Monday, December 12, 2016

The Lighthouse War

The Lighthouse War
by Adrian McKinty
Recommended Ages: 13+

In a previous adventure, New York-born teen Jamie O'Neill and his mother moved to a small island off the coast of Northern Ireland - population: themselves - where the silent, one-armed boy and his funny, brainy friend Ramsay MacDonald made an amazing discovery. Using a family heirloom called the Salmon of Knowledge - really, an artifact of an ancient race not of Earth - they fell through a wormhole to the distant planet of Altair. There Jamie got back his arm (temporarily) and his voice (for good), helped save an alien civilization from an invading horde, and fell in love with a delicate yet tough beauty named Wishaway. Then he had to come home to save his mom, but thanks to a used-up battery, the Salmon wouldn't take him back to Altair.

I don't usually give that much background before getting down to what a book is about, but in this case, the reminder is useful. Although I'd had this sequel in my collection since very soon after I read Jamie's first adventure, I let enough years pass before reading it that I had forgotten almost everything about it except the lingering impression of a superbly designed dust jacket. Someone who saw me reading it at a chorus rehearsal asked me to let him have the book after I was done with it, simply because he liked the cover art. That was ages ago. Without the first book to consult, I found my way back into the world of Jamie's adventures with no difficulty. This book filled in all the gaps in my memory, just when they needed to be filled, without any awkward sense of time being wasted on a review of things past (like, say, in the first paragraph of this review). That's a tough balance to hit.

Another thing this book brought back to me was the enjoyment of crisp dialogue between interesting characters. The dialogue carries the reader over the threshold of willingly suspending disbelief while two-thirds of a rock band, fresh back from a miserable showing at a Belfast-Has-Talent audition, recover their spirits by replenishing the Salmon's power supply. They only black out half of Ulster in the process. Then Ramsay, his much older half-brother Brian, Jamie, and Jamie's mother Anna take a quick peek at Altair, just for fun. The fun turns into trouble when Brian and Anna are captured by the Witch Queen of Alkhava, while Ramsay and Jamie end up facing her brother, the bitter and scarred Lord Protector Ksar, in a battle against their friends.

Jamie finds out Wishaway waited exactly a year for him to return, and only a few days have passed since she accepted the marriage proposal of young Prince Lorca of the Oralands. As if to sharpen his heartache, they return to her city after Ksar escapes, only to receive an ultimatum from Alkhava, demanding the Salmon in exchange for Brian and Anna. The Witch Queen wants to lead her people to Earth, to escape the increasingly hostile climate of their dying planet. Ksar just wants to avenge his personal injuries on Jamie and Ramsay, who bested him a year ago.

With Wishaway's people refusing to help, Jamie accepts an offer of help from Lorca's royal grandfather - who, however, has his own designs on the Salmon, and is willing to murder Jamie to get it. Before this becomes an issue, however, the friends must face their enemy at the gates of the Witch Queen's capital city. Their survival, not to mention the fate of worlds, soon depends on a small group fighting for survival in a harsh wilderness, with enemies at their heels and weird, alien mysteries ahead. Romantic tension, betrayal, deadly battle, and a wild ride in a machine not built for human passengers fill the climactic pages of this book. And though its conclusion is very satisfying, it does leave certain questions wide open for another sequel.

This is the second book of the Lighthouse trilogy, between The Lighthouse Land and The Lighthouse Keepers. Adrian McKinty is a native of Northern Ireland who lived several years in the U.S., and currently resides in Australia. Most of his fiction comprises crime novels for adults, and is often based on his native country's period known as the Troubles. Their titles include Dead I Well May Be, Police at the Station And They Don't Look Friendly, and Orange Rhymes With Everything.

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