Saturday, April 18, 2009

Book Review: The Book of Nonsense by David Michael Slater

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.

13 comments:

Silvia said...

i didn't know about thi book. It's been a while since I've read something like that so maybe I give it a try.

Elizabeth said...

It's an awesome title.

Anonymous said...

So glad you found this book, it's fantastic! I've been waiting and waiting for it to break out, but no one seems to know about it. Blooming Tree Books is a tiny pub, so I don't think anything but word-of-mouth is going to, well, spread the word. So, again, I'm glad you found it. According to the author's website, there have been some changes in the series. Books 2/3 have been combined, and the new title is The Book of Knowledge (really cool cover on Amazon). There's been lots of talk (on the few sites who've found the book) about the series taking a controversial turn (I hear Da Vinci Code type stuff--which I think clues in book one fit with). Anyway, I can't wait to see where things go, because this is one series that seems, I don't know, unafraid to be a bit challenging.

Anonymous said...

Just double checked Amazon and see that Slater has also just released a novel for adults, SELFLESS, which judging by the reviews, looks hilarious. Does anyone else out there write picture books, teen novels and adult novels?

Jen said...

Wow, I really like the sound of this one!

Beth Kephart said...

very interesting....

Christina Farley said...

Hey girl! I nominated you for the lemonade stand award on my blog.

And did I read about you in the last SCBWI newsletter? I thought so!

Kate said...

Oooh, I like the sound of this book. It has a cool title :)

Lenore said...

Thanks anon - I updated the info in my post!

Amanda said...

This book clever and fun - I think I will recommend it to my tween neighbors who are quite voracious readers. Even with bumbling bad guy syndrome, I think they would enjoy the story ;)

Ladytink_534 said...

Automatically this reminded me of Inkheart for some reason. I guess it seems like something that could take place in that world maybe. The bumbling villains would really bother me though so I may have to skip this one.

Anonymous said...

Had to pipe in on two accounts. One, I don't see Rash as bumbling at all. But more importantly, this book is a billion times better than Inkheart, a book I found deadly dull and tedious. In my opinion the difference between the two books is marketing budgets. Nonsense is very smart with some deep ideas going for it. Give it a chance, and I assure you you'll be pleased.

Lenore said...

Anon 3 - I wasn't really thinking of Rash when I said the villians were bumbling, although he certainly has his bumbling moments. I was thinking more of the scene with the surprise villian, the bus and the park.