'The Face in the Frost' is one of those books that, when finished, made me shrug, and think "Well, that happened." Except, this book refuses to go away. I finished it Friday night and scenes keep replaying in my head. I hadn't appreciated the book when I first read it in middle school - I wanted more of his juvenile mysteries, not a fantasy pastiche. Now, I know better. Bellairs had been inspired by 'The Lord of the Rings', but wanted more humanity in his characters, and less archetypes, and so created his Prospero (not that one) and Roger Bacon (maybe that one) to run around a version of late medieval England.
The plot is simple: Bacon comes to Prospero for help in locating a book. An evil wizard starts tracking their movements and the two realize there's evil afoot. The genuine horror elements clash with the light-hearted, anachronistic fantasy, which leaves a reader off guard. You don't know what to expect.
My opinion of this is improving the more I think about it, but for the most part this still reminds me of 'Three Hearts and Three Lions' and other early modern fantasies that almost captured something, but leaves most modern readers equally entertained and nonplussed.
Despite the critical success of this book, Bellairs turned away from fantasy to focus on his successful juvenile books. The book was included on the reading list in the back of one of the early 'Dungeons and Dragons' manuals, too, which is a fun future list for me to explore. There was an unfinished sequel posthumously published in the 'Magic Mirrors' anthology that I may have to track down now, and a prequel short story was finished, but is considered lost after the anthology it was submitted to was never published.
by Jeff Wheeler
Second book in a series.
The story begins around the same time the first book was ending, so there is just a little crossover. An Earl is to be executed for refusing to sign an oath of submission. It's a shocking situation that violates everything the king's sworn oath to the Medium as a Maston stands for, and is witnessed by a loyal kings man who is imprisoned with his sons through a tower window. He realizes then that he and his sons must escape somehow, because they are likely to have their turn soon on the chopping block.
Meanwhile Maia has reached Muirwood Abbey and is settling into her studies, while dealing with mixed reactions from the other students due to her banished status. But there is no rest for Maia. Even more shocking news comes and the safety of the Abbey is compromised.
This is not a five star series, but it's really holding my attention and I'm looking forward to reading the third book. This one has fleshed out the characters who were introduced in the first book and some of them have developed significantly. I sometimes want to shake Maia and tell her not to be so naive, but she's generally a good character and I think she'll turn out alright in the end.
That is the one problem with this volume, it doesn't end. It's not exactly a cliffhanger, but an important situation is left unresolved so that reading the third book is compulsory. Luckily I have it waiting, but I don't like series books that hold me hostage!
Worthwhile Fantasy read.
by Bridget Collins
This is a rather fascinating imaginary world. Emmett buys a book at a fair and his father reacts as if he has brought something evil into the house and gets rid of it. A few years later, a woman who is a binder of books asks for Emmett to be apprenticed to her and to his confusion, his parents hand him over to his fate.
The world building unfolds slowly in this, allowing the reader to gradually get used to the beliefs and attitudes of the people and learn what it means to be bound in a book. A lot of superstition and outright fear surrounds the occupation of binding, yet Emmett is told that he was born to be a binder. Exactly what that means is revealed to the reader at the same time that it is explained to Emmett.
On his first solo binding, Emmett has no idea what he is meant to do. He also has reason to object to the assignment, yet what is entailed and why he was predicted to be a binder born soon becomes clear.
One thing that was unique about this book (apart from the entire concept) was that I actually changed my opinion about a character. After not liking Lucien for a long time, a side of him came out that made me more sympathetic. The action speeds up in the second half of the book and I actually got so engrossed into what would happen next, despite present tense writing in part three throwing me out of the story every time I started a new chapter, that I stayed up late, unable to put it down.
My one complaint is that the ending was rather abrupt. I wanted to know what happened to Emmett and Lucien after the events of those last chapters. I don't know whether a second book is planned. If it is I will probably read it and hope it holds my interest as well as this one did!