Friday, January 11, 2013

Hungry for Knowledge

In The Vengekeep Prophecies, 12-year-old Jaxter Grimjinx is from a family of thieves, but his contribution to their plans and execution is as a reader and chemist. 

He reads to discover the formulas that will open a lock or break a spell. His friendship with Callie inspires him to be a force of good in the world. Jaxter and Callie go on a quest in search of ingredients for an antidote to his family's ill-conceived plan, which has brought adversity upon the town of Vengekeep. But they find so much more. Their journey puts Jaxter in the path of both evil and salvation: his true calling. He meets the Dowager Soranna, whose fascination with herbs and salves outpaces his own. She teaches him about his craft and appreciates his mind. 

Meeting the Dowager introduces a defining moment for Jaxter: Does he steal from her to complete his antidote or remain with her and feed his mind? And what of his family? Can he abandon them? And if he returns to them, is he abandoning himself? This is Jaxter's first taste of independence, and the questions he asks himself are the defining questions of moving toward adulthood. To pursue one's own interests over the plans one's family has made for you can often feel like you're abandoning them. But the words of Jaxter's grandmother, as he sets out on his quest, offer a clue: "The things you learn in books will outshine all of us someday."

This is the first in a trilogy, but this book wraps up beautifully, with no easy answers and lingering questions that may well help shape readers' questions as they grapple with their own inner quests.

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