Saturday, 18 November 2006

Quest for the Sun, V.M. Jones, Dusky Moana and the Shrine of the Shark, Stu Duval, 2005

QUEST FOR THE SUN: Book 4 The Karazan Quartet V.M. Jones, HarperCollins, Auckland, New Zealand, 2005, 272 pages, paperback, NZ$16.99
ISBN 1-86950-480-1

DUSKY MOANA AND THE SHRINE OF THE SHARK Stu Duval, Reed, Auckland, New Zealand, 2005, 197 pages, paperback, NZ$16.99
ISBN 0-349-11850-7

One series ends and another begins. Vicky Jones is smarter than J.K. Rowling. This talented Christchurch writer has produced her jaunty Karazan saga at six-monthly intervals, which is a gruelling pace for her, but ensures that the final volume now appears while her original readers are still interested. (Harry Potter’s original fans may have to fight their grandchildren for the long-awaited final adventure of the bespectacled one.)

Quest for the Sun is a vigorous adventure that moves at the pace of a computer game, with dramatic challenges in every chapter. Some of these are logic puzzles or word games, which adds to the fun. Adam’s first-person narration keeps his young readers firmly absorbed in his quest to overthrow King Karazeel the usurper, the man who murdered his father. Without giving away any important plot details and spoiling the series for new readers, Quest for the Sun begins only moments after the dramatic ending of Volume Three revealed the true identity of Zephyr, Prince of the Wind. Now Adam finds that the future, not only of Karazan but also of Earth, is threatened. To add to the tension, there seems to be a traitor within the household of Quentin Quested, the computer genius who made Adam’s quest possible.

Adam’s only help comes from his loyal friends, Gen, Kenta, Richard and Jamie, although the irritating Weevil continues to reveal hidden depths. Fast-paced adventures take the group through the perils of sea, mountains, wildlands, prison and a circus of gladiators, enabling them all to discover hidden talents. Rich echoes from Arthurian legend bring this well-sustained series to a completely satisfying ending.

If Vicky Jones writes classic fantasy, Stu Duval’s work can only be called comic-action-fantasy. His readers are too young to have seen the old cinema matinee serials that inspired him, although the words Jones and Indiana may ring bells. Napier is the unlikely base for Dusky Moana, the two-fisted, croc-scarred, nature photographer who faces wild adventures on every assignment.

Flying from Fiji in a restored Zero fighter, piloted by Rusty Flaps, Dusky follows a marooned sailor’s message-in-a-bottle to the Taboo Archipelego “shrouded in mystery, and alarming tales of disaster, piracy and even cannibalism.” On Sharkalu Island he meets pirate cannibals, the “White Ghosts of Taboo”, the offspring of privateers and man-eating worshippers of the Great Shark God. They all speak an 18th Century pirate dialect. “I be here, Razor Tooth,” says one, “What be your command?

Before the Sharkalu arrive in their feared black canoes, Dusky encounters a company of Japanese troops, unaware of the war’s end a decade earlier and still guarding their Emperor’s gold reserves. This is a rich mixture, but the events which follow are surprisingly pedestrian. Duval seems to have spent too much time making up names for his people (including Sir Fitzroy Fudge, Colonel Wasabi, Lord Bucks Galore, Wezel Fez and Perthella Onion), instead of giving them something to do. If Duval manages to get more interplay among his bouncy characters, there will be many more adventures for Dusky Moana.

Trevor Agnew

First published in The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand on June 18th 2005

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