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BOOK
Pendragon
Rivers of Zadaa

Author: D J MacHale
Simon & Schuster
RRP 5.99
ISBN 0 689 87553 3
Available 03 October 2005


Bobby Pendragon never thought that he was anything other than your average fourteen year old, that is, until the day his uncle turned up. Now Bobby has been thrown into an apocalyptic struggle with the demon Saint Dane whose agenda is little more than the complete destruction of the human race. Bobby discovers that he is, in fact a member of the Travelers the only force which stands any chance of thwarting Dane's ultimate goal...

Pendragon: Rivers of Zadaa is written by D. J. MacHale who has worked successfully, for some time, as a writer and director of children's programming in the United States. A previously published author, he intends the Pendragon: Journal of an Adventure through Time and Space series of books to run to ten novels in all. Rivers of Zadaa is the sixth book in the series. The novel is written from the perspective of a sixteen year old boy who is keeping a journal of his adventures. The idea that a perfectly ordinary boy discovers that he has a destiny is nothing new, indeed its so old that its become an archetypal story form that has been used over and over again in both film and literature. It is down to the skill of the writer to turn the template into a Harry potter or Luke Skywalker.

Firstly, I would suggest that no one start the series with this novel. In the initial chapter so much information is thrown at the reader, that if you haven't read the previous books you're going to spend a lot of time trying to get to grips with all the new names, places and relationships. This is a shame really as a couple of pages of preface would have made the initial impression of the book better and reduced the inevitable confusion of being thrown into a narrative with a five book back story.

It doesn't help the new reader that Bobby appears to have landed in a place where the beginning of the alphabet is a mystery. So we find him on Zadaa in the city of Xhaxhu in the company of Loor a Ghee warrior staring at statues of savage Zhou beasts. I'm seven pages in and already in the throws of what I can only assume is a level of unintentional laughter. Loor the mighty Ghee seems completely unaware that her warrior caste is named after a form of Indian clarified butter used as a base in curries. Maybe it's something her acolyte Saangi - another great Indian name - is keeping from her to avoid the inevitable embarrassment.

The book is written for adolescents and, to be fair to the book, it's been a long time since I've been one of those. That said, there is a lot of language used in the book that is peculiar, I presume, to the United States. Bobby is in the habit of exclaiming 'yikes' from time to time and felling like he doesn't want to appear a wuss. I may be doing the book a great disservice here, never having read the previous five novel, it's possible that Bobby has been transported from fifties America, which would go a long way to explaining why he has such an anachronistic way of speaking. However there will be a large number of non- Americans who will conclude that he is, at the very least, a wuss due to his use of language.

I did like the idea that the book was written as a journal, thus giving the reader the impression that Bobby was talking directly to them, even though that's not the case in the plot. The book was an easy read, given that it was not aimed at my age group.

It's a no nonsense romp: the adventure that it claims to be. And, for a certain age group, I can see why these books are so popular. It's an updated boys own adventure, written from a very specific male point of view. That said, Zadaa is not up there with the Harry Potter books and is unlikely to appeal to a wider, non-adolescent male, audience.

Charles Packer

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