Thursday, April 10, 2008

Obert Skye

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo
by Obert Skye
Recommended Age: 12+

Leven is an orphan with shaggy, dark hair and bad eyesight. He has spent all of his miserable young life being raised by a couple who would rather not have him around – his mother’s half-sister and her worthless husband. He doesn’t even know that he has magical powers, or that a dark lord from a magical world wants to destroy him in a very personal way. Does this sound familiar?

Well, it shouldn’t. It’s brand new! Leven’s bedroom isn’t a cupboard under the stairs (I don’t know why you thought it would be), but a screened-in porch off the back of the single-wide trailer he shares with Terry and Addy Chalk of Burnt Culvert, Oklahoma. He doesn’t wear glasses (though he should), and his identifying mark isn’t a scar but a shock of white hair on one side of his head. And the magical world he belongs to isn’t in reality, but in another realm created to give the hopes and dreams of mankind a place to live – a realm called Foo.

Somehow, a portal has been opened between reality and Foo, and for some reason, only Leven Thumps can close it. Close it he must, before a totally wicked (and I don’t mean that in the fun way) being called Sabine finds it, and uses it to conquer and rule both worlds with his hourde of sinister shadows. If that happens, Foo will collapse, people will be unable to dream, and the world will end in despair. So letting that happen would be a pretty bad idea.

The problem is, Leven doesn’t believe in himself. Even with a cute furry friend named Clover, a runaway girl named Winter whose special powers make her name very appropriate, and a walking, talking toothpick named Geth, it isn’t easy to keep Leven awake. Every time he sleeps, Sabine’s shadows find him and make him believe that he’s worthless. And when he awakes, some hideous creature always seems to be chasing him. So, bottom line: Leven’s friends have to keep him awake, and running faster than the hideous creatures, until they reach the gate and can destroy it.

They have five days to do it.

And by the way, the gate is in Germany. A looooooooong walk from Oklahoma.

Do they make it? Well, let’s see – there’s a sequel coming out, so one would hope the world doesn’t end in this book. How do they make it? Well, that would be telling. But think of all the things a boy can do when he has the ability to see what’s about to happen, and change it...when his best friend has the ability to turn things into ice at the speed of thought...and when he’s too tired, running too fast, and under too much pressure to really think about what’s happening.

Even so, he’s up against an extremely resourceful enemy. It’s amazing how he survives...yet even when Leven finally gets to shut his eyes and rest, it isn’t the end. The adventure is only beginning. It continues in Leven Thumps and the Whispered Secret.

P.S. Get a load of the author’s biographical blurb at the end of this book. It seems that Obert Skye comes from the same school as Lemony Snicket and N. E. Bode.

Leven Thumps and the Whispered Secret
by Obert Skye
Recommended Age: Age: 12+

This second Leven Thumps adventure finds our young hero stuck in Foo, the world where dreams become reality. The gateway back to the real world has been closed (preventing the bad guys from merging the two worlds into one and thereby destroying both). But, in not-so-good news, Leven and his friends are vulnerable to being killed because they forced their way into Foo, rather than being brought there by fate. So fate, for them, could become very perilous.

It is especially perilous once the remaining bad guys hear the news that Leven and friends can be killed. On the run with his faithful sycophant Clover, his friend Winter, and a great king named Geth who is currently in a very vulnerable state (i.e., the form of a toothpick), Leven is faced with an unending succession of strange and deadly adversaries, from small monkeylike creatures that bury people alive to a colony of insects with a hive mind that means to use Leven's corpse to fertilize a tree. At the top of the villanious pecking order is a rant named Jamoon, who has an army of terrible minions and a machine that can remove a person's magical gift.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, a really nice guy named Tim is trying to find out what became of Winter... and an up-and-coming psychopath named Dennis joins forces with a vicious, talking toothpick and the leftover residue of the previous book's villain, Sabine... and fate, for whatever reason, brings the two men together on the German lake that once concealed the gateway to Foo. There is something ominous about the meeting of these men, one good and the other evil, and what it will mean for the third book in the series: Leven Thumps and the Eyes of the Want.

While I'm waiting for the third book to come out in paperback, I will also be looking for a clever-looking companion volume to this series: Professor's Winsnicker's Book of Proper Etiquette for Well-Mannered Sycophants. This seems to be a school book kept by dear Clover, whose antics (especially connected with candy) always brighten Leven's otherwise spooky and dangerous adventures. Perhaps this companion book will enlighten us about some of the mysteries surrounding sycophants...but I doubt it. One of the chapters is supposedly called "Keeping Secrets and Avoiding Epiphanies." Clearly there are some truths that just don't want to be known!

EDIT: Wikipedia has very little on Skye, and what is has is not very kind. I take issue with the claim that his work is a "little more than a Harry Potter knockoff." Its originality is precisely what is captivating about this series; what it owes to Harry Potter is a market full of eager readers ready to devour volumes of young-adult fantasy-adventure. By the way, a new book by Skye, titled Pillage, is due to come out in July.

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