Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Secret Journeys of Jack London: The Wild, by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

HarperCollins Publishers
Review copy furnished by publisher.
Hmm. It's hard to review a book when we aren't sure what we have to say about it. This series has potential...but we're not sure for what. This is definitely a niche book - one that will appeal to a select group of readers rather than to a broad spectrum. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but it isn't clear what niche the authors are going for. Boys who like adventure and semi-romantic ghost stories equally? Is that a niche?
The world knows Jack London as a writer who lived his own thrilling, real-life adventures. But there are parts of his life that have remained hidden for many years, things even he couldn’t set down in writing. Terrifying, mysterious, bizarre, and magical —these are the Secret Journeys of Jack London.

We meet Jack at age seventeen, following thousands of men and women into the Yukon Territory in search of gold. For Jack, the journey holds the promise of another kind of fortune: challenge and adventure. But what he finds in the wild north is something far more sinister than he could have ever imagined: kidnapping and slavery, the murderous nature of desperate men, and, amidst it all, supernatural beasts of the wilderness that prey upon the weakness in men’s hearts. Jack’s survival will depend on his ability to quell the demons within himself as much as those without.

We enjoy Native American legends, which would include the Wendigo who appears in this story, but the adventure/survival parts felt to us like they were stuck in between and didn't fully develop. Character development had a great deal of potential, but also wasn't fully explored, or plausible where there was some.

After we read it, we gave it to a patron who loves mountain man stories, and would have been quite happy trekking through blizzards in unpopulated wilderness areas with Jack London. He reported the adventure parts were "okay", but wasn't crazy about the fantasy bits, which ended up being most of the last half of the book.

The series is marketed as juvenile fiction, but the voice seems to be aimed much more towards adults. We may just not have found the right reading audience for it yet, but for now we're going to have to give it a

2 out of 5 - with room to prove us wrong in a sequel!

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