Review: Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee

engines of the broken world

Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee

Merciful’s mother has finally died.  After years of growing more and more confused and cruel, she died as the weather grew colder and colder.  Merciful and her brother Gospel had wanted to bury her properly but the bitter weather had worsened and prevented them from digging a hole.  The snow came too, lashing the windows and keeping them from even venturing out to the barn to check on the animals.  So they put their mother under the table and went to bed.  The Minister, in an animal form, said prayers over her but was also firm in saying that she needed a proper burial.  Merciful is starting breakfast the next morning when she hears it, a voice she thought she would never hear again, singing her childhood song.

This novel is completely unique.  It is the story not of a post-apocalyptic world but of the days leading directly into an apocalypse.  Yet it is also a book that explores religion in a way that will certainly bother many people.  This is a religion beyond decay, heading into the final days, one that is flagging but still powerful.  Even better, it is one that is familiar to many of us.  Now add zombies to this complex world, and you are starting to understand why this book is so difficult to explain.

Against this dire setting, we have two young characters Merciful and Gospel.  The two do not get along, both approaching the world from different places.  Yet given the claustrophobic setting, the two are forced to see the truth about each other and their strengths.  It is this setting of a blizzard at the end of the world that makes this book so haunting.  Vanhee writes in a voice that we haven’t heard before either, he tinkers with perception of the characters, and he has created a book where you can’t trust much at all.  It is a wonderfully slippery book, that changes underneath you and turns into something unexpected.  Yet it is also filled with moments of great beauty and character. 

A horror book for teens, this is also something much more.  It is a beautifully written apocalypse that is harrowing, striking and powerful.  Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Co.

Review: Captain Cat by Inga Moore

captain cat

Captain Cat by Inga Moore

Captain Cat is a trader, but he’s not very good at making profitable deals.  You see, instead of trading for riches, he trades for cats.  So his ship is full of them.  All of the other traders make fun of him for this, but Captain Cat is very happy surrounded by the furry creatures.  He decides to head off and see new places, far from the trade routes he usually travels.  On the way, he is caught in a violent storm that blows him off course, right off the map!  There he discovers a small rocky island led by a young queen.  She and the population are very friendly, and have never seen cats before.  When the cats take care of the island’s rat problem, the queen begs Captain Cat to leave them behind.  What is a cat-loving caption to do?

This is a very engaging book.  It was different right off of the bat with a sailor surrounded by cats who hate water.  Throughout the story, it continues to surprise and delight.  It never heads where you expect it to, yet ends up being completely delightful both along the way and in the end.  Unlike many picture books, Moore tells a full story here.  It not only has the structure of a full story, but also has a depth that can be missing in picture books.

The illustrations are finely done with lots of details.  Done in mixed media, they have fine lines and soft colors.  Thanks to their detail, this book would best be used with small groups or individual children.

Take a feline-filled journey with this clever picture book.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.