Blackwater (Pendragon) by D J MacHale

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Blackwater (Pendragon) by D J MacHale

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: The huge teen fantasy series reaches half way with a fifth book that shows no diminishing of its star qualities, with a cat and mouse saga on a world vaguely familiar to fans of 1970s sci-fi films.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1847384843

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One of the most telling pages in this book was the one with the author's CV on, which declares his prior career in film and TV. It's one of the hallmarks of the best genre TV series that each episode can immerse you in a universe unique to that week's programme, while never losing sight of the grand, major story arc. And to that rule I can begin to add the best of teen fantasy fiction, such as this.

I did already have D J Machale down as a glutton for genre media anyway, even before this book came at me as being very Planet of the Apes, but with big cats. That's not to be derogatory at all towards it - the planet here is fully rounded in how's it's been realised, and there is certainly enough here that is original. Also, wherever Charlton Heston did turn up, he never found himself as low down the food chain as Bobby Pendragon does here.

Bobby is Earth's representative as a Traveller, someone with the brains and wherewithal to travel the territories of the multiverse and try and defeat his demonic nemesis, Saint Dane (what do they call that character in Denmark is what I want to know?). Again it never fully comes across as a head to head, but perhaps it's less of a back seat in this book than in the previous volume, The Reality Bug. Still, there is a meaty saga of a selfish, bigoted species of talking big cat that Bobby has to survive, and if possible try and improve.

For returning readers, there is the usual spread of regular Traveller characters and cameos from other territories. They will certainly notice the larger portions of the book in sans serif font - meaning that Bobby's best friends stuck here on Earth (called Earth 2 for reasons I annoyingly missed out on) will be taking part more.

For the debutant starting this hefty series here due to circumstance, there is a reasonable amount of effort expected of you to catch up, but the very evident thrust towards a very enjoyable fantasy story. The book is less sci-fi based than the previous title, it's less of the author mucking about in a huge sandpit when he should have been doing something more interesting, it's more concentrated in what it's saying and where it's going - and even though it's fifty pages longer, it's just as well sustained.

So I think the newbie should take half a mark off our star rating, but four and a half for the fan of the series will point this one out as one not to be missed. It's certainly galling that I've read 800pp of this series at this point, and am only 20% of the way through, but at the same time there's a relish about what I've got lined up ahead of me. This is a very commendable series.

We at the Bookbag must thank the publishers for our review copy.

For more jungle-based genre adventures, you might enjoy Primeval: Shadow of the Jaguar by Steven Savile.

D J MacHale's Pendragon Books in Chronological Order

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