When thirteen-year-old Ronan Truelove's seemingly ordinary mom snatches him from school, then sets off on a high speed car chase, Ronan is shocked. His quiet, nerdy dad has been kidnapped? And the kidnappers are after him, too? His mom, he quickly learns, is anything but ordinary. In fact, she's a member of an ancient order of knights, the Blood Guard, a sword-wielding secret society sworn to protect the Pure—thirty-six noble souls whose safety is crucial if the world as we know it is to survive. Now all those after-school activities—gymnastics, judo, survival training—she made him take, make sense. For suddenly Ronan is swept up in a sometimes funny, sometimes scary, but always thrilling adventure—dashing from one danger to the next, using his wits to escape the Bend Sinister, a posse of evil doers with strange powers. Falling in with two unlikely companions, Greta, a scrappy, strong-willed girl he's never much liked and Jack, a devil-may-care teenage pickpocket, Ronan is left with only his wits and his mom's last words of advice: Trust no one. That's a lot for an ordinary kid to deal with. But then again, maybe Ronan's not ordinary at all.
I picked this book up, expecting a childish book about a kid who goes on an adventure. I assumed we'd have young characters facing comic book type villains. What I found instead was a well-planned and executed thrill for all ages. From the first chapter, you're thrown into a world of danger and mystery. We don't know what's going to happen anymore than poor Ronan does. Also, as readers, we don't know who to trust either. Instead of having childish characters making childish decisions, we're faced with bright and witty characters that pull themselves together despite unusual circumstances.
Even though there is nonstop action, it doesn't become monotonous. While reading, it's almost like you're in shock. So much is thrown at you and just when you think you've finally jumped out of the frying pan, you realize you've jumped into the fire. One you jump out of the fire, you realize the whole forest is ablaze and you're right smack dab in the center. Everything happens so quickly that you spend most of the book trying to figure out how you're going to help Ronan to safety. Of course, as a reader, there's nothing you can really do, but Carter has written this so sublimely that you don't stop to realize that. You're right there in the thick of it all with Ronan and needing to get help. Or at least a sandwich and a few minutes to breathe and process what's happening.
Both the Blood Guard and Bend Sinister are surprisingly well put together. Instead of coming across as comic book heroes and villains, they're real and tangible feeling. The Blood Guard is an amazing old order that is full of nobility, inspiration and intelligence. Not to mention lightening quick speed and possibly a little magic. The Bend Sinister is creepy! They have the side of technology and insanity. Though they believe in what they're doing, it's obvious to the rest of us that it's not what's best for humanity. The lengths they'll go to in order to accomplish their evil goals will astonish you.
One of the things I look for most in young adult and children's books is exactly how appropriate it would be for my own children. Though admittedly scary, there isn't really anything gruesome. The scenes that could have contained a lot of senseless blood and gore have been toned down and worded in a way that you know what's going on, but you don't see horrible images in your head that will give you nightmares. The language is mostly clean. There are a few 'minor' swear words but it's also let known that it isn't proper to use them. The Blood Guard and Ronan could serve as wonderful role models while the Bend Sinister is easily shown as the 'bad guys' and who children and teens do NOT want to be. Honestly, the book is clean enough that I would allow my eight year old to read it.
Though this is young adult, I can't imagine thrill-seeking adults wouldn't enjoy it. For me, I found Carter Roy to be the J R Ward of the children's writers. I can't wait to see where Ronan's adventures lead him next.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Shawn