Reviews for Bran Hambric : The Farfield Curse
Booklist Reviews 2009 November #1
There's much that 14-year-old Bran Hambric can't explain about his life, beginning with why he has no memories that date before he was found in a bank vault at age six. Although he lives with the Wilomas family in Dunce, where magic is forbidden, Bran discovers that he possesses magical abilities, and with the help of an underground magical community, he begins to learn about his past, including difficult truths about his real family, as well as a dastardly plan that threatens himself and many others he cares for. Incorporating magic, mystery, suspense, and some violence, this hefty novel is virtually impossible to read without conjuring up Harry Potter, from the outsider protagonist who finds powers and faces hard choices to the self-centered Wilomas and Voldemort-like villain. Although the pace picks up after an initial slow start, the prose is sometimes dense, and the side stories (an oppressed gnome's plight, adult characters' experiences) add intricacy but are occasionally distracting. Nonetheless, the abundant magical elements, unexpected plot turns, and light humor will likely attract H. P. readers. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.
BookPage Reviews 2009 October
Unlocking the secrets of a magical crime
Bran Hambric has a crummy home life. His foster parents, Sewey and Mabel Wilomas, make Bran sleep in the attic and do chores around the house; they won’t even add his name to their “Wilomas Family” sign.
But Bran is no ordinary orphan. When he was six years old, Sewey mysteriously found him in a locked bank vault. Nobody knows how Bran got there, and Bran has no memories before the vault. Because mages and gnomes are strictly outlawed in the city of Dunce, Bran would never imagine himself part of a magical plot, until he involuntarily performs magic at the Duncelander Fair, and allies and foes suddenly appear from an underground magical network. Bran quickly learns that his dead mother was a mage who created a terrible curse, and only he holds the key to the curse’s completion.
As readers devour Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, the experience may feel like a rolling snowball. The momentum of the plot builds as the pages turn, and we only discover the truth of Bran’s background in the book’s final chapters.
It is impossible to read about Bran Hambric without thinking of a certain lightning bolt-branded wizard who came before him. Both Bran and Harry Potter live with unpleasant foster families and discover their unusual abilities late in life. Bran is not a wannabe Harry Potter, though; rather, his story is a delightfully different take on a magical population.
Younger readers will enjoy this story because of the general silliness of its characters. Most memorable is Sewey Wilomas, a “Schweezer”-driving wacko who refuses to pay his bills. Older readers may take away lessons from the book’s themes: the difficulty of making big choices, the nonsense behind discrimination and the deep thinking involved in navigating right from wrong.
Aspiring young writers will find a role model in Kaleb Nation, the precocious 20-year-old who spent his teenage years writing Bran Hambric (among other pursuits). At kalebnation.com, readers can listen to music composed by this talented author and watch self-produced videos documenting his journey to publishing success.
Eliza Borné writes from Nashville. Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Spring
In this book, written while the author was a teen, fourteen-year-old Bran learns he carries within him the soul of the mage responsible for his mother's death. A sluggish plot (too much time is spent on Bran's hyperbolic, Dursley-esque guardians) and shallow characterizations combine with startling violence. Harry Potter fans suffering from withdrawal may enjoy parts of the story. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2009 August #1
Yet another journeyman fantasy composed by a teenage author. Wavering back and forth between labored farce and conventional bildungsroman, Nation's debut casts 14-year-old Bran as a parentless lad ignorant of his vast magical gifts being raised by the Dursleys--er, a caricatured unmagical family--who treat him like a servant. Having been attacked by a crazed stranger, followed by a mysterious black van and led to a hidden library of magic textbooks, Bran comes to realize that all is not as it seems in the magic-hating town of Dunce. As it turns out, he is a horcrux--er, repository--for the spirit of Voldemort--er, Baslyn--an incompletely dead dark magician. Though still an amateur wordsmith ("His teeth were tightened together, feeling angry and betrayed…") the author tucks in promisingly clever touches (magical power is measured in "witts," and weak mages are dubbed "dimwitts") and has a knack for crafting violent, quickly paced chases and fights. He doesn't lack for ambition either, with a soundtrack already composed and notes for five sequels in the hopper. That ambition outstrips his skill; look for better work down the line. (Fantasy. 11-13) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2009 November/December
An amusing, action-packed fantasy, Bran Hambric welcomes the middle-grade reader into another world filled with magic, mystery, and lots of good-humored fun. When he was six years old Bran was found inside a locked bank vault in the city of Dunce, where magic is illegal. Growing up with the banker?s preposterous family, Bran has no memory of his past, only a scrap of paper with his name. When a burglar comes with a clue to his past, there?s no stopping Bran from finding out the truth. In a climatic ending, where good and evil are reversed, Bran must decide for himself which side he is really on. Although some elements are similar to other books in the genre, debut author Kaleb Nation takes this story in a new direction as Bran discovers his true self. The author?s vibrant word choice takes the reader into this unusual world with plays on names, odd customs and laws, and the imaginative integration of the illegal magical world. Readers will anticipate the revelation of the Farfield Cu se. My 8th grade reviewing partner enjoyed the story, but felt the ending was a bit abrupt; perhaps a sequel? Overall, this is a solid, fast-paced addition to the ever-popular world of children?s fantasy. Recommended. Kristine Wildner, Librarian, Holy Apostles School, New Berlin, Wisconsin ¬ 2009 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 August #2
Newcomer Nation makes his debut with this whimsical addition to the "magical orphan" genre, starring the eponymous Bran Hambric, found at age six inside a locked bank vault in the magic-hating city of Dunce. Raised by the banker who found him, Bran leads a normal life until he's almost 14, at which point a series of events turn his existence upside down. At times quirky, at other times absurd, this story's similarities to Harry Potter (the discovery of magical abilities, the dark overlord opponent who seeks to transcend death, the "normal" but neglectful adoptive family that raises the hero) leave it hovering between entertaining and derivative. The idea of a city that outlaws magic, in a world filled with gnomes and mages, is a concept that's filled with potential. However, it suffers from a cutesy tone (though there are some dark moments) and supporting characters whose roles as comic relief border on parody. While it may appeal to those at the younger end of its target audience, more mature readers are less likely to be drawn into the story. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) [Page 58]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2009 October
Gr 6-9--Bran Hambric is a foundling, left in a bank vault and taken in by Sewey and Mabel Wilomas, who live in the town of Dunce. In an effort to preserve the decency of the community, the town has banned even the mere mention of magic. During a harrowing accident involving a truck at the Duncelander Fair, Bran discovers that he is a mage. He also has to face the difficult truth that his mother was a mage as well as a criminal, in league with an underground group with a rather gruesome plan to overthrow the Mages Council. Bran discovers that people are trying to find him so that they can use him to help finish the job she started. This book is a clear reflection of the influence of the "Harry Potter" books on a new generation of writers. Sadly, the author's attempts at creative language and original ideas come across as silly. Nation creates a contemporary world that is a tool for social satire, but that feels flat and uninteresting. Beyond quirks of dialogue, he gives no real sense of who the characters really are, so it is difficult to have any empathy when they are injured or appear to have died.--Tim Wadham, St. Louis County Library, MO [Page 132]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.