Friday, January 7, 2011

REVIEW: Eight Days of Luke

Jones, D.W.  (1975).  Eight Days of Luke.  New York:  Greenwillow Books.

226 pages.

Appetizer:  David Allard is on break from school and instead of being sent of on an educational tour, his relatives have forgotten he was supposed to come home and so he is stuck with them and their criticisms of him.

At first it seems like it will be a complete torture, but after chanting a random mix of words, a strange boy named Luke appears.  Luke claims that David released him from his prison and is indebted to him.  David just thinks Luke is one of the kids from the neighborhood, but when it becomes clear that Luke has a magical talent with fire and strangers appear looking for Luke, another each day.  David makes a deal with one of the strange men to try to keep Luke out of his prison for good, if only David can prevent the strangers from finding Luke for one week.

Although the actual story is subtle and readers who aren't already familiar with Norse mythology may not even notice that all of the strangers who visit David trying to find Luke are gods from Norse myth (and Luke himself is also one of the gods).  It becomes a little more obvious by the end, but I feel like this is one of those books where a teacher has to explain some of the details to get the broader significance.  Otherwise it's just this boy who helps this other boy.  And there are weird adults.  Unhappy relatives.  Unexplained magic.  People unsurprised by unexplained magic.  And lots of talk about cricket.

I've met dozens of readers who are in love with Diana Wynne Jones's books.  Literally.  They want to marry her despite the age difference.  But I have to say, when I had read some of her young adult books in the past, I had trouble getting into them.  Her characters just don't draw me in.  I had less trouble with this as I read Eight Days of Luke.  I think I had an easier time because this is more of a middle grade book and because, after Luke was introduced, it was a pretty fast-paced read.

I still felt the book lacked tension though.  It's one of those older fantasy novels in which a character only has a limited time to, say, save the world, perhaps.  And instead of immediately running off to save said world, the protagonist has tea.  Or runs off to play cricket.  And I'm left wondering if this is proper day-saving behavior.

Because if I were ever tasked with saving the world, I'd make sure that that bit of work would be my number one priority.  I'd be on top of it.  Probably, I'd even make a check list on a sticky note to make sure I didn't forget any of the world-saving steps.  You hear that, fates/hero-audition-panel?  I would devote all my efforts to saving the world.  No tea or cricket for me.  Just full-time world saving effort.  Now, I wouldn't say the world is actually at stake in Eight Days of Luke, but David also delayed his efforts to save Luke because he feared he'd be inconveniencing his aunt who would have to give him a ride.  Or something.

*Yawn*  How un-tense is that situation?  It's like getting a myth-y brain massage that, at the end of the massage session, you can't help but wonder of you were cheated because you fell asleep and couldn't properly keep track of the time the massage took.  But on the plus side, you're tension free.

Who else could use a massage right now?

ALSO, also, whenever I read the title of this book in my head, I inevitably wound up with the song Eight Days a Week by the Beatles stuck in my head.  That woke me up a little.  Then I had to sing the song out-loud as I wandered around my place.  My cats did not appreciate the noise.  My neighbors probably didn't either.

Who can't carry a tune?  This girl.

Eeeeeeight DAAAAys a WeeeeEEEEEEK!  I LoooOOOOOOoooOOOOoooove You!

Dinner Conversation:

"Unlike most boys, David dreaded the holidays.  His parents were dead and he lived with his Great-Aunt Dot, Great-Uncle Bernard, their son Cousin Ronald and Cousin Ronald's wife Astrid; and all these four people insisted that he should be grateful for the way they looked after him.
David tried to be grateful.  They sent him to a boarding school which, as schools go, was not bad.  Most holidays they arranged for him to go on an Educational Tour or to a Holiday Camp, and these were usually interesting enough to make up for David's not knowing any of the other boys who went to them. He did feel grateful when Cousin Ronald pointed out that he had opportunities which few other boys were given.  But when he was at home in Ashbury and not on a Tour or at Camp, he found it much harder to be grateful.  And the older he grew, the harder he found it." (p. 1)

"At last he found the best combination of all.  He could really almost believe it was words, fierce, terrible words.  They asked to be said.  And they asked to be said, too, in an important, impressive way, loudly, from somewhere high up.  David climbed to the top of the compost heap, crushing baby marrows underfoot, and, leaning on the handle of the spade, he stretched the other hand skyward and recited his words.  Afterward, he never remembered what they were.  He knew they were magnificent, but he forgot them as soon as he said them.  And when he had spoken them, for good measure, he picked up a handful of compost and bowled it at the wall.
As soon as he did that, the wall started to fall down." (pp. 28-29).

"I'm truly grateful to you.  You let me out of a really horrible prison."  He smiled happily and pointed with one slightly blistered finger to the ground under the wall.
This was too much for David, who, after all, had been there to see that nothing but flames and snakes had come from the ground.  "Pull the other leg," he said.
Luke looked at him with one eyebrow up and a mischievous, calculating look on his filthy face.  He seemed to be deciding just how much nonsense David could be brought to swallow.  Then he laughed.  "Have it your own way," he said.  "But I am grateful, and I'll do anything I can in return."  (p. 37).

"...You have to say that if I can keep Luke safe till the end of the holidays, then you'll stop looking for him and won't punish him or hurt him if you find him after that."
"Agreed," said Mr. Wedding.  "But let's not make it so long.  Let's say that if you can keep Luke safe until next Sunday, then he's safe for good.  All right?"
This shook David a little.  Mr. Wedding must be very sure of winning to set such a short limit.  But he felt he had agreed to too much already to refuse a detail like that.  "All right," he said." (pp. 114-115)

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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