Book: Alliance (The Paladin Prophecy, Book 2)
Author: Mark Frost
Age Range: 12 and up
Alliance is the sequel to Mark Frost's The Paladin Prophecy. (This review may contain spoilers for the first book.) Alliance picks up a few months after the events of the first book, and again features Will, the genetically enhanced center of a group of five students at a special private school. Will is recovering from the physical and emotional traumas of the fall. As summer approaches, he again tries to understand how he fits in to a battle between good and evil. An encounter with someone who helped the teens in the first book sends them on a quest deep below ground, to find a special key. The plot involves physical confrontations, as well as historical investigations into the past, and personal quests to understand each student's special abilities.
It took me a long time to get through this book. To be fair, I was reading it during a busy time. But every time I would try to read it at night, I would fall asleep after just a couple of pages. I kept going because I was interested in the characters, but I eventually had to find time to finish it during the day. I felt that if the pacing had been a bit tighter, Alliance would have worked better for me. There was one section in particular, where the kids are planning a detailed campaign to gain access to a guarded location, that really dragged for me. I also felt like some of the characterization was a bit over-telegraphed, particularly Nick not being very bright and Ajay being absurdedly geeky.
But there are still things that I like about the book. As in The Paladin Prophecy, I love the way Will is guided by sayings that he learned from his absent father. Like:
"#24: YOU CAN'T CHANGE ANYTHING IF YOU CAN'T CHANGE YOUR MIND"
"IF YOU DON'T WANT PEOPLE TO NOTICE YOU, ACT LIKE YOU BELONG THERE AND LOOK BUSY."
An appendix lists all 100 pieces of apt advice.
There are also cool settings, including a castle-like building, and hidden tunnels and caves. There are neat gadgets. The kids have interesting abilities, and their interactions are reasonably realistic. They use their brains, and work to solve complex puzzles from sparse clues. Kids who enjoy adventures with a supernatural bent (like Rick Riordan's books, for instance) will most likely enjoy this one, too.
I could on principle do without Will being the love interest of both of the two girls in the group. But in truth, neither of the other two boys would work in that context. As far as content goes on the love interest side, there's a very small amount of kissing - nothing objectionable for younger kids.
Bottom line: Alliance didn't really work for me, but I'd definitely still purchase it if I were shopping for a middle school or high school library. And I won't be surprised if the series ends up in the movie theaters one day. There will certainly be at least one more book, as this one ends on a cliffhanger.
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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