing William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. There is a quote out there in the world of literature that I can understand.

“Some books should be tasted,
Some devoured,
But only a few
Should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”
-Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Lord of the Flies is truly a book that should only be “chewed and digested thoroughly.” The content is not lightly absorbed and the symbolism can be subtle to discern. I was completely enthralled while wrapping my mind around William Golding’s allegory. Lord of the Flies is not just a fantastic story but also leaves the reader with a powerful moral that is truly iconic. To grasp what I am trying to impart, and if you have not had the chance to read it yet, an overview of Lord of the Flies may be sufficient.

The story takes place in the midst of a raging war, where a plane evacuating a group of schoolboys from Britain is shot down over a deserted tropical island. Two boys, Ralph and Piggy, find a conch shell on the bottom of a lagoon which they use to call an assembly. The boys who arrive range from young, aimless children or “littl’uns” to older, more tempermental “bigg’uns.” Jack, the clever leader of a boys choir attempts to secure a position for himself as Chief but Ralph takes the position by popular vote. Jack assumes leadership over his choir as hunters. Together the boys try to build a simple society in which to coexist until rescue arrives. Their attempts were disastrous.

The theme of Lord of the Flies attempts to trace the flaws and defects of society back to the flaws of human nature. The moral of the book is that the condition of a society must depend on the ethical nature of it’s individuals and not on a political system, no matter how perfect or foolproof it may seem. The attempted society portrayed in Lord of the Flies is an excellent example of this. The boys were unable to coexist peacefully for an extended time because their ego’s would not allow it. They fell apart and degraded into savagery.

The “Lord of the Flies” is a translation of the Hebrew word, Ba’alzevuv, which roughly means devil or Satan. In Golding’s book, the satanic forces that compel the shocking events on the island come from within the human psyche rather than from an external, supernatural realm. A lack of spiritual motivation and an overpowering domination of Ego was prevalent among all the boys on the island, except perhaps Simon, who was very morally inclined. This led to the collapse of their society because without God/Spirit, man is truly evil when left to their own devices.

The emergence of this concealed wildness is the very theme of the book. One of the boys, Piggy is the intellectual of the story. The fact that he wears spectacles is of great importance to the symbolic plot. Later on, when his spectacles shatter, it marks the progressive decay of rational thought as the story progresses. The struggle between Ralph, who is the representative of civilization and government, and Jack, whose Ego is much more evident than Ralph’s and who is a good representative of anarchy on the island is also a struggle in society on a much larger scale.

Among the many symbolic moments in Lord of the Flies, one stood out largely for me, the killing of the sow. It was a very important part of the plot because it marked a turning point in the condition of the boy’s society. The symbolism of the act was that the drive or emotions the boys felt while slaying the sow was symbolic for sexual intercourse.  It was in all ways amoral and was a great portrayal of the Devil/Ego.

The pigs head was cut off and skewered upon a stick (sharpened at both ends) which was jammed in a crack in the earth. The boys stared in awe as they watched the flies gather around the leering head which was dubbed “Lord of the Flies.” Once the boys had been fully immersed in savagery they planned to kill Ralph toward the end of the book. The death planned for Ralph involved a stick sharpened at both ends. Grim thought eh? 😉

Although the killing of the sow was greatly symbolic in Lord of the Flies, it only laid the groundwork for the most deeply symbolic incident. Simon was greatly affected by the skewered head and seemed to be having a conversation with it in the book. The “Lord of the Flies” explained to Simon, in his heightened perceptions, that he was a part of Simon, as he was of all the boys, and was the cause of the distress among them. Simon eventually loses consciousness and imagines he is looking into a vast mouth. The blackness spread and encompassed Simon’s entire vision just before he lost consciousness. This mouth is the symbol of the ravenous and unreasoning Devil/Ego conquering Simon.

Eventually, the boys on the island are rescued by a naval officer who disrupts the man-hunt for Ralph. This is where the book ends with the boys being saved. Lord of the Flies was one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever had the chance to read. I am grateful to have successfully discerned it’s symbolism and understood its moral. The collapse of a society can only be halted through an acceptance of God or Love. The true nature of humanity, without this force, is inherently evil and will cause the collapse of the most respectable civilizations. This is a great read for those who welcome deep thinking. 😉

-Ival Ty Crisp