Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Alan Skinner - Blue Fire and Ice

Blue Fire and Ice
(The Land's Tale #1)

By Alan Skinner

Kindle Edition Available

Product Description (from Amazon) 

Product Description
Fanatsy and adventure for readers 12 to adult
Blue Fire and Ice is the first book in The Land's Tale.
A totally original book with characters unlike any you've met before in a magical but believable world that delighted teens and adults alike. Lose yourself as the rather serious Beadles seek help from their neighbours - the unpredictable Muddles and the clever but grim Myrmidots.

Plot synopsis: The Land is in peril... Fires are ravaging Beadledom. In the face of terrifying, unquenchable blue flames the Beadles turn to their unpredictable neighbours, the Muddles, for help. But aid from the Muddles brings its own risks... Drawn together to save The Land, seven unlikely heroes set out to find the secret of the blue fire and the identity of the mysterious arsonist who will stop at nothing to destroy them all. Full of the most unusual characters and packed with intrigue, humour and adventure, Blue Fire and Ice is the first in an exciting new series of books about The Land.

About the Author (from Amazon)

I've been many things in my life but they were all just slices of time layered on the one foundation - a writer. Sometimes you forget what you are and some times you just think I'll get around to that when all these rainy days are over. You have to be careful about that; there's more rainy days than you think there will be when you're young.

Now all I do is write - and spend more time than I ever thought I would letting people know about the books I write. These days, it seems to come with the job but I find I do really like it when people get in touch with me and ask me things or say thank you. It's great.

Some people ask if I use all the things I've been in my writing. I don't think I've written enough yet to have used even a small part of what's happened in my life. I've been fortunate to live in wonderful places: Boston, Melbourne, London, Zurich. Great things have happened in all those places.

But you don't really want to know about me. The best part of me is what I write. So I'll stop here and let you get back to reading my books. If you do want to ask more, just get in touch.

O.Scarlett! REVIEW by Rachel!

I picked this book up for Free on the Kindle, featured by Pixel of Ink Young Edition.

Back when I was really young, maybe 7, my parents took us to an outdoor theatre where a group of young thespians put on a play based on “the Hobbit”.  I was mesmerized and thrilled.  It would be years before I finally laid hands on the book, for I didn’t know the title, and was able to read the story for myself.   Through the years, very few books have left me with the same level of thrill for the land and the people – so many are just rewrites of the same thing and the same people – and while the stories are grand and wonderful, there is not a sense of wonder and amazement and innocence as the book unfolds.

This book isn’t “The Hobbit”.  But the Land is just as magical and simple and refreshing as the Shire.  I loved the Beadles and the Myrmidots, and especially the Muddles.  It’s the sort of tale where you snuggle your older child in for the night and they happily listen for hours while you both forget the time because the story is enchanting.   On the other hand, I really could see people not loving it as much as I did – simply because the action is lower key and the people so innocent.  If you want blood and gore and steamy sex ... this is not the book for you – because there isn’t any.   No, ....  I’ll take that back, there is some blood – the adventure is not without peril, but it’s not gory, but there are several pretty scary parts.  Parents really should read it ahead of handing it to a child younger than 9, especially if you have a more sensitive child.

As I started the book, I wasn’t very hopeful, but settled in to rock my baby to sleep, and kept reading to not disturb her, and by the third or fourth chapter, I was pretty much hooked, and by the time I reached the 50% marked, I was enchanted.  It is a simple and sweet story, with mystery and adventure, somewhat the flavor of the Wind in the Willows.

There are three groups of people that live in the Land.  Brian is a Beadle, and the first character that you meet.    Life has always been calm and ordered for the Beadles.  They don’t like surprises or change or adventure much.  And then the fires started – BLUE fires.  When they fire department tried to put out the fires, the water made the fire even larger and more violent.  They needed help, so Brian was sent to ask the Muddles for help.

Muddles are everything that the Beadle’s are not ... and they have the strange knack of “Mixing” whenever a bird shaped cloud flies overhead.  You won’t believe the trouble that causes in the book!   And the Myrmidots live on the other side of the Muddles – they are stern and ordered and they invent things.

Brian doesn’t like changes to his routine.  Brian doesn’t like surprises.  Brian doesn’t like falling into rivers or being sent flying through the air by a Muddle goat.  Brian really doesn’t like Muddles.

But ... if the fires are not stopped – the Beadles will find it difficult to survive.  So to the Muddles, Brian returns.   They promise to send their own fire truck after much debate ... and they almost catch a lady ... a stranger that nobody knows ... and then she escapes.

When some young Muddles spot a woman that nobody knows going across a massive ancient bridge and into the mountains – a place nobody goes and from where no one has ever returned  ... they bring news to the town and suddenly Brian finds himself in charge of far more adventure than he has ever wanted or bargained for.

This is not a short book at 336 pages, and it spans at least a month or two of time.  There are so many funny and wonderful people to meet.  The Muddles especially were full of unique and completely surprising individuals.  The three people groups have always lived as isolated as possible from each other, but to solve the mystery of the fires and the strange woman, they will have to work together and venture farther than anyone of them in history has ever ventured before .... or are they?    Leave it to the Muddles to come up with some wonderful surprises and amazing solutions.  Maybe the Muddles aren’t so bad after all?

Alan Skinner has done a remarkable job at creating a fun and fascinating world of likable characters with realistic personalities and problems.   I laughed, I cried, I stayed up late to read the next chapter ... and the next one ... and the next until I cringed and then laughed at the end.   And you will be so shocked when they all discover the truth, not only about the fires and the strange woman, but also about themselves and the Land that they live in.

I find this book rather difficult to do a basic plot ... so I will keep it very short.

Beadles buildings are being destroyed by Blue Fire that explodes when sprayed with water.

Beadles ask the Muddles for help, and they agree.  Together, they begin to unravel part of the mystery of the Blue Fire.

Beadles and the Muddles go to the Myrmidots for help to travel into the mountains.  A team of individuals from each group is selected to travel together.

What they find in the mountains .... changes everything they thought they knew about themselves and their home.

This book is not so much about the plot, as it is about the people, their land, and learning to set aside prejudice to work together to save them all.

The Second book is available – The Furnaces of Forge.   

Also a short story called Buckle and the Pirate.

The author has one other book, but it doesn’t appear to be about The Land.

Note:   Best enjoyed by those who love long rambling epic adventure stories full of innocence and imagination.   The book doesn’t have deep language or powerful forces like the Hobbit, so those expecting an epic adventure of that level will be disappointed – it is a much simpler style such as the telling of Wind in the Willows.   Some children as young as 4 or 5 may enjoy listening to the story as well.

Genre/Theme:  Children, Fantasy, Mystery/Adventure

Reading Level:    due to vocabulary and book length – best suited for children at a 4th grade reading level or higher.
CHILD - children's literature
TEEN - upper elementary to middle school

Profanity: NONE - no offensive language to
LOW - few mildly offensive words   (the generic variety – dumb, hate,  stupid, darn)

Sexuality: NONE -  (the worst you will see is two characters looking at each other and blushing.)

Other: This story is as simple and as mild as possible --- but there are elements that will make some parents cringe if they read the book to a younger child, and possibly cause a parent to not give the book to even an 8 – 10 year old.  There is a magic that causes the Muddles to Mix – exchanging their arms and legs with each other, as well as many spots of slightly crude humor, and people get hurt a lot, especially after they cross into the mountains.  There is a near drowning, explosions (bomb like), and basically a suicide (as the witch/woman steps into a hot light on purpose).  Concepts such as greed, slave/servants, and prejudice caused violence are broached.

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