I immediately followed up on reading Terry Deary's The Fire Thief by picking up the second book in the series: Flight of the Fire Thief. In this installment, Prometheus is still searching through time and space for a hero (if he finds a human hero, Zeus will free him from being killed by the Avenger). Because of his discoveries in the previous book, he makes his way back to Eden City, arriving 60 years or so ahead of the earlier book (1795).
Our narrator this time is young Helen, child of a con artist, the illustrious Dr. Dee and his amazing Carnival of Danger. Dr. Dee flies a balloon (a daring act at the time), and is ringmaster for various acts undertaken by Helen (also called Nell), such as tightrope walking and being fired out of a cannon. Helen tells her story, while in parallel relating the tribulations of Prometheus, and the story of Zeus's intervention in the 4000-year-old Battle of Troy. The modern-day story also includes a kidnapped princess, a daring rescue, a giant Greek monster with 50 heads, and cameos by Achilles and Paris, visiting from the underworld.
Like its predecessor, Flight of the Fire Thief features a snarky narrator, and a variety of asides to the reader delivered as footnotes. Helen is a bit more self-confident than Jim, and her comments often point to her own beauty (get it, her name is Helen, and she frequently points out her own beauty...). She frequently challenges the reader to figure out what's happening. For example:
"Remember where you left me? Fired from a cannon up into the air. Shooting towards the waiting arms of my father. But did he catch me? "He must have," you say. "Otherwise you wouldn't be here telling us this story now," you say. If you say that, then you are not quite as witless as you look. But you have to remember that I wasn't safe yet—I did tell you that there were TWO things that Pa forgot to do. Maybe you haven't figured out what the two things were? I suppose you want me to tell you? Oh, all right..." (Chapter 12)
There's a funny ongoing bit in the mythological part of the narrative, by which Helen's beauty ebbs as the siege of Troy is prolonged, until by the end of the book she has a face that could launch 100 ships. The marital bickering of Zeus and Hera also continues, as does their decidedly high-handed behavior regarding humans.
I thought that this story was wrapped together more tightly than the first book (with several parallels between the siege of Troy and the situation in Eden City), though I also found it a bit less amusing. I think that Helen and Dr. Dee simply aren't as funny as Jim and Uncle Edward. Perhaps I read the book too soon after finishing the first one. But I still found the story engaging, with a nice mix of humor, darkness (baby farms, deaths in the battle of Troy, a visit to the Underworld), and mythological education.
The ending (no I'm not going to give it away) leaves the reader puzzling over a mystery, and Prometheus once again fleeing from the Avenger. I'm curious to read Book 3 in the trilogy, to find out how it all turns out. I think that this book will appeal to young aficionados of Greek mythology, and that the tone and writing style will also lure in both reluctant readers and Lemony Snicket fans.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.