Reviews for Bran Hambric: The Specter Key

School Library Journal Reviews 2011 April

Gr 6-9--In Kaleb Nation's sequel (2010) to Bran Hambric: The Fairfield Curse (2009, both Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), Bran battles to save his friend, Astara, who has be snatched into the world of Specters. On the way, he meets people from his past and struggles to come to grips with his parents' identities. Like the first book, this one starts slowly as the author establishes the main conflicts and relationships of the story. The interaction between characters is complex, and their relationships with each other are not always clear. It is difficult to tell if Bran's attitude toward his foster family is affectionate or loathing or if his relationship with Astara is platonic or romantic. The pace picks up about halfway through the book, and Bran is hurled from one harrowing crisis to the next at dizzying speed. Nation creates a sparkling array of unusual settings and creatures that will appeal to fantasy aficionados. However, his tendency toward overstatement makes the narrative and dialogue come across as melodramatic, especially in the action sequences. Marc Thompson's vocal virtuosity makes up for some of the weaknesses in the writing. He gives each character a unique voice and portrays a full range of emotions for each of them, making it sound like a full-cast performance.--Donna Cardon, Provo City Library , UT

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