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Friday, February 11, 2011

Sherlock Holmes, the Legend Begins: Death Cloud by Andrew Lane, Review + Giveaway!

Why hello there readers!
Happy Friday to each and every one of you.

Today I'll keep the introduction short in the hopes that you will pardon the length of the actual post.  What can I say?  I got started and just couldn't stop.  A really quick note in case you haven't noticed...there are currently FOUR contests being hosted on the site (not including today's) giving you a chance to win everything from a YA paranormal (check out WERELING) to a zombified classic mashup (check out P&P&Z), a look at what happens when a family "unplugs" (look for the DISCONNECT listing) and even a chance to grant a few of your own wish list desires (the GIFT CARD one is for you)....not to mention a chance to take a look at snow from a whole new angle (check the SNOW DAY listing).  They are all open and waiting for you, so the big question...have you entered?  Deadlines start happening next week...don't miss out!

See?  That was short...sorta.  Alright, enough with the intro's and reminders, let's get this review rolling.  Today's featured title is a look at the life and times of one infamous his younger days.  That's know who I mean.  Today's book of choice is....

Sherlock Holmes, the Legend Begins:

Picture it. The market town of Farnham. A street in the higher end of town scattered with passerby’s making their way to and from their chosen destinations. A young boy in search of a scrap of food to stave off the hunger gnawing at his gut steps down an alley and witnesses a curiosity the likes of which he has never seen. A strange black cloud seems to be emanating from a window of a tenant house…and then disappeared up and over the rooftop of the adjoining building. Peculiar activity for a cloud and yet there is no time to ponder this fact as the silence of the morning is pierced by a scream of pure terror. What pray tell has happened to illicit this cry and is it connected to the mysterious cloud apparition? A mystery in the making and as the death toll begins to pile up; the curiosity of one inquisitive young visitor to these parts is piqued. Who is this young soul? The greatest detective in the making, one Sherlock Holmes…at least he will be once he finishes his schooling. The game is afoot! Are you ready?

This was my second journey into Sherlock Holmes’ past and this time, we meet him in his teenage years. The author’s treatment of Sherlock’s actual character falls right in line with the image readers are familiar with around the world….just in his growing stages. You see, life has yet to finish shaping and molding our infamous detective into the man we all know and it is through his formative years that we can revel in the excitement of familiar traits and idiosyncrasies appearing. His love of conjecture that when honed becomes a valuable ally when all obvious explanations have been exhausted. His penchant for violin music eventually becomes a soundtrack of sorts to allow his mind to wander over the minute details of a case. His ability to discern what others can not developing with each and every human interaction. Speaking of which, let’s talk characters…

There are many players of which to take note whether they star in a pivotal role or not, but a few outshine the rest. First and foremost of course we have Sherlock Holmes. Though a mere boy in age, his intellect burns as brightly as a candle in the darkest night…even if he does have a bit of growing up to do still (like learning that jumping to conclusions often leads to unexpected ends as opposed to a bit of research and employed know how). He is far too curious for someone that wishes to go unnoticed but in his chosen (by choice or circumstance) endeavors it more often than not serves him well.

Next in line, we have a few “teachers” (notice the quotes, because they are not your average schoolmarm). Perhaps a most unexpected is one in the bunch is Matty Arnatt. He is a gypsy boy of sorts, though orphan currently, and makes his ends meet by filching what he can when he needs to as well as having the uncanny ability to not only show up just in the nick of time but also to disappear without leaving so much as a foot print in the dust. Really, the way he is written at times I half wondered if he was merely an apparition of young Sherlock’s mind due to loneliness…fear not he is real and has much knowledge to impart to his fellow comrade.

Teacher number two…Mr. Amyus Crowe. His services are employed on behalf of Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, and his uncle, Sherrinford, to handle the young boy’s education while off on holiday. (Summer school…sounds like fun, right? O_o) His skills are great and knowledge vast but they seem a bit unorthodox for your average tutor…a trifle odd but handy beyond measure as the story progresses. Last but not least, we have Virginia Crowe. Beloved daughter of Amyus and potential love interest of Sherlock (no worries it is not a focus of the story in any way, merely a side note now and again), she is unlike any females he has encountered thus far in both manner and style….but this bodes all the better for them both. A future match? Perhaps…but with a mystery afoot, nothing comes before its being solved. *grabs magnifying glass*

We’ve talked “good guys” now let’s take moment to explore the “baddies”. The mystery itself in this story is hard to decipher (which is good), especially when it comes to who or what is behind it all. One is kept guessing as to the very nature of the beast or villain they are dealing with and while I won’t go naming names to spoil your fun, I will say this…be prepared for a few surprises. Just when you think you have it all figured out, the rug may get pulled right out from under you, leaving you to marvel at the cleverness with which the outcome was deployed.

We’ve talked story. We’ve talked characters. Now…let’s talk covers. I am especially glad of the cover change that took place between the creation of the ARC and the final release. Why? Well, it’s not because the young gent on the front embodies the spirit of all that is Sherlockian or anything, though he might as he does look a bit rapscallion with a hint of calculation in his eyes….but no that is not my reason behind the statement. The real reason actually stems from knowing a bit about the author’s previous work, or at the very least what/whom it was about.

The simple byline listed on the back of my ARC makes mention of a book entitled “The Bond Files: An Unofficial Guide to the World’s Greatest Secret Agent”. So, Bond…James Bond. However if one had NOT known this information before hand, the original ARC cover would have given it straight away. My copy had the new cover pasted over the original, but curiosity got the best of me. No, I didn’t take it apart, it’s safe and sound, but I did hold it to the light to see just what was underneath. The image perceived….a young man’s silhouette inside what appears to be an abstract image of an eye or something similar. Can we say…“Bond on the brain”?

Seriously, if you’ve ever seen the opening number to any of the James Bond movies (not a huge fan myself, but I have seen one or two), it’s a dead ringer for it and hence (in my opinion) given the wrong impression of the book at first glance. Don’t believe me? I was so certain of my opinion I did a real life test…on dear old Mom. I held the cover to the light and asked her, what does this remind you of? Her immediate response….James Bond. (Ha, see? Told ya!) As age old as the debate is over whether or not the ARC cover is a better or worse match for a title, in this case I have to say…brava to whoever made the final decision.

To summarize my ever lengthy thoughts (sorry!), a wonderful book for younger teens through adults that love a good mystery with all the danger and adventure one could shake a fist at if they were so inclined. It’s rough and tumble action scenes combined with the quieter serene ponderings make for a journey readers won’t soon forget. This book hit shelves near you just last week, so be on the look out in a store near you. A few quick side notes….this is the toted as the first teen series endorsed by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Ltd, quite an achievement right out the door. Also, you’ll be happy to note this is book one is a forth coming series so keep your eyes open and your wish lists at the ready (according to the publisher’s site, book two will be called Rebel Fire…though I can’t say I’m a big fan of the potential cover art, I am greatly anticipating where this next adventure might take our young friend…).

ARC for review courtesy of Ksenia at Farrar Straus Giroux, part of the MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group. For more information on this book as well as their full catalog, be sure to stop by their website or follow along on Twitter. As for the series, there is a portion of the publisher’s site dedicated to it that includes a nifty trailer as well as other Sherlockian adventures so be sure to check it out. Curious to read an excerpt from the book to see if it’s right for you? LINK! (Just click there…you'll go right to it.)


So…you made it this far…congratulations! Sound the alarm! Alert the media! You survived another long winded review (hey, I know my short comings and am proud of them, thank you very much) by yours truly. Your reward? Thanks to the infinite generosity of the folks at Farrar Straus Giroux, you have a chance to win a copy of the very book you were just reading about! Exciting, isn’t it?

Thought so. Okay…calm down or you won’t be able to complete your entry correctly and then I’ll have to disqualify you and I really do not enjoy doing that so…breathe in…breathe out…breathe in…breathe out. There you go…all better? Good. Now let’s get to the details.

The prize…

(1) copy of Sherlock Holmes, The Legend Begins: Death Cloud by Andrew Lane

How to enter…

Though I’d like to say something uber creative like “I have a mystery for you to solve”…or create a “who-done-it” of sorts, I think I’ll keep things simple this time around.
Simply fill out THIS FORM and you’re done.

Even the extra points will be kept to a minimum.
+2 for “old” followers (as in before this post)
+1 for “new” followers
Sound good?
Right, now on to those often pesky but important rules…

The rules...
*Open to US/Canada mailing addresses only!  No P. O. Boxes please.
* Entries will be accepted from Friday, February 11th, 2011 through Saturday, February 26th, 2011 at midnight CST.  The entries will be tallied and entered into the randomizer, after which a random number will be picked by their number generator.  (This way all the entries are mixed up nicely.)
* All entries must be submitted using the form accessible through this post.  You MUST include your email address in order to be counted as well as contacted should you be chosen as the winner!
*The winner will be announced and contacted via email by Monday, February 28th, 2011 and will have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address.  Should they fail to respond in the given time frame, a new winner will be chosen.  If you choose to include your full name and mailing address in your contest entry, no worries....the time frame issue is erased.
*Winner's name and address will be forwarded to Ksenia at Feiwel and Friends for prize send out only and then discarded.


So what are you waiting for?
You have all the off with you!

Until next time...good luck...and happy reading!


Julie said...

Thanks for the giveaway! I didn't enter my blog address because I'm going to have a new blog soon.

GMR said...

Julie: No worries! Thanks for entering! ^_^

Juju at Tales of said...

Great review! This looks gooood.

Side note: "Picture it..." always makes me think of Sophia's storytelling on Golden Girls. Did you ever watch that show?

PS Thanks for the awesome advice! And for having faith in me :)

Alexia561 said...

Excellent review! It was so entertaining that I didn't realize it was long. :)

Sounds like a great story, so excited for the chance to win a copy! Off to fill out the form...

GMR said...

Juju: It is! It is! As for the side note....yep, that's exactly where I as pulling it from. ^_^
P.S. You're welcome! Happy to help anyway I can.

Alexia561: Aw, you are too kind. ^_^ Thanks for entering!

The1stdaughter said...

Okay, so I completely skimmed your review this time around, but for good reason! I'm in the middle of the book and I don't want to see something I shouldn't. You'll forgive me right? :o) I'm really excited though, from the sounds of it you really enjoyed it. I'll come back once I'm all done!

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