Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

THE NEVER WAR by D. J. MacHale

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D. J. MacHale wrote for television for years before turning his attention to novels. He created Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, a long-running series on Nickelodeon in the United States, but it also showed in Canada on YTV and Cinar.

For the last few years, he’s been writing the adventures of Bobby Pendragon, a boy who’s destined – hopefully – to save the world. Several worlds, actually. Bobby is a Traveler, one of those who have the power to “flume” from world to world. He’s brought into the adventure by his Uncle Press. As Bobby was growing up, Uncle Press also took Bobby scuba diving, mountain climbing, to martial arts, driving, and several other things that gave him skills he needs to survive against enemies he encounters. All during that time, Uncle Press was training Bobby to be a Traveler.

Bobby’s greatest foe is a villain called Saint Dane. Saint Dane has the ability to change his appearance at will and constantly hides in different worlds while working his nefarious plans.

The Never War is the third book in this exciting series. In it, Bobby travels to First Earth, which takes place in the year 1937. The gangster era isn’t new by any means, and I was slightly let down when I discovered I wasn’t being taken to a new world. I especially loved Cloral, the world Bobby went to in the second book, The Lost City of Faar, and I look forward to returning there hopefully in one of the later books.

Still, I’m older than the average Pendragon reader. The 1930s and the Hindenburg are familiar to me through several other books I’ve read as well as history I’ve researched.

For all the familiarity with the time period, though, MacHale tells a fascinating and fast-paced tale. Bobby and his new best friend Spader land in the 1930s while pursuing Saint Dane. They’re immediately met by machine-gun toting thugs that try to kill them. Bobby figures out how to escape and gets Spader out as well. Spader is way out of his depth because he’s never seen anything as “technologically advanced” as the 1930s.

One of the best things about the Pendragon books is that Bobby usually gets to save the day in a down-to-earth manner. He doesn’t have any really special skills or powers that help him. At this point, he’s fourteen years old and can do what most kids that age can. This makes the series more believable in some ways, and I think it draws the Pendragon audience in a little closer.

MacHale’s sense of timing and pacing is excellent. The story moves quickly, and I got a real sense of urgency throughout the book as Bobby tries to figure out what Saint Dane is really doing. Many of the chapters end up on cliffhangers that will draw you rapidly into the next chapter. The dialogue is fantastic and sounds real.

One of the other facets of the series that I really enjoy is Bobby’s friendship with Mark Dimond and Courtney Chetwynde. The closeness they share, even through Bobby’s journals, feels real.

MacHale also mixes in adult heroes with his young champion. Vincent “Gunny” Van Dyke was an excellent grown Traveler in this novel. He was kind and gentle, and guided Bobby and Spader throughout the adventure.

I did miss the world-building in this novel, but I know MacHale gets back to it in later volumes of the series. But for kids who haven’t researched the 1930s much, this should be a fun book and on equal footing with fans of Artemis Fowl and Alex Rider.


2 Responses to “THE NEVER WAR by D. J. MacHale”

  1. This book I just read.

  2. Oh wait wrong book, disregard first comment.

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