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Monday, December 22, 2014

THE LAND of the SILVER APPLES (Sea of Trolls Trilogy #2) (audiobook) by Nancy Farmer

  Did Not Have the Same Spirit as the First Book in This Trilogy.

Published by Simon and Schuster Audio in 2007.
Performed by Gerald Doyle
Duration: 13 hours, 31 minutes.

It is the year 794 and Jack, the 13-year-old Bard-in-training from what is now the United Kingdom is on a new mission. Having recently returned from his adventures with the Vikings and the Frost Giants (detailed in Book #1 of this trilogy, The Sea of Trolls) Jack's new adventure begins with a mid-winter ceremony led by his teacher, known simply as The Bard. 

The ceremony is supposed to symbolize renewal by ridding the village of all fire. Then, the village gathers in one place and creates a new fire and re-ignites everyone's hearth fires from this new fire. The ceremony has few hard and fast rules, but Jack's self-absorbed sister, Lucy, breaks one of them by bringing metal to the ceremony in the form of a beautiful silver necklace that she was given during their trip to the Viking homeland.

Because of this necklace, a change comes over each of the members of Jack's family. Jack develops a cruel streak, his father becomes even more blind to Lucy's self-absorbed nature and starts to exhibit uncharacteristically greedy tendancies. Jack and Lucy's mother, a "wise woman" with a touch of magic power even is affected. So, The Bard leads a group to St. Fillian's well, a monastery that is supposed to use the water from the well to cure possession. The monastery is in a kingdom controlled by a cruel king.

Once they arrive, things go badly right from the beginning. Jack is attacked with magic by an unseen (to everyone but Jack) woman who comes from the waters of the well. Later, she kidnaps Lucy and takes her into the well and the waters of the well dry up despite Jack's best efforts to save her.

As a punishment, Jack is sent down into the well (now a dried up cave entrance) to figure out what the problem is and fix it. The Bard cannot travel with him because it will be too difficult for the old man to traverse the caverns. Jack is accompanied by Pega, a young recently-freed former slave girl that is considered to be hideously ugly but has a hauntingly beautiful singing voice. The last member of their group is Brutus, a man who acts like a fawning slave when in the presence of the king but once he is away from the king he quickly asserts that he is a knight and also the rightful ruler of the kingdom - and also a true descendant of Lancelot!

As they travel through the caverns this party finds one adventure after another, including monsters that make themselves look like the scariest thing you can imagine, a forest that consumes people it does not like, hobgoblins, kelpies and, of course, the self-absorbed elves who live in "The Land of the Silver Apples". 

Along the way, Jack and Pega lose Brutus but they find the girl Thorgill, Jack's companion for a lot of the action in Book #1.

Farmer mixes Celtic, Norse, Saxon and Christian beliefs throughout this book, much more than in the first one. This was a time when all of those beliefs were in active play and the story of the Elves mixes the religious traditions the most. 

Gerald Doyle reads the entire Sea of Trolls trilogy and he does an inspired job with this book. He gives real character to the all of the characters and all of the mythical races that appear throughout the books. 

But, his remarkable performance does little to help with the pacing of the book. The story of their time in the hobgoblin village takes entirely too long and just drags on and on. Farmer keeps on re-iterating Thorgill's irascibility, Pega's good nature and Jack's doubts about Brutus. Yeah, yeah. We got it the first fifty times you said it.

I rate this audiobook 3 stars out of 5. Two or three hours could have been cut out of this book and it would have only improved it. The quest had none of the drive or quick pace of the first book.

Reviewed on December 22, 2014

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