As a connoisseur of all things literary and daughter of a rare book salesman, Daphna already knows that words can be very powerful. But she doesn’t realize just how powerful until her father uncovers a book full of nonsense words on a scouting trip to Turkey and tries to sell it to the creepy old man who runs the new Antiquarian bookstore in town. When her father begins behaving strangely after this encounter, she and her estranged twin brother Dexter must work together to learn the truth about the ancient book and prevent disaster.
The Book of Nonsense pulsates with action, intrigue and magic, but also offers quieter scenes that give insight into the twins’ characters and motivations. Here’s a passage from the first chapter that I really enjoyed:
Daphna took in a series of long, deep breaths, savoring the familiar nose-tingling scent of old books. It was a complicated smell: worn leather and threadbare cloth; crinkled pages stained by countless fingers and the innumerable foods and drinks they smeared. It was the smell of flights of fancy and of people’s very lives. It was the smell of time, Daphna thought, and it was a smell she’d know all her life. It made her feel alive.
But of course it wasn’t the smells that made Daphna love books. No it was the words themselves. It was mind-blowing to think that you could learn absolutely anything in the world if you just had the right words in the right order. (page 8, ARC, text may vary slightly from final published version).
Both the titular book’s back story and novel’s plotline are clever, if a bit predictable (I saw several of the twists coming way before the characters did). Unfortunately, the villains didn’t come off as very menacing (though this may be more bothersome for adult readers than the younger tween/teen target group). They suffered from that particular brand of "bumbling bad guy syndrome" so often found in books with precocious protagonists.
The Book of Nonsense is available in hardcover now, and it is a promising start to the Sacred Books series. 3 sequels are planned: The Book of Knowledge (Oct 2009), The Book of the Map (Oct 2010), and The Book of All Things (Oct 2011). Though I feel no urgent need to continue the series, I can imagine young fantasy fans really getting excited about it.