Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Book Review - R. L. LaFevers' Flight of the Phoenix

Flight of the Phoenix: Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist Book 1 by R. L. LaFevers
Published by: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: September 16th, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 144 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Nathaniel Fludd's parents have disappeared. Presumed dead, his parents' lawyer summon him and Miss Lumpton to his office. A tidy sum makes Miss Lumpton disappear as well. Nathaniel is then shuffled off to a relative, a Phil A. Fludd, he's never heard of in Batting-At-The-Flies. The precocious youngster with a penchant for drawing and a feeling of being unwanted and left behind arrives at his destination with a heart full of trepidation. What he finds is beyond his wildest dreams...Phil is actually a she and a Beastologist too boot! Whatever a Beastologist is...but it might have something to do with the fact Cornelius, her pet, happens to be a talking Dodo. Aunt Phil says come morning she's off to do her Beastological work so Nate should get to bed nice and early. Nate shuffles off to bed knowing that he'll be left behind again, but this time with a crotchety Dodo and Miss Lumpton's suitcase full of letters and underwear...leave it to Nate to get the wrong suitcase. But come morning he realizes that he is to go with Aunt Phil, which fills him equally with joy and dread.

They hope aboard her little plane and off they go to Arabia, to see the birth of a Phoenix, the first in 500 years! Along the way Nate learns that his family is world renowned for being great adventurers, from map makers to Beastologists, they are without equal. The exploration bug bit the family hundreds of years ago when Sir Mungo Fludd had eight sons he sent to seek out every corner of the globe. Seven sons returned to Sir Mungo and the great family tome, The Geographica, A Map of the World was completed. The final son? They speak not of him...But Phil is worried that Nate was left behind, he should have started his training years ago...coupled with the fact that his parents never wrote (unheard of in a Fludd) and the fact that the book was lost with them is all very suspicious...But there are more immediate concerns. A gremlin is in the plane's gearbox and once they get to Arabia the Bedouin's take umbrage to Phil's presence and take her off to their camp, leaving Nate and his new friend, the Gremlin Greasle to rebirth this Phoenix and then free Aunt Phil, all without being discovered. And if that isn't enough, could the letters in Miss Lumpton's suitcase be the missing Fludd correspondence? And who was that mysterious red head who tried to steal the Fludd Book of Beasts? Could he be a descendant of the eighth son bent on revenge?

I picked up this book because I just adore R. L. LaFevers' Theodosia books. Nathaniel Fludd has a similar air of adventure and exploration akin to The Young Indiana Jones that is prevalent with Theodosia. But whereas Theodosia has the feel of the British Empire and a more Victorian Egypt obsessed society, you really feel the march of progress and the setting of this book being right after The Great War. It's an interesting clash of old and new. How the old ways of cartographers and explorers is giving way to the age of flight and steel and oil. But for this brief period both magic and technology exist side by side. I personally am in love with this trend in young adult and children's fiction wherein we have this distinct time period, be in World War I or Victorian times and then a little bit of magic is overlaid. Just addictive! I felt though this book was too short. Being written for younger readers this is a fairly short and quick read, so for those adult readers out there you will be desperate for the next volume. With all the foreshadowing and unanswered questions, you think you might know what will happen next, but you really need Robin to write it out for us. I really feel this is a great start to a cute new series, which I know I won't love as much as Theo...but it engenders the same feelings!

I also have to just say how beautifully this book is made. R. L. LaFevers must have one hell of a following (me among them) that Houghton Mifflin is willing to go the extra mile to make these books so...I don't really know how to say this...but you just want to admire them for hours and love how they look on your bookshelves. The Theodosia books have amazing cover and interior art, but couple that with the antique map of London under the dustjacket and the slightly deckled edging...heirloom books here. Nathaniel Fludd isn't an exception. The dustjacket is wonderfully done. That feel off an olde tyme journal with the pencil and the feather. But it's the drawing of the belt clasp that makes it just that extra bit special. The endpapers are a magnificent map of the journey in the book with the dotted line, just like Indiana Jones. At first the interior drawing style seemed a bit cartoonish, when compared with the finish of the cover, but I grew to like it. It's as if this were Nathaniel's own sketchbook. Kelly Murphy did a wonderful job and made me stop comparing her to Yoko Tanaka in the end.


Sounds like a great read! I love adventure books..

I love the cover! My son and I might enjoy this book.

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