Fantasy and sci-fi, oh my! — NWAW’s July book recommendations

By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly

“Tiger’s Quest”
By Colleen Houck
Splinter, 2011

In this second installment of Houck’s “Tiger Saga,” Kelsey Hayes has returned to Oregon after her extraordinary adventures in India.

As she tries to adjust to a normal life free of the dangers of immortal sea monkeys and 300-year-old curses, Kelsey also has to adjust to a life free of Ren, a 300-year-old prince, victim of said curse, and the man she loves.

For how fast and hard she fell for the prince/white tiger, Kelsey deals with her broken heart quite well — enrolling in college, taking up wushu, and dating other guys.

But normality doesn’t last long as not only Ren, but also his brother Kishan — who has also been cursed and takes the form of a black tiger — show up in Oregon. The brothers inform Kelsey that she’s in danger. In the midst of escaping, Ren is captured.

So Kelsey and Kishan must return to India to try to break Lokesh’s curse on the brothers, their best bet in saving Ren.
“Tiger’s Quest” is filled with as much adventure as its predecessor, “Tiger’s Curse.”  Kelsey and Kishan must face a number of challenges, including battling giant birds and bats and getting past an enormous snake that guards the tree of life.

What I enjoyed about “Quest” is that while Kelsey is still heartbroken and confused about her feelings for the brothers, she doesn’t lose sight of the goal of breaking the curse. She realizes that whatever happens, she will keep her promise to help break the curse. Such a trait is admirable and does not always exist in reality.

As a lifelong fantasy lover, I particularly enjoyed reading about the tasks Kelsey and Kishan must complete, as well as their significance not in only Indian mythology but also other cultures, such as Norse and Christianity. Houck goes into great detail, giving readers background information, so readers have a better understanding of how everything is connected, which is something I really appreciated.

“Eon”
By Allison Goodman
Firebird, 2008

For four years, Eon studied Dragon Magic and sword work with one goal in mind: to be chosen as a Dragoneye apprentice to one of the 12 energy dragons of good fortune.

The Dragoneyes work with their dragon counterparts to manipulate the natural energy in all things to protect the land. The honor of being selected as an apprentice is bestowed upon one 12-year-old boy at the beginning of each year.

But Eon is neither 12 nor a boy. Eon is actually Eona, a 16-year-old girl desperate to become a Dragoneye apprentice to help save her master from financial ruin. If her secret is revealed, the penalty is death.

Although the story takes place in a fictional empire, “Eon” draws many parallels to Chinese culture. Each dragon is aligned to heavenly animals from the Chinese zodiac, and the ruling emperors and dynasties mirror actual Chinese dynasties.

“Eon” is an action-packed story about being a fish out of water — in more ways than one. In addition to Eona, the story is filled with characters that are not all what they seem. There is Lady Dela, a man who lives as a woman, Lord Ido, the ambitious Rat Dragoneye who has plans of his own, and even Eona’s master, who has secrets.

The characters are complex. Even seemingly minor characters are multifaceted, which always makes for a great read. I also liked the fact that some of these characters’ lifestyles and choices are sometimes frowned upon, but Goodman shows readers that these individuals are as human as everyone else. I think tolerance and acceptance is especially important to show young people.

Eona is a strong heroine that readers of all ages can look up to. She proves that girls are just as good at battling and kicking butt as boys are. Even though she’s terrified and daunted by how many people are depending on her to succeed, she powers through and faces her challenges dead on without hesitating.

“The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya”
By Nagaru Tanigawa
Little, Brown and Company, 2011

In this fifth volume in the Haruhi Suzumiya series, the SOS Brigade (“Save the World By Overloading It With Fun Harhui Suzumiya”) faces some new challenges. And not all of them are caused by the title character.

A collection of three short stories, “Rampage” follows Kyon and the gang through an endless summer (“Endless Eight”), an overheated competition with the computer club next door in the fall (“The Day of Sagittarius”), and a winter holiday trapped inside a mansion with a strange sense of time (“Snowy Mountain Syndrome”).

As always, the story is told from Kyon’s perspective, as he works with Yuki Nagato, the alien, time-traveling Mikuru Asahina, and esper Itsuki Koizumi to keep Haruhi happy and reign her in when her tendencies get too crazy — which they always do.

What I love about these stories and the Haruhi Suzumiya series in general is how connected everything is. Tanigawa references previous Brigade adventures and, because they sometimes involve time travel, readers are able to see the bigger picture of what’s happening. This being said, the stories are also good stand-alone reads. You don’t have to read the previous books, although it is recommended.

As Kyon becomes a more willing member of the Brigade, he gets to know more about his fellow members in addition to Haruhi. I really enjoyed this because we learn more about what these individuals do outside of their time observing Haruhi (and now Kyon as well) and their general personalities. You get a glimpse of what they would be like if they hadn’t been sent by their respective powers-that-be to do a certain job, and what you learn is fascinating.

As always, Haruhi provides good laughs and entertainment with her spontaneous actions, hilarious outbursts, and childlike impatience. That in it of itself makes “Rampage” worth reading. ♦

Samantha Pak can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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