The Land of the Silver Apples (Richard Jackson Books (Atheneum Paperback)) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-11-07 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 52 user ratings

"Did Not Have the Same Spirit as the First Book in This Trilogy.

Published by Simon and Schuster Audio in 2007.
Performed by Gerald Doyle
Duration: 13 hours, 31 minutes.

It is the year 794 and Jack, the 13-year-old Bard-in-training from what is now the United Kingdom is on a new mission. Having recently returned from his adventures with the Vikings and the Frost Giants (detailed in Book #1 of this trilogy, The Sea of Trolls ) Jack's new adventure begins with a mid-winter ceremony led by his teacher, known simply as The Bard.

The ceremony is supposed to symbolize renewal by ridding the village of all fire. Then, the village gathers in one place and creates a new fire and re-ignites everyone's hearth fires from this new fire. The ceremony has few hard and fast rules, but Jack's self-absorbed sister, Lucy, breaks one of them by bringing metal to the ceremony in the form of a beautiful silver necklace that she was given during their trip to the Viking homeland.

Because of this necklace, a change comes over each of the members of Jack's family. Jack develops a cruel streak, his father becomes even more blind to Lucy's self-absorbed nature and starts to exhibit uncharacteristically greedy tendancies. Jack and Lucy's mother, a "wise woman" with a touch of magic power even is affected. So, The Bard leads a group to St. Fillian's well, a monastery that is supposed to use the water from the well to cure possession. The monastery is in a kingdom controlled by a cruel king.

Once they arrive, things go badly right from the beginning. Jack is attacked with magic by an unseen (to everyone but Jack) woman who comes from the waters of the well. Later, she kidnaps Lucy and takes her into the well and the waters of the well dry up despite Jack's best efforts to save her.

As a punishment, Jack is sent down into the well (now a dried up cave entrance) to figure out what the problem is and fix it. The Bard cannot travel with him because it will be too difficult for the old man to traverse the caverns. Jack is accompanied by Pega, a young recently-freed former slave girl that is considered to be hideously ugly but has a hauntingly beautiful singing voice. The last member of their group is Brutus, a man who acts like a fawning slave when in the presence of the king but once he is away from the king he quickly asserts that he is a knight and also the rightful ruler of the kingdom - and also a true descendant of Lancelot!

As they travel through the caverns this party finds one adventure after another, including...

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" said.

"Honestly, while I did like it somewhat, I enjoyed this sequel far less than I enjoyed the first in the trilogy, The Sea of Trolls. The book has all of the flaws of the first, which I considered minor matters then, but which actually seem to be compounded and joined by new problems. The Land of the Silver Apples follows Jack, Thorgil and Pega, a new character, as they journey underground to Elfland, the home of the earthy, oddball hobgoblins and their perilous yet beautiful neighbors, the elves, who are (as in many Western European legends) half-fallen angels, neither good enough to remain in Heaven nor evil enough to be sent to Hell. The elves have used their power on earth to suspend time in their world, an unhealthy choice to say the least. One of the major plot threads is Jack's attempts to break through the illusionary glamour of the elves using the power of reality. The story in itself is interesting and enjoyable enough, although not nearly as thrilling and captivating as Sea of Trolls.

However, there are a lot of weaknesses that undermine the story. As before, while the author seems to get almost all of the folkloric and mythological elements accurate (although the hobgoblins seem to be created from whole cloth), she shows us next to nothing about the culture or any of the less than fantastic traditions of the time and place she depicts; it's as if Farmer thinks that culture is made up of nothing more than beliefs surrounding spirits and magic. This was much more of a stumbling block to me here than in the first book, to the point that the only way I was able to enjoy the story was by constantly reminding myself that this is a fantasy novel and not in any way historical fiction.

Also, as before, Nancy Farmer's treatment of religion is decidedly problematic. I understand the point she is making in the Appendix, that at that time in England's history Christianity existed alongside pagan religions. That's fine. But the problems (or some of them) are (1) the ridiculous, completely modern and New Agey portrayal of English paganism, (2) the use of pseudo-spiritual and completely anachronistic terms like "life force", and (3) the idea that all religions are simply another branch on the great tree of spiritual existence. One of the characters actually states this toward the end of the book, specifically about the Saxon paganism embodied by the Bard, and Christianity. These two faiths are completely antithetical, and only by completely dismissing what they say about themselves and the world can one say that they're in any way compatible; at least not as religions. You can't believe one without rejecting the world. Farmer obviously doesn't take either one seriously, or else she would understand this.

At one point in the narration of the story, she actually states that Caedmon's hymn (an actual hymn; C├Ždmon was a historical monk, and England's first poet) is a "celebration of life". This is absolutely false; again, only by completely ignoring what the poet and the poem says can one make a claim like this. Similarly, a character says late in the book that a reverence "for the simple fact of God's world" is the same as "reverence for the life force". The only way this makes any sense is by saying that God's world consists only of that which is alive. I needn't point out how ridiculous this is, but Farmer seems obsessed with life. In Christian belief, death, while unnatural, is something that has nevertheless been redeemed, as something which must be passed through in order to gain eternal life; this world, though good, is not the Christian's true home. Christianity also values the totality of creation, the inorganic as well as the inorganic. Nor even did historical paganism have this life-centric view.

I normally wouldn't break apart little things like this in a book; every author should be charitably allowed a few mistakes here and there. But since these things are so central to some major, crucial problems, I offer them up here as examples.
" said.

" Great book. Enjoyed the trilogy! " said.

" I am thoroughly enjoying this series, the style reminds me of "The Hobbit" except with a modern, middle-grade hero. The humor is adorable and the characters so well developed. " said.

" I will go against the grain and say I liked the second book more than the first. Based on the reviews I've read I nearly skipped reading it, but as it turns out, the less Viking influence the better! " said.

" This book was extremely slow compared to the first. That was my only problem with it; I still enjoyed it. " said.

" Loved this series when I was younger!! " said.

" the adventures of humble peasant boy turned magical bard continue; new characters are introduced, some friend some foe; more magical realms to be explored. Come along to find out what awaits " said.

December 2018 New Book:

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