Monday, February 15, 2010
Book Review, Jaguar Warrior
Jaguar Warrior is Sandy Fussell's latest children's book. Published by Walker Books Australia, 2010, it is set in the land of the Aztecs and transported me instantly to another time and place.
Imprisoned in a box, Atl waits for death. He is not afraid. Anger burns too deeply within him. Then, unexpectedly, he is released. Released to deliver an urgent message. But it is not the mission that sets him running. It is the sudden chance for freedom. Nothing can stop this Jaguar Warrior. Not even the one who hunts him.
From the moment I waited inside that box with Atl, I plunged into an adventure that had me breathless with excitement, concern, fear, and anger. I ran with the children as they sought to escape their determined enemy, The Captain, and willed them to succeed in their mission. Any child who is looking for a riveting story with characters he can relate to, packed with action, need look no further. Jaguar Warrior has it all! And even though I forgot at times to breathe, there were also moments that made me laugh aloud, then look nervously over my shoulder in case The Captain was creeping up on me.
Like other Sandy Fussell books I've reviewed, (White Crane from the Samurai Kids series and Polar Boy) Jaguar Warrior is obviously based on meticulous research. The author builds a world that is absolutely believable in its detail, allowing her readers to walk in the footsteps of people far from their own time. Yet she never sacrifices "story" by having too much history - the story is key, and the world supports it.
Another great strength is Fussell's spare but evocative descriptions. After I'd finished my first fast read, I returned to dip into passages that resonated with me - can you see/feel/hear this storm?
Voom. Voom. Thunder belts across the sky to ram itself against the walls of our shelter. The air rings with the echo of storm against rock. Lightning hisses, cutting heaven into great chunks.
I think boys from nine up to young teens will love this book. But that doesn't mean it's only for boys. Heroine, Lali, is feisty and speaks her mind, and makes a great role model for girl readers. The book would make an excellent choice for schools or homes that want youngsters to learn about different cultures, and think about what life must have been like for a young slave boy, who is also a Jaguar Warrior. Best of all, if your kids like their stories full of action and tension, with great characters and an implacable villain who will only be stopped by blood, it will make them very, very happy.