Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Young Chieftain by Ken Howard

September 2010, Tamarind
304 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Children's, 9+

Summary from Random House Children's Books
Has life ever ganged up on you, hit you from behind and forced you to become a totally new person?
It happens to Jamie. The day his dad is killed. Suddenly, he and his mother must travel from their Los Angeles home to a remote Scottish island to bury him. Here, Jamie finds himself at the heart of ancient feuds where even his life is at risk. 

There's a mysterious, magical stone.
There's a secret place only true chieftains can find.
There's a huge struggle for power.

Will Jamie meet his fate or find his destiny?

I loved the concept of this book, the idea that Jamie would be caught up in all the drama among the chieftains. I wanted to learn more about the stone, and what made Jamie so special. I did get my answers in the book. Jamie was always up for an adventure, didn't want to be blindly obedient just because people told him what he should do. He stood his ground, explained to his mother in a way she would understand why he wanted to stay behind with his grumpy Scottish relatives while she went back home to LA. He showed maturity here, and great courage and bravery later on. Initially he finds everything strange, but he reluctantly gives life a go and finds he enjoys it. I wouldn't say he was 100% happy - his father was dead, there was an awful lot that his family weren't telling him. He certainly wasn't bored or mistreated - apart from when he gets left to die by the enemy.

Unfortunately the story didn't deliver as much emphasis on the stone and the other secrets as I expected it to. It took well over 100 pages before the stone got mentioned. It also took Jamie's dad a long time to die. For me the pacing was a little too laid back in places. I knew there was unease among the chieftains about who would next lead, but I felt there wasn't enough disagreement and ill feeling towards Jamie. I had thought that the fight for the next leader would involve Jamie more than it did, and would be fiercer.

The story was still very well written, and I loved the use of Scottish words and Hazel is quite a character. It's her dare that gets Jamie in trouble. Jamie's family are funny in their own way, and Jamie deserves the ending that he gets - he earned it. The truth of the secrets was pretty cool, and the characters which helped Jamie - especially Angus added hilarity to the novel.

I give this book a 6/10 - it's a good read in itself, just not quite what was I expecting.

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