Friday, 1 January 2016

The Battle for WondLa


Book Title: The Battle for WondLa
Author: Tony DiTerlizzi
Series: WondLa #3
Date Started: December 28th 2015
Date Completed: December 31st 2015
Genres: Adventure, Sci-Fi
Quality Rating: Four Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Four Star
Final Rating: Four stars

I've been meaning to finish this series for a while, and I thought squeezing it in just before the end of the year was going to be a good idea since there's a nice mix between full-page illustrations and text. This turned out to be quite a bad idea when I kept getting distracted by the stunning artwork, but it gives credit to the quality of these books and I managed to marathon the last couple of hundred pages just in time to end 2015 on a good note.

While DiTerlizzi is talented as an author, it would be entirely unfair of me to not mention his stunning work as an illustrator. While he doesn't quite have the synchronicity of Brian Selznick when it comes to telling his stories partly in images, DiTerlizzi does have a talent for fully capturing these strange new worlds beautifully to enhance whatever he happens to be writing about. Having also grown up with The Spiderwick Chronicles, I've really enjoyed seeing how his style has evolved and changed and his particular work with limited colour schemes found in each of the WondLa books is astounding in its effect.
But besides that DiTerlizzi is a great writer, especially for younger audiences. Something I especially noticed in this book was the way the species politics and diversity of Orbona was presented in an accessible way for children. I sometimes get bored with one-dimensional societies created in children's books - that are made to be understood by younger readers, fair enough. But DiTerlizzi creates actually what could be seen as quite a complex system between clans and species, but doesn't overcomplicate relations, or patronise readers with its simplicity.

I was really happy to see harmony in nature playing a really big part in this story, as it has with the entire series. It's really nice when books for younger readers take subjects adults don't actually talk about a lot and explores them in an exciting way: we tend to hear moans and criticism when a story talks about 'saving the planet' and 'the impact of humankind on spirituality' etc, but the WondLa series discusses this in a very subtle way. It doesn't feel like we're being preached to about our impact on the planet, we're just being shown a way that a certain person found to live with both nature and humans (and a whole assortment of aliens, but you get my point). To then have this combined with the importance of family being the people you care about as opposed to blood was lovely. I also felt like Eva really was searching for harmony with nature as opposed to survival for the human race: you get the feeling that she would've accepted a reality where humans had to stop being on the planet if that had been the only way.
The one big let-down for me was that I didn't really feel moved by anything, and I didn't really sense the chance in tension or pace at any point. I could tell I was at the climax when I noticed there were very few pages left to read, but the drama didn't really hit me; I felt like I was reading a forward-progressing plot as opposed to a the build-up to the end of a series. This might also have been influenced by the fact that there are a few loose ends I expected to be resolved. There were some people I thought would come back so they could make amends, or for Eva to overcome certain personal obstacles, that just didn't happen. Though having said that, the resolution was perfectly adequate and ultimately ended the trilogy on a nice note.
I also think DiTerlizzi made really nice use of the epilogue. In my experience, epilogues can often be used to detail everything that happens to the protagonists after the story in a last-ditch attempt to show you that they lived happily ever after or that their actions had some kind of impact and ultimately to prove to you how great they were at saving the world (can you guess what genre I'm thinking of). But this epilogue wasn't about that: we got hints about how Eva and the others played out the rest of their lives, but it's more about showing the impact of time on history, and how events and then stories and then myths echo down through centuries and all the subtext and symbolism behind that.

In a story as diverse (species-wise) as this, it's really important to give meaning and personalities to the various creatures you meet along the way of your adventure. Luckily we get this from certain individuals, though I have to say in the grand scheme of things I don't think each alien species had a particularly distinguishable persona around them (apart from the odd accent) - though this didn't negatively impact the story that much.
Something so wonderfully about this series is that it really is Eva Nine's story. She gains help from so many people along the way, and earns the trust and respect of them too, but it really is down to her and her courage, kindness and intelligence that she succeeds. Personally, I found it so refreshing to have a protagonist in a children's book that gained help from others, but was indisputably the hero of their own story. She's incredibly different from all those around her because of her intuition and care about the world, and a reason why I wasn't too annoyed by her gaining magical powers was that it was basically a physical manifestation of who she was: she can now understand the creatures and plants around her, but she could practically do that to start with anyway.

I thought The Battle for WondLa was well structured to keep progression in the story, but not fly through the plot. Potentially, the events Eva is in could be carried out very quickly, but we get to see her relationships and development in between the climactic sections of the book. Admittedly, I didn't really get caught up in the drama of it all, but I was still able to get through this book pretty fast despite its length.

The WondLa trilogy is great for any younger readers that are perhaps interested in stepping up their reading into full-length novels, but is equally enjoyable for older ages too. Of course, fans of DiTerlizzi's work in The Spiderwick Chronicles should pick up his most recent novels since they're definitely different enough to be worth the read, but also have that safe familiarity.

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