Showing posts with label AL Tait. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AL Tait. Show all posts

Friday, 12 October 2018

The Book of Answers

The Book of Answers by A.L. Tait (Hachette Australia) PB RRP $14.99     ISBN: 9780734417695

Reviewed by Jeffery E Doherty

The Book of Answers is the second book in the gripping Ateban Cipher by A.L. Tait. It follows on from the first book in the series, The Book of Secrets.

Gabe and his companions must journey across the country to a remote mountain citadel to learn the secrets of the mysterious book he has been tasked to protect. They also need to find a way to rescue Merry and Gwyn's father from the executioner and to help their new friend, Eddie - Crown Prince Edward - to help prove he is the true prince. However, the king is gravely ill and the traitors who have put a look-a-like in Eddie’s place are hot on their heels and hunting them every step of the way.  

The remote fortress of Hayden's Mont does bring answers to Gabe and his companions, but not to the questions they were seeking. The stakes for the main characters have risen dramatically from the events in the first book and the group must re-evaluate their priorities in their life or death race to foil the traitors.

The Book of Answers is an excellent second addition to the Ateban Cipher series and is sure to be a hit with both girls and boys who love a great adventure story. The mix of female and male lead characters makes the story more interesting. Gwyn's stubborn confidence and young Midge's mysterious connection with animals, compliment Gabe and Eddie's determination. The companions will all have to build their trust and work together if they are to succeed in their quest.  This book is full of adventure and intrigue and would ideally suit readers 8-12 years old.   

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Book of Secrets: An Ateban Cipher Novel

The Book of Secrets: An Ateban Cipher Novel by A.L. Tait (Lothian/Hachette)
PB RRP $14.99  ISBN 9780734417671
Reviewed by Liz Ledden

The Book of Secrets is the first book in A.L. Tait’s new Ateban Cipher series. It follows on from her popular Mapmaker Chronicles books, appealing to a similar middle grade audience of around 9 to 12 years old.

The story begins with an intriguing premise. Protagonist Gabe, who has lived in an abbey his whole life after he’s delivered to its doorstep as a baby, is handed a precious manuscript by the mysteriously wounded Brother Benedict. He’s given strict instructions to deliver the coded book to ‘Aidan’, and to guard it with his life.

So begins a thrilling, fast-paced adventure as Gabe bravely ventures beyond the abbey’s walls, and encounters a strong-willed group of girls with agendas of their own. Gwyn, Merry and co. battle gender stereotypes and help position this series as one for everyone.

Tait builds a believable and evocative middle ages world, rich in historical detail – think dungeons, danger, archery and royal double-crossings. The introduction of Eddie to the cast of characters around the halfway mark elevates the stakes even more. High on energy, The Book of Secrets is a compelling read with twists and turns to keep you guessing, and sets up a whole new exciting adventure for the next installment.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Breath of the Dragon

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Breath of the Dragon by A.L.Tait (Lothian/Hachette)
PB RRP $14.99 ISBN 9780734415813

Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

The third and last book in The Mapmaker Chronicles brings to an exciting conclusion the adventures of Verdanian, Quinn Freeman, mapmaker on board the Libertas, one of three ships vying for the prize offered by the king of Verdania for the best map of the world. A.L. Tait has skillfully recapped the previous two books in such a way that children reading Breath of the Dragon will enjoy it as a stand- alone title.
The story opens with Quinn and his fellow voyagers, Zain the captain, Ash his friend who masquerades as a boy, Tomas, and the rest of the crew all weak and close to starvation. The ship reaches a desolate landfall where no tree or sign of life is apparent other than a mountain belching smoke. Despite their lack of confidence, the only way forward is to explore and hope some form of life and therefore provisions will be discovered. A boat is launched from the Libertas and thus new adventures begin.
A strange group of dusty, goblin-like men shovelling out dirt and rocks on the mountain side, stop their work as Quinn, Tomas and Zain appear. They look blank as Zain then Quinn try various languages to communicate with them, but it isn't until Tomas speaks in Prate - the pirate language - that comprehension appears on the mob's faces. Egunon, one of the sand goblins (as Quinn calls them) steps forward and says he is in charge. Tomas introduces Zain as Hayreddin, a compatriot of the notorious pirate, the Golden Serpent, from the Black Hawk where Quinn was once held captive. 
The mention of the Golden Serpent has a dramatic effect on Egunon. He quickly offers hospitality. But treachery threatens and the crew are fortunate to escape both the sand goblins and the might of the erupting volcano with its heat and stifling air the strange goblins call "dragon's breath". But escape they do, taking with them provisions and a sack of stones that Quinn thinks valuable and he is soon proved right. The contents of the rocks should give the Libertas extra credit towards earning the king's prize.
With food in their bellies, everyone is strengthened except for the old cleric who is still weak and ill. The cleric is the only one to know Quinn has two maps and the genuine one is hidden in his cabin. But will the confidence held in the true map prove to be misplaced?
There are more challenges ahead before the mapmaker and those on board the Libertas can return home: capture by marauding Deslonders, serious injuries and imprisonment for Zain and clashes with their rivals to name a few. Perhaps one of the more intriguing problems is Quinn struggling with loss of memory recall which is impacting on his capabilities.
I found the depth of the hatred and revenge Quinn feels towards Ira, at whose hands he suffered so much, a shock. Despite a welcome benefit from the fight which ensues, I am not a fan of these emotions and was pleased to find the author balanced this scenario later with the calm of Zain's mature, adult approach and wise influence on Quinn when a great injustice is done to the Libertas' crew. It is good for young readers to see that patience and restraint is preferable to violence.
The author brings her series to a satisfying conclusion with plenty of interest and unexpected events to surprise the reader right up to the last pages. The Mapmaker Chronicles showcases a vivid imagination and gift for storytelling which marries fantasy and reality together to great effect and is bound to be a favourite series on the bookshelf.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk by A.L.Tait (Lothian/Hachette)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9780734415790
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

Prisoner of the Black Hawk is the second book in The Mapmaker Chronicles series.  Verdanian, Quinn Freeman, is the mapmaker for Zain, captain of the Libertas, one of three ships taking part in a year-long race to map the world. Already the crew of the Libertas which includes Quinn's friend, Ash in the guise of a boy, has survived the first leg of their voyage. They have contended with sea monsters, been threatened by murderous natives and the terrifying Gelynions who are in fierce competition with the Verdanians, and experienced treachery from the captains of the other ships. The fear of the unknown remains. Will they eventually fall off the edge of the world into the open jaws of Genesi, the dragon?

There is much at stake for all three ships. The captain of the ship judged to have the best map will be highly rewarded and honoured by the king of Verdania. The recompense for the winning mapmaker has induced all the mapmakers to strive to win, and it is inevitable that unethical tactics will be employed by the Libertas' rivals in order to succeed. Quinn discovers how underhand these tactics can be when the Northern boy, Kurt, who was rescued from the Gelynions and taken aboard the Libertas, betrays him to Odilon, the richest captain in the race. As a result Quinn is delivered into the hands of the Gelynions and held captive on their ship, the Black Hawk.

A.L. Tait has unleashed a terrifying adventure in which the reader despairs of Quinn. Not only is he suffering at the hands of the Gelynions, but another threat arises from bloodthirsty pirates. However, with great skill, a plausible and thrilling way forward is created by the author, using the talents, courage and determination of Quinn and the loyalty of those aboard the Libertas. The story unfolds in such a gripping way that I found this second book in the series almost impossible to put down and read 95% at one sitting.

This series is a great read by an Australian author and children will be transported to a world of action and human endeavour in a most exciting and satisfying way. It also demonstrates that fact can be woven into fantasy and be anything but mundane. Book Three will be eagerly awaited.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World by A.L.Tait (Lothian/Hachette)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978 0 7344 1577 6
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

The first book in a trilogy, Race to the End of the World is set in a fantasy world and yet reflects history, when sailing explorers sought to discover whether the rumour that the world is round was true and if other countries lay beyond their own horizons.

Quinn Freeman is chosen by Zain, slave to King Orel to be mapmaker on board the Libertas, one of three ships competing in a race to bring back the best map of the whole globe and make the kingdom of Verdania superior to that of neighbouring Gelyn. The king firmly believes that knowledge is power.

Quinn has already received mapmaking training, coerced into agreeing to leave his parents farm by the promise of a generous payment to learn these skills. He could not refuse, knowing that the money would make a huge difference to the prosperity of his family. Quinn, regarded as the runt of the litter compared to his muscular and tall older brothers, has a well-guarded secret: a photographic memory and the ability to learn languages quickly. However, Zain has found out, and knows the boy will prove invaluable on the expedition which he will lead.

Quinn has a friend, Aysha, who had left the area where they grew up because her mother, a healer, had been labelled a witch. Her mother died, and Aysha found work as a servant at the place where Quinn was to receive his mapmaking training. It came as a huge surprise when, five days after the Libertas set sail, Aysha, disguised as a boy, is discovered as a stowaway. But Aysha (Ash) turns out to be a vital member of the crew.

The author has produced well-rounded characters and detailed backgrounds to underpin the storyline. While it may unfold somewhat slowly in the early chapters, explaining in depth the conditions and operations on board a sailing ship, once the hair-raising adventures commence, the reader can quickly detect he is in for a good yarn. The fierce competition between the three ships increases the strength of the story.

The author's good imagination coupled with plenty of action propels this initial book of the trilogy to a satisfying end leaving a sense of longing for the second, Prisoner of the Black Hawk, to arrive. Readers will have to be patient until 2015.