Pendragon: the Merchant of Death (Book 1 of a series)
by D. J. MacHale
Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002, 374 pages
Worldview: A moral universe with no discernible higher power.
Style: High action.
Review: This tale describes a story taking place on another planet, Denduron. It is mostly told by the protagonist, Bobby Pendragon, a 14-year-old American boy who strangely enough takes the time to write to his best friend Mark and girl friend Courtney, who remain back home, whenever he has the opportunity. The reader reads the letters along with Mark and Courtney.
Bobby is taken to Denduron through a wormhole gateway by his Uncle Press, who embroils him in a conflict between two factions who live there. One of these factions has enslaved the other. Meddlers from other worlds, called Travelers, are both good guys and bad guys. One, the oddly named Saint Dane, is a hugely evil bad guy who is abetting the conflict. Others, including Press and Bobby Pendragon, are trying to stop Saint Dane. Bobby starts off as feeling himself to be very incompetent, and gradually picks up some courage and competence as the story unfolds. He and another young Traveler, Loor, work together to foil Saint Dane. Saint Dane excapes to another planet through a worm hole. We suspect that will be the setting of the next book, with a similar plot: foiling Saint Dane, this time in a different world.
The story has many imaginative aspects as well as interesting characters. However, it fails to move me on several counts. One is the breezy teen-speak that Bobby uses for most of the book. It’s just not that easy to read. Another is the improbability of the plot resolution. Once Saint Dane is removed, the warring factions simply stop their conflict and begin to help each other. This is a feud that’s been going on for longer than Saint Dane was present. So why would removing him completely solve it? It’s not clear to me.
Another irritation was that some plot elements are left dangling, to be resolved in future books I suppose. These are major plot elements having to do with who Bobby is. We are told near the end of the book that the family that raised him is not his real family, and that Uncle Press is not his uncle. Bobby’s family has vanished, so he can’t come back to “second earth” and live a normal life. He is stuck being a Traveler now.
Despite these irritations, I do recommend this book for young readers. The high action is sure to please, and the moral compass of the work is sound.–Phyllis Wheeler
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