Do you have the courage, the wits, and the skill to claim a dragon's hoard? If so, apply within ...
The sign is small, tucked into the corner of Mr. Clutter's bookshop window: "Adventurers Wanted. Apply Within." No one but fifteen-year-old Alex Taylor even seems to notice it is there. And for Alex, who has wished for a change in his life, it is an irresistible invitation.
Upon entering Mr. Clutter's shop, Alex is swept away on an incredible adventure to a faraway land filled with heroic warriors, mysterious elves, and hard-working dwarves.
Alex becomes the eighth man in a band of adventurers seeking the lair of Slathbog the Red - and evil dragon with a legendary treasure. Along the way, Alex and his new friends must battle dangerous trolls and bandits, face undead wraiths, and seek the wisdom of the Oracle in her White Tower.
Alex's adventure takes him to distant and exotic lands where he learns about courage, integrity, honor, and, most importantly, friendship.
Slathbog's Gold is the first book in an exciting new YA epic fantasy series and heralds the arrival of a major new talent in the genre.
In my last post I mentioned a bunch of book bargains that I was interested in. Some of them I've read and some I hadn't, so I decided to check a few of them out. Ever since reading Rachel Hartman's Seraphina, I've been on a bit of a dragon kick. I like middle grade books (like Artemis Fowl, obviously, Fablehaven, and The Last Apprentice series), and despite the YA designation in the description, this is absolutely middle grade. So the obvious conclusion was to read Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog's Gold.
Let's just say it wasn't quite the experience I was hoping for.
On the positive side, this is the adventure everyone dreams of stumbling across. On the negative side, this is the adventure everyone dreams of stumbling across. And therein we find my problem with the book.
Alex, while walking around and moping, sees a magical sign promising escape from his hum-drum life. He is immediately recruited to be part of a company of Adventurers with a capital A, and to defeat an evil dragon. Already seeing parallels to The Hobbit? Yes, and they keep coming throughout the entire book, except instead of a middle-aged hobbit, the main character is a fifteen-year-old boy who is destined to become a great warrior and a wizard, which is almost unheard of. The Oracle sees this, and grants him special audience, favoring him over all the others in his company. He randomly is chosen by an ancient magical sword that makes him an unparalleled fighter. He is named both a friend of the dwarves and elves. He defeats wraiths and trolls all by himself, develops a special bond with his horse, all the while collecting piles and piles (literally) of gold, diamonds, rubies, and other treasure. Oh, and he picks up a mysterious magic ring . . .
Maybe it isn't fair to compare this book to The Hobbit. I mean, how often does a J.R.R. Tolkien come around? But M.L. Forman has to know he was begging for it when he created a quest to slay a dragon set in a magical realm with elves and dwarves.
Don't get me wrong, this is a fun adventure, and just the sort of adventure you might want to read to a six or seven year old. But everything is too easy. There is no accountability for what the characters do. Too sore from riding horses? Here's a magical potion that will cure that right up. About to die? Oh, the elf queen will save you and then call herself your best friend. Don't know how to fight? Don't worry, your sword will do all the work for you.
Everyone lives. Everyone is your friend. No one tries you rob you, though you're carrying a mountain of gold in your magical bag (and I did really like the magical bag thing. See, it is a fun world M.L. Forman created, just lacking in consequences and something resembling reality).
This is the story you dream of as a child: power, riches, respect, and glory, all without paying any sort of price or sacrifice.
After much debate, I would give this book 3 stars, because I do like it for young children. But for anyone out of elementary school, I would skip it and go straight to Tolkien's The Hobbit. It is, I'm afraid, superior in every way.