Friday, October 8, 2010

End of Days - Max Turner

This novel is a lot of fun!

It is the sequel to Night Runner, which was an OLA Red Maple Award Honour Book and Shortlisted for the Sunburst Award.

Last year I reviewed Night Runner and said, "I like this novel because it has twists and turns, great characters and wry humour. While the protagonist is a vampire, this novel deals more with secrets and life choices than it does with vampire angst. More than just a page turner, you will be drawn to the lovable, realistic, multifaceted characters and their weird, humorous reflections as they deal with life's challenges. "

If you have read this far you are probably thinking, OMG another vampire book for teenage girls. You would be wrong. While this is yet another vampire book, it wasn't inspired by the Twilight craze but rather by the desire to whet the appetite of young male readers. Although I am not the target demographic, this novel captured my interest mostly because it is not a star-crossed romance. This is the story of a young boy who, through no fault of his own, is forced to adapt -- to accept his body for what it is, to solve mysteries, cryptic prophecies, deal with dangerous creatures and navigate the tangled and messy interpersonal relationships that are integral to adolescence. This novel appeals directly to all young people and specifically to boys who face similar challenges (-- body image, mysteries of life, confusing female communication, dealing with dangerous creatures of the opposite sex, and learning to handle new relationships). The End of Days begins with,

"I'm told vampires are popular in books these days. I'm not surprised. The perks of infection are pretty sick. Awesome physical power. Highly tuned senses. The ability to recover from almost any injury. Good dental hygiene. A simple diet. And that immortality thing -- very impressive on a resume." p.1

This is clearly a male voice -- it does not deal with affairs of the heart rather with the physical aspects of being a vampire and all the challenges associated with that destiny. Zach, the protagonist, wonders,

"My head was full of questions. 'Am I that messiah?'...'So what do I do? Who can I trust? This thing, this Beast, it seems unstoppable. And the Coven wants me dead, me and my friends. They've already sent one vampire. Mr. Entwistle thinks they'll send an army of them once they stop fighting one another.'" p. 132-133.

In addition to being a exciting fast-paced page-turner End of Days is also a clever, humorous and insightful novel. Here is an excerpt of a pursuit of a hairy wolf like creature.

"The door frame buckled under Mr. Entwistle's boot. Pieces of cinder block scattered as the housing for the deadbolt tore loose from the wall.

'Well, there goes the element of surprise,' Charlie muttered.

The old vampire laughed. 'The way you two breathe, he could hear you through six feet of concrete.' He stuck his head in the doorway. 'Honey, I'm home...' His voice was remarkably steady....

'Well, let's see what Old Yeller was up to.' Mr. Entwistle moved carefully into the room". p. 228

While details draw the reader into the chase, the pervasive humour remains just as entertaining. As well, all the characters and especially Zack take things in stride with a realistic and pragmatic approach. At the beginning of the next chapter, he reflects,

"Hope is a funny thing. It can be totally unreasonable-- bone dumb, in fact -- and a part of it still clings to your brain. I remember as a kid hoping to find a lightsaber in my Christmas stocking, and after reading my first Marvel Tales comic, hoping that I might get bitten by a radioactive bug and receive the full range of superpowers you'd expect from such a miracle. You can bet all that hope came to nothing. But other times hope is dead on. Like when you hope the winter will soon be over and it's already late April. That's the kind of hope you want to have. It's less disappointing." p. 234

Peppered with thoughtful introspection, this novel invites the reader to relate to its characters, to believe that all of today's challenges can be overcome with determination and sense of humour.

Just another vampire novel? Not really -- more like a novel about hope, about growing up, about bravely meeting challenges face on and winning.

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