Sarah intended to get this disc for me for Christmas. But evidently Sub Pop bought out the disc and put it out of print. It’s now available as a download. But a personal email from Sub Pop headquarters said they’d be releasing the disc in physical format sometime in April. (Yay!)
This is a beautiful folk song which features wonderful harmonies. It’s a simple guitar-picked song. It opens with a male vocalist who sounds very familiar (I can’t quite place who he sounds like), but the end of the verse has a beautiful, brief blast of multi-part harmony. The second verse is by a different vocalist (he sounds close to the first, I only noticed he was different after a few listens). The final verse is by a female vocalist which comes as a wonderful surprise as her voice brings a whole new shape to the sound.
The harmonies continue throughout the song and really flesh it out. There’s not a lot to the song itself: a simple verse/chorus structure, but the execution and vocals are really lovely.
[READ: February 21, 2011] The Sword Thief
I can’t believe it has been five months since I read Book Two of this series. It wasn’t for lack of enjoyment, sometimes other books get in the way! But now that I’ve jumped back in, I’m in for a while (I’ve already started book 4).
One thing that I wanted to point out before talking about the book itself, was the way the various destinations are described in the book. While I haven’t been to all (or really any) of the locations described, I have seen enough (in books and online) to know that the authors aren’t simply placing the kids in a generic location that pretends to be a city. They really try to give each environment a full-bodied realism. And I hope that young readers can really appreciate the sights and smells of the different countries. It’s especially effective in Egypt (in book 4), but Tokyo really comes to life and Korea, although not fully explored, really shows the rural regions well. Maybe this will encourage people to travel, but if not at least it’s instructive that not every place looks the same.
What I especially liked about this book is that the kids form a (brief) alliance (or two). The first two books emphasized how all of the different family lines were in such competition with each other for the clues. And, obviously that is the point of the books. But it would be very tedious to simply have them run from place to place being chased by the different families. So in this one, the kids form an alliance with Alistair Oh. Better than that though is that Lerangis gives a detailed background of Alistair which makes him a more sympathetic, human character (even if we don’t fully trust him).
The kids also form a strange alliance with Ian and Natalie Kabras. We hate the Kabras kids, they are cocky, overprivileged and terribly rude. But suddenly Ian is very nice, especially to Amy. In fact, there’s a hint at a romance brewing–but is it all a ruse to get the clue?
This book has the kids travel to Japan and Korea (where Alistair is from) and includes a brief trip into Russia (just to the airport). There are some very good double crosses and switches (although I have to say that anytime people play fast and loose at the airport I have to say “no, not anymore.” My poor family can barely get on a plane legally and these people are stealing boarding passes and not showing ID? Super spies they may be, but they would still get bogged down in TSA BS).
But aside from that quibble, I really enjoyed the story. The hints for getting the clues were clever and ones that I would not have figured out (well, maybe if I spent time I could have, but probably not). And the pacing was really good.
And Dan Cahill mentions It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World a few times, acknowledging the classic 1963 film that this story is at least in part inspired by. Oh, two other things about Dan. One: There are a lot of bad “jokes” that Dan makes. Mostly they involve him misunderstanding a foreign word and making a quizzical comment about the word itself. They grow a little tiresome, but hey, Dan is a 12-year-old boy and he is meant to be kind of irritating. Two: he has a photographic memory. This is the one feature of the story that sort of takes it out of the realm of “kids on a mission.” I mean, yes people do have a photographic memory, but his is simply too perfect. Now, I realize that without it the story wouldn’t work (and of course the whole premise of the Cahill clan is absurd), so I’m not really bothered by it (and they don’t use it too much), but it irks. (Maybe I’m just jealous).
Additional: starting at around page 30, the page numbers are replaced by symbols (this seems to be true in all the books). I haven’t bothered to try to figure out what they mean (I also haven’t opened the “secret” cards in the front of the book so I don’t know if that would have anything to do with it). In the Artemis Fowl series, there’s hieroglyphs that spell out a secret message. I translated the first book’s but didn’t bother with the rest (it’s a lot of work). Similarly, I’d like to figure out what the symbols on the pages are but I’m not willing to put a lot of effort into it.
As I said, I’m already onto 4, and the excitement never lets up. It’s a very exciting series (and I’m surprised just how perilous the excursions turn out to be).