Posts Tagged ‘heartlight saga’

The Adventures of Kate Readalong: The Merlin Effect

Well, Squiders, here we are at the end of the “trilogy.” What I find most interesting about The Adventures of Kate is that, aside from Kate, the books are completely unrelated. There are no overlapping characters or locations. I suppose T.A. Barron could have gone on forever in this vein, though Kate would have probably eventually run out of adult relatives to take her exotic places or show her exotic things.

So, The Merlin Effect. Originally published in 1994. Kate states at the beginning that she’s 13 now; I feel like she’s also 13 in Heartlight. I flipped through the beginning of Heartlight again to check but couldn’t find a mention of her age, but if so it’s been a rather eventful year. Traveling through space on the back of a giant butterfly, traveling back in time to protect an ancient forest, and now hanging out with Merlin at the bottom of the ocean.

I place The Merlin Effect between The Ancient One and Heartlight in terms of my own likes. I felt a little more tired of the whole Arthur legend thing this time around, but I think that’s me being burned out on it in general. Still, this is a very different take on the whole thing.

Right, let’s gather our thoughts. In this book, Kate has accompanied her father to Mexico while he searches for the remains of a legendary shipwreck. Her father is a historian with a particular interest in Arthurian legend and Merlin in particular. (T.A. Barron went on to write several novels about Merlin, so I suppose this was a topic of particular interest for him.) He believes that this shipwreck may contain one of Merlin’s treasures, a horn of great, though unknown, power, and that by finding said treasure he can prove that Merlin really existed.

However, there’s a giant whirlpool in the general area of where the ship–if it ever existed–went down, which complicates things, as does strange volcanic activity that another scientist staying at their camp is studying. A third scientist is studying a type of fish believed to be previously extinct, but which seems to be given eternal life here in the region by the whirlpool.

Merlin and Arthurian legend is prevalent throughout, though it is interesting to see it mixed with new elements with the shipwreck and the whirlpool.

Anyway, I mostly enjoyed the book, though the last few chapters leapt point of views a ton in completely unnecessary ways, in my opinion, and the question as to whether or not Terry is still alive is never answered. I don’t know if we were getting set up for another book which never happened–though even if there had been more Kate books, it seems like they would have been completely unrelated–or that particular subplot was just deemed too unimportant to bother wrapping up. But it feels weird that it was just left hanging.

Have you read along with me, Squiders? What did you think of The Merlin Effect or the Adventures of Kate in general? I feel like the books have held up pretty decently over the past 20 years, which is, of course, always the danger of revisiting something you enjoyed in your youth.

Most of T.A. Barron’s books are middle grade, mythology-based series, so if that sort of thing floats your boat you might want to check out the rest of his stuff. I read the first few books of his Merlin series before I dropped it, though at this point I can’t remember if I got bored or simply aged out of the intended demographic. It looks like he’s moved on to Atlantis as well.

The Adventures of Kate Readalong: The Ancient One

Aha! I bet you thought we were never going to get here! (Believe me, I was starting to feel that way too.) But here we go! And hopefully we run into less issues with the final book, The Merlin Effect.

As you guys are probably sick of hearing me saying, The Ancient One was a formative book for me, and reading back through it now, I can definitely see its influence on me and my writing. (As I said to a friend who was trying to guess which character/world I wrote in City of Hope and Ruin, if left to my own devices, my characters invariably end up in a forest.)

Anyway, The Ancient One, second book in the Adventures of Kate or the Heartlight Saga and, I believe, the most popular one. It’s got a score of 4.1 on Goodreads based on 1471 ratings, and a 4.7 on Amazon. Originally published in 1992. Did you guys read along with me? What did you think?

For a quick summary, Kate is visiting her Great Aunt Melanie up in a small logging town in Oregon. Next to the town is a large, unexplored crater, which has been left alone due to the interior being mostly concealed in fog and there being no way to breach the crater wall. Unfortunately, during a recent flight, someone was able to get a good look inside and found it full of old growth redwoods. The town’s logging industry is dying since all the other local trees have been cut down, so this is welcome news to the loggers. It is not welcome news to Aunt Melanie, who has put in an application to have the crater saved as a park. The loggers have decided to get what trees they can out before the park goes into effect.

So, on the surface, you have a somewhat standard environment vs. logging conflict, like you see in things like Fern Gully or Hoot or a dozen other movies/books I could name aimed at kids and teenagers.

Luckily that’s just the frame story. The real story starts when Kate, attempting to help Aunt Melanie, accidentally gets transported back in time to when only the native people lived in the area. And if Kate can’t save the crater in the past, then the crater won’t be around to be saved in the future.

Kate, luckily, perhaps because she doesn’t have an adult to lean on, does a much better job of not flailing around crying for help. She’s practical and level-headed, and takes ending up in the wrong time pretty well, all things considered. She does have moments of despair, but they’re much better spread out and more realistic than in Heartlight. I rather like the mythology incorporated into the story, but that’s always something I appreciate. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s pretty good, and I’m pleased to see if stand up decently against nostalgia.

There’s also lots of owls, and I like owls.

Read it, Squiders? Thoughts? I’d love to know how it felt the first time through.

For The Merlin Effect we’ll do discussion on…hmmm…let’s give ourselves some extra time and do Sept 15.

The Ancient One Discussion Delayed

Howdy, Squiders. This is just a quick note to let you know that the discussion of The Ancient One will be next Tuesday, August 2, instead of this Thursday, July 28. See you then!

The Adventures of Kate Readalong: Heartlight

Right, as promised, here we go, Squiders!

I found this to be an easy read (I read it in bits over three days) but it also rubbed me wrong a lot of times. Let’s get into it, shall we?

First off, I want to say that my cover is thoroughly ridiculous. I have the Tor July 1994 edition (the book was published in 1990), and it features a giant floating head of whom I suppose is Kate’s grandfather, through the age lines look unnatural, hovering over a yellow galaxy, with Kate (looking too old) holding a blue butterfly about the size of a toaster. I know covers really don’t matter in the long run, but I don’t know that I would have picked this book up based on that. Also, the back cover copy is wrong, plotwise, which–what?

Anyway, on to the book itself. Did you guys read this too? How similar in tone to A Wrinkle in Time would you say it is? I would say, tonewise, the two books are near identical. Both feature a reluctant young female protagonist whose sole purpose for being on an adventure is to save a family member, both feature formless evil entities, and both mix metaphysics into the general mix.

As a general summary, Kate and her grandfather are near inseparable. Grandfather (as he is referred to throughout the book, even when it’s in his own point of view) is an astrophysicist who has been studying something he calls pure condensed light (or PCL). PCL is the secret to how stars work, and also to faster-than-light travel. When he discovers that the sun’s PCL levels are plummeting at a rate that gives it only a short time to live, he springs into action, using PCL to jet about the galaxy in an attempt to find answers before it’s too late. It’s a bit more complex than that, but that’s the general gist. Kate discovers him gone and goes after him.

I’m not sure this book counts so much as an “Adventure of Kate” so much as a ‘Kate bounces about and screams for help a lot’ sort. I mean, she does eventually gain agency and is useful, and we can’t all be Katniss Everdeen, but I just wish her first predilection wasn’t to panic.

There is also a lot of head-hopping, which bothers me in general. You know, avoiding head-hopping is one of the first thing “they” teach you as a writer, yet the amount of it that gets into published books…

Anyway! This has always been my least favorite of the trilogy, and it still is. It reads vaguely first novel-y (and probably is), and even with the high concept astrophysics/metaphysics, still comes across a little simplistic. I mean, it is a middle grade novel, but I guess I’m just a little spoiled. There are some things that are a little convenient (everyone can communicate with no language barriers), but whether or not that bothers you probably depends on your level of suspension of disbelief.

I also feel like the novel ends on a weird note, which I’ve seen before with scifi (though I would not necessarily deem this true scifi), where the author feels they need to be unnecessarily weird and/or metaphorical. I can’t fault that too much–it’s a genre convention. Some people probably like it.

So! TL;DR–not my favorite. Not sure I would recommend it to people who haven’t read it. As I mentioned in the intro post for the readalong, I came in at The Ancient One and read the rest of the books based on the strength of that one.

Speaking of The Ancient One, that’s up next. It’s a longer book (~500 pages IIRC) so give yourself time if you’re following along. We’ll discuss on July 28, to give us an even month. I’m excited–as I said before, this was a formative book for me, so it will be interesting to see how it holds up under the test of time.

Read the book, Squiders? What were your thoughts?

Announcing The Adventures of Kate Readalong

A lot of reading posts this week, Squiders. But hey, I figured you wanted some variety after hearing me talk about City of Hope and Ruin for months on end! (Speaking of which, you should go enter the giveaway on Goodreads.)

We haven’t done a readalong in a while, so let’s! This time we’re going to do a trilogy of books by T.A. Barron, referred to as either The Adventures of Kate or the Heartlight Saga. It’s not a trilogy trilogy–the books have the same main character (Kate) but the events do not directly follow from book to book.

The second book, The Ancient One, was assigned as part of a school project when I was in seventh grade. Each year my middle school would host a local author, and we would all read at least one of their books before the visit. The Ancient One was a formative book for me, but I haven’t revisited it since middle school, so I’m interested to see how it withstands the test of time.

(Eighth grade was Will Hobbs, and I was very thoroughly over Will Hobbs and the entire boy-gets-lost-in-wilderness-and-has-to-survive genre by then, so that was less enjoyable.)

Kate’s adventures are YA/MG scifi-y/fantasy-ish somewhat in the vein of A Wrinkle in Time.

Anyway, I’m excited, and I hope you come along with me! I’m really hoping the books hold up. T.A. Barron was a favorite author of mine in my early teens, between these books and his Young Merlin series. The three books in the series are Heartlight, The Ancient One, and The Merlin Effect. We’ll read Heartlight for June, so let’s say we’ll do the discussion on…June 28.

See you then! Have a lovely weekend, Squiders!