Thursday, April 8, 2010

Review: Terrestria Chronicles

I was really excited to hear that Terrestria Chronicles was added to the vendor list for the TOS Homeschool Crew this year.  If you know me at all, you know that we love books.  So a chance to review more books?  And books I can't get at my local library to boot?  Oh yeah, I'm all over that.  Christian allegory.  Sounded fantastic.  With a setting involving knights, castles, princes and dragons.  Perfect.

I was even more excited when the books arrived, as the main series is supposed to be read in order, and I did receive books #1 and #2.  I immediately put the rest of the series on my wishlist at Paperbackswap.

And I dug in and started reading The Sword, the Ring and the Parchment aloud to my children.  At 187 pages, I expected it to be a fairly quick read.  I expected to easily move on to book two -- The Quest for Seven Castles.  I expected to finish both with lots of time to write the review.

It hasn't worked out that way.  And I'm not exactly sure how to explain it.

Let me quote the website so you know the basic plot:  "Young Josiah is a slave to Argamor, the powerful warlord who has plans to seize the throne from King Emmanuel. When Josiah fails in his attempt to escape slavery, Emmanuel not only sets him free forever, but adopts him into the Royal Family. The book presents an unforgettable picture of our salvation and reminds the reader what a wondrous thing it is to be redeemed."

My goal is to read aloud to my kids (sometimes via the "hired help" of audiobooks) for two hours a day.  So I'm used to reading aloud.  A lot.  But there is something about this book (because, to be fair, I cannot review book #2 yet) that changes that.  I finish reading a chapter (they average about 10 pages) and I just need a nap.  I don't know what it is.  Some guesses:

  • Once you have a basic clue as to what is going on, the plot is reasonably predictable.  My 9 year old interrupts me to ask, "That's foreshadowing, isn't it?"  Or at least he did at first.  Now he just knows that if Josiah is told to deliver something by nightfall, it is guaranteed that Josiah will make bad choices and be waylaid.
  • The vocabulary is excellent, but often clumsy.  On two pages, where three dark knights are killed, Josiah does so by "inflicting a mortal wound," "dealing an enemy knight a mortal blow," and "inflicting a mortal wound to the enemy knight."  To be fair, the fourth knight (of six who are killed) who we hear specifically about on the next page, dies when Josiah "used his sword to vanquish the adversary."  This repetition of words and phrases happens a lot, and I think it contributed to the difficulty I had in reading this aloud.
  • The names are long.  And some are just weird.  Palaios Anthropos comes to mind.  Lawofsin.  
  • The kids get frustrated because you have these characters using high-falutin' vocabulary, yet they meet someone with an obvious name like Distraction, who wants Josiah to help him search for a missing chicken, and Josiah doesn't make the connection that he is being distracted?  Why learn vocabulary if you can't apply it when it matters?
So basically, my opinion on the books is that I'm bored.  On the other hand, with the lessons of the individual situations being so painfully obvious, it has been really, really easy to make a comment to my kids like, "are you chasing chickens here?" and have them immediately get back on task.  Because during that chicken incident, my kids were practically yelling at him to stop being so distracted, and to focus on his mission.  (Maybe that's part of why I want a nap when I finish a chapter too.  I have to read too loud, because my children are constantly talking back to Josiah and telling him what to do.)

And the other big thing.  I am not the target audience.  My kids are.  And they have loved the book.  I did read part of Book 2 to myself before penning this review, and I enjoyed that a lot more.  I think some of my issues really boil down to:  I think this book is just hard to read aloud.  But I think, for my family anyway, the kids will get more out of it if we do read it aloud. 

So, some other positives:  the vocabulary.  Randomly opening the book, I turned to page 90.  Scanning it, I see words such as:  scanned, various, toiling, steep, approaching, pose, loyal, sentry, and weary.  

And it has given us a lot to discuss. 

Lots of action, which my boys adore.  I'm sure that if I suggest reading the books themselves, my reluctant reader would be willing to take it on.  

Overall, a mixed review.  I don't plan to rush out to purchase more, but if I run across them, I'll probably pick more up.

And you can check out what my fellow crewmates have to say about various Terrestria titles at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive two free books from the publisher.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

1 comment:

Heidi said...

Predictability and vocabulary...yes!

I noticed the word "cacophony" several times. It is a great vocabulary word, but I didn't expect to see it used more than once.

I'm sure the predictability is intended to make sure the teachings are obvious enough for the kids to pick up. However, older kids and adults might tire of it.

I had mixed thoughts on this series too.