Monday, June 30, 2008

Children’s Books: The Equen Queen by Alyssa Brugman

With The Equen Queen, the second in the Quentaris spinoff series, Alyssa Brugman, best known for mainstream teen fiction, enters the children’s fantasy genre.

The city of Quentaris has been in flight for a while now, since being ripped from its home planet and sent spinning into the vortex. It’s in orbit around a new world and it’s not alone. In fact, sky cities are not especially unusual -- there is even an etiquette about greeting them.

Tab Vidler, heroine of the new series, has found her powers of mental communication disappearing, although they return during the course of the novel. But for the time being, she has no way of guessing what are the intentions of the other sky city. The people seem to be friendly enough, and willing to trade useful stuff in return for being taught children’s games. They also throw in thousands of “mood stones” they claim to have traded from another sky city, which they haven’t found much use, but which are pretty. Obviously, these are going to become significant. They also hand over a couple of “equen,” creatures from the planet below which look more or less like horses, but might have healing abilities.

Tab and her friends have adventures, find out the true intentions of the other city, try to handle a newly-hatched dragon which is very hungry, have trouble with those mood stones and find out the truth about the equen before the end of the book. It’s amazing how much happens in the course of a short 163 pages!

Jeremy Maitlnd-Smith’s lush cover and insert and Louise Prout’s delicate illustrations add considerably to the novel, though I can’t agree with her portrayal of Storm, head of the City Watch. Storm is supposed to be a policewoman and fighter, but is drawn with a Greek-style gown and high-piled hair. I always imagined her more as Xena, which the original description of her suggested. Oh, well. The rest of the illustrations are great, especially the dragon.

The original Quentaris novels were centred around a sort of junior Ankh-Morpork, with new characters in each book. For the new series, think Space: 1999 or Star Trek: Voyager. The city is going to arrive at a new world each time. There may be new characters, but since the city is flying through space, there won’t be too much room for anyone not already there, so the focus has been narrowed.

It will be interesting to see how the series proceeds.

Meanwhile, it’s well worth adding this new series to the old.

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