Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: Scourge by David H. Burton

Sorry I'm late with the review this week! The upcoming holiday concert at school has left me with some extra duties that needed attending. It's that time of year!

Scourge by David H. Burton is an interesting little YA novel that came to my attention through David's posts at Mobile Read, where he is a regular. It was described as a YA "Steampunk" adventure, and that sounded intriguing. I do enjoy a good YA read from time to time, and David had a very polished profile: the book is a second novel, so he has some experience, it is available both at Smashwords and on his website (and if you purchase it from him there, he'll personalize it by using your name for a certain minor character!) and there is even a YouTube trailer. I had to check it out.

The plot concerns a young boy named Grimwald "Grim" Doyle who lives in a strange house with two dads and a passel of siblings. One day, there is a skirmish involving some magic rocks, and all of a sudden some bad guys from another world are after them and they are transported to a fantastical parallel world where there is magic and gadgets and danger galore...

And my verdict? Well, I had to keep reminding myself that this was a book geared for children :) It was certainly well-written, well-edited and had a very creative storyline once it got going. But there were some very well-worn tropes in this book---the evil orphanage, for example, was straight out of Dickens, and like many fantasy novels I've read, there was this air of Sherwood Forest Meets Renaissance Fair underneath all the Steampunk trappings. Of course, children would be less versed in such things. For me, I felt like much of the first third was fairly skimmable and I would have liked to stop for the Explaining of How Things Work a few less times than we did.

Once the story got going, it was a decent enough adventure. And I do think the target audience will probably eat this sort of thing up, especially the boys out there in ebookland. Mr. Burton is the adoptive father of three boys himself, and this experience no doubt influenced Mr. Burton's writing. Ultimately, with no offense intended to the affable and extremely nice Mr. Burton, I am going to decline to rate this one. I like the overall package, I like the author's approach (personalizing the book with a character named after the purchaser is a great touch!) and I respect the obvious work he's put into crafting and carefully editing a solid story. As with the handful of other books I declined to rate, this turned out to be not my kind of story---but I do think it might very well be the kind of story for a different reader. So, as with those other unrated few, I'll say go for it, if this is your sort of thing.