I am going to have the pleasure of interviewing author Kaleb Nation in the near future, so I thought it would be wise to post a review of his books, for those of you who aren’t familiar with his work.
As of now there are two books in the series, Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, and Bran Hambric: The Specter Key. Kaleb started the series in 2003 when he was fourteen years old, and book one was published in 2009. They are fun reads, and I’d recommend them for anyone who wants an adventurous book. WARNING: There are some small spoilers for the series.
Release Date: 9/9/09
When Bran Hambric was six years old, he woke up one morning in a bank vault. With no idea how he got there, and only a slip of paper in his hand with his name on it to tell him who he is, Bran starts a new life with one of the bank employees. The Wilomas family lives in the town of Dunce, the one city in the world where magic is outlawed, mages are feared, and the largest prejudice is against gnomes.
So imagine Bran’s fear when, eight years later, he magically stops a runaway truck from killing his friend. Luckily things aren’t as mage-proof in Dunce as they seem on the surface, and with the help of an underground group of magicians (and one awesome gnome), he begins to realize his powers.
All of this is happening though while he’s searching for the truth about his mother and his life before the Wilomas family. He gets attacked one night by a mysterious and thoroughly creepy monster that happens to mention his mom. Bran discovers he’s being hunted, and once he finds out that it is tied into a curse his mother supposedly participated in creating, his life becomes focused on learning the real truth about his powers, his past, and how they are intricately connected.
This was a fun and easy novel to read. Bran’s journey was an atypical coming of age story, which was a nice change from the standard fare that seems to crop up often in books with characters this age. His unusual beginnings help with that, and the discovery of his own magic in an anti-magic city adds nice tension. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t from time to time remind me of Harry Potter, but Nation is able to add enough unique elements that those thoughts are just a small blip in the radar that is this tale. Some parts moved a little slower than others, but not enough to really drag, and my curiosity about Bran’s past and his mother’s connection to the Farfield curse kept the pages turning. Nation’s language was a bit on the younger side—he did write the book when he was fourteen—so I’d recommend this to a more juvenile audience, probably in the eight to fifteen year-old range. But overall I liked it, enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot, and the interspersing of witty humor that had me chuckling out loud. Definitely a fine introduction into the literary world by this young author.
Release Date: 10/01/10
Author Kaleb Nation seriously ups the ante in the second book in his Bran Hambric series, Bran Hambric: The Specter Key.
While helping Sewey Wilomas clean out the bank vault one day, Bran Hambric and he stumble across an old safe-deposit box with his mother’s name on it. Dusty and long-forgotten, Bran takes it home to try and figure out what it is. Inside is a wooden box, sealed by magic, and though it seemingly can’t be opened, it begins to have an effect on all those around it, including destroying his house one night and killing his best friend.
But Bran doesn’t think Astara is dead. Before the disaster, specters spoke to him through a typewriter, talking about needing to be freed from their prison. Bran believes they are linked to the box and that they took Astara’s soul. So Bran sets off on a journey to discover the truth about what is in the box, all the while racing against an evil mage (the same one that killed his mother, incidentally) who wants the contents of the box for herself.
This book was leaps and bounds above the first one in the series. I enjoyed book one, but I loved book two. I found myself getting lost in Bran’s journey as he ventured to various places, near and far, looking for the truth about the box and its contents, all the while trying to save his friend’s life. Some very interesting characters appear that I wasn’t expecting, and it added an entirely new level of awesome to the plot. Also, I am always a sucker for mazes and labyrinths in stories, the need for the character to get from A to B, the things they encounter there, and the one Nation created for the climax of the book was thoroughly enjoyable. I breezed through this book and before I knew it I had finished. The writing is still not overly-complex, so it is a perfect story for the eight to fifteen age range, but I have a feeling that, if you like action-driven adventure stories you’ll enjoy this, no matter your age. One word of advice though: make sure you read book one first; Nation builds well on top of what he established in the first story, and I fear readers would be lost without it.