Sunday, August 29, 2010
Book #22: The Star of Kazan
Hello, all. It's me, Slacker Central, with my first book review in a month! Working mighty hard toward that 40 book goal, aren't I?
No, seriously. Sorry about my disappearance. I had this whole job search/wedding planning thing going on. I started this book a month ago, read half of it in a couple days, put it down for weeks, and then finished the rest of it in two days. Weird how that works.
So, The Star of Kazan is a young adult book by Eva Ibbotson about a young girl named Annika who was found as an infant by a couple of servant women. The two women, Ellie and Sigrid, convince their masters (three haughty professors) to let them raise the child as their own and teach her to cook, clean, and run the household. She grows up happy and industrious in Vienna, but one day her entire world is turned upside down when her birth mother comes to retrieve her and take her to a land known as Spittal.
As it turns out, her mother is Austrian nobility, a 'von Tannenburg,' and Annika suddenly goes from being raised as a servant child to living the life of an aristocrat. She doesn't adjust too terribly well to her new lifestyle, and she misses her family and friends. Not long after Annika is taken to Spittal, an old family friend back in Vienna passes away and leaves Annika a worthless trunk of keepsakes. Everything isn't exactly what it seems when it comes to the unexpected inheritance, and Annika has a lot of unanswered questions about her past and her future.
I liked this book a lot, but it has one big, fat problem: pacing. It starts out really slow and stays really slow until, I would say, more than half-way into the book. At 405 pages, it's pretty hefty for a young adult book (although it does have a few illustrations thrown in here and there). To go that far without really picking up the pace of the plot is a good way to make your readers put the book down for, oh, say... three weeks. Which is exactly what I did. It just seemed like a lot of backstory. In hindsight I understand that it was necessary backstory, but there had to have been a better way to execute it.
The last 1/3rd of the book is totally worth it, though. I read it in a few hours and didn't want to put it down. The end made this book great. Also, the characters in the book are all likable, even the ones you eventually learn that you shouldn't like so much. I think Ibbotson does a fantastic job of keeping you guessing as to who should and shouldn't be trusted. As a more mature reader, you obviously pick up on a bit more than a 10- or 11-year-old might, but keeping the intended audience in mind, the character development is impressive.
I would recommend this book, especially to an older elementary school kid, but I think most adults would enjoy it, too. You've been warned, though -- it's tough to stick with it through those first 250 pages.
Read from July 27, 2010 to August 29, 2010