Tuesday, July 10, 2007

“The Cobra King of Kathmandu” book review

The “Children of the Lamp” series, written by P.B. Kerr, finds itself in line with a long list of well known children’s books. In fact, it’s making its way to the top, right behind Harry Potter. I started reading the series when the first book, “Akhenaten Adventure,” came out. Ever since, I’ve been watching book stores for the following books. I’ve just finished reading the third in the series, “Cobra King of Kathmandu,” and a fourth is scheduled to come out in September. I’ll make a few short predictions for the fourth book later. The series follows the Potter books in more than one way. It’s magical, it’s creative, and it’s a good series for both children and adults. The plots get better in each book. Before I get on with my short review of the third book, here’s a review of the plots in each book, in case you haven’t read them. I copied them out of the description on the books.

Book 1:
A one armed chauffer? Plus two djinn? Plus three wishes? Qwertuiop! What does it all add up to? An amazing adventure, for sure (and that’s not counting the Rottweilers. Alan and Neil, who are not exactly the pets they seem to be. Meet John and Philippa Gaunt, twelve-year old twins who one day discover themselves to be descended from a long line of djinn. All of a sudden, they have the power to grant wishes, travel to extraordinary places (and not necessarily on public transportation), and make people and objects disappear. Luckily (and luck does have something to do with it), the twins are introduced to their eccentric djinn-uncle Nimrod, who will teach them how to harness their newly found power. And not a moment too soon! Because John and Philippa are about to embark on a search to locate a monstrous looking (but supposed to be dead) pharaoh named Akhenaten, and his tomb, which may be holding seventy lost djinn. Will the twins be strong and skilled and clever enough to outwit Ilbis, the most evil djinn in the universe and live to see another say – another city – another adventure?

Book 2:
John and Philippa Gaunt, twelve year old twins who recently discovered themselves to be descended from a long line of djinn (which are commonly called genies) and who are now in possession of great magical powers, have only just returned from their adventures battling an evil djinn in Cairo and London. Now the mystery surrounding a powerful book of djinn magic lures the twins straight into their next extraordinary adventure. When the Solomon Grimoire is reported missing, John and Philippa are called upon to retrieve it. They travel across the globe, from New York to Istanbul, but, little do they know, a trap has been set and the djinn twins are about to walk right into it. Soon, John must embark on an epic journey to save his sister… before it’s too late.

Book 3:
Break-ins, a mysterious talisman, murder… too many bizarre events that just don’t add up. In the third book of the bestselling Children of the Lamp Series, the djinn twins, John and Philippa Gaunt, are on the trail of another magical mystery. As they travel from New York to London to Nepal to India on a whirlwind adventure, the twins try to help their friend and fellow djinn Dybbuk find out who murdered his best friend, using the venomous snakebite of the king cobra. All too soon, John and Philippa find themselves caught up in the lethal world of the cult of the Nine Cobras, only to discover that they themselves are a target of the creepy cobra cult. Now, the twins must find the invaluable Cobra King talisman, and stop the cobra leader’s deadly plan!

“The Cobra King of Kathmandu”

Rating: four out of five stars

Analysis: Out of the three books released so far, the third is by far the best. While the plots in the first two are entertaining and well written, the third book’s plot comes in as the most big screen worthy. Actually, following the example of the hit “Harry Potter” movies and other films based on children’s books, Dreamworks studios plans to make a movie based on the first book. The first and second book come together in the third book. Cliffhangers from the second book and enemies from the first book come back and new enemies are raised. “Cobra” starts out slower than the first two books and takes longer to capture your attention, but once you are deep into the book you can’t put it down. All the characters are separated and each holds a piece of the mystery. You don’t know the solution to the mystery until everything comes together in an unpredictable way. The book opens with a prologue taking place long before the first book. The opening seems pointless and irrelevant to the rest of the book. At the end of the book the opening prologue makes sense. New cliffhangers are created, as well. Kerr makes it obvious what forthcoming plots might include, but there’s no way to predict how they will unfold. Ilbis, the villain in the first book who is present in the background of the third book, has yet to get his chance at revenge against the twins. We are also introduced to the character of Faustina, the sister of Dybbuk, a friend of the twins. She has been missing for years and there is a chance that someone will find her in a future book. The twin’s mother leaves them to take on the ultimate djinn job in the third book. Kerr implies that Faustina could take her place. We also learn that Ilbis is Dybbuk’s father, so there is potential conflict there. Whatever happens, we can expect great things from this series.

Christian Content: Reference to stories from the Bible appear here and there in the books. Raised a Baptist, Kerr does have a Christian background, although he professes to believe in no particular religion. The djinn element in general plays more on the Islamic side of things, although even there it is not completely in tune with Muslim beliefs. Angels are also present in the third book to reward those who help them. Still, the series contains the classic battles of good versus evil, which I expect will show itself even more in future installments. Kerr’s books are no worse than stories of Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. As long as you don’t take the non-Christian elements as truth they make a good read.

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