Friday, 26 August 2011
Review: The Magnificent 12: The Call - Michael Grant
Extent: 272 pages
Pub Date: 10th September 2010
Twelve-year-old Mack MacAvoy suffers from a serious case of mediumness. Medium looks. Medium grades. Medium parents who barely notice him. With a list of phobias that could make anyone crazy, Mack never would have guessed that he is destined for a more-than-medium life.
And then, one day, something incredibly strange happens to Mack. A three-thousand-year-old man named Grimluk appears in the boys’ bathroom to deliver some startling news: Mack is one of the Magnificent Twelve, called the Magnifica in ancient times, whatever that means. An evil force is on its way, and it’s up to Mack to track down eleven other twelve-year-olds in order to stop it. He must travel across the world to battle the wicked Pale Queen’s dangerous daughter, Ereskigal—also known as Risky. But Risky sounds a little scary, and Mack doesn’t want to be a hero. Will he answer the call?
A laugh-out-loud story filled with excitement and magic, The Magnificent Twelve: The Call is the first book in bestselling author Michael Grant’s hilarious new fantasy adventure series.
I was very excited to get this book because not only was it free, it was by Michael Grant whose Gone books are a real favourite of mine. This is definitely a middle grade (9-12) book, however, and although I do like the occasional MG book that has good YA appeal this one was definitely well suited to the younger, and especially male, readership.
The main character, Mack, is a great hero, especially for kids as even though he has many flaws – including 21 phobias – he shows great courage by standing up to school bullies and taking the call to herodom in his stride. Having said that, Mack is quite a hard character to empathise with because the story is very narrator-centric. There’s a lot of “and that’s how our story goes” moments where the narrator, or writer, speaks directly to the reader so you feel a lot more removed from the characters than in a more character-centric book. The book is written in the third person but it almost feels like it should be classified as “fourth person” as the reader is following the characters through the medium of a narrator. I’m certain this book would be brilliant read aloud for that very reason as the person reading aloud then takes on the voice of the narrator but for reading in your head it can at times be quite intrusive.
There are some very funny moments in the story, and there are many moments that I’m certain a young male reader in particular would find hilarious. It’s great to see that Michael Grant can do funny as well as serious thriller/horror, he’s clearly a very versatile writer and I’m not surprised by this given how well he gets into the minds of all ages of children. Perhaps the funniest bits are the little notes at the end of each chapter from the golem who has taken Mack’s place back home. Unfortunately, sometimes this humour can become very glib. This again makes it hard to connect to the characters as it feels like the narrator/writer is not taking the story seriously, which is a shame because it is actually a very good and potentially very engaging story. There are also lots of convenience moments in the book like when the kids fall out of the plane and land in the sea right next to the boat that is carrying the next character they need to find. Out of all the boats in all the oceans in all the world they just happened to land next to the right one. It feels like there was some severe restraint on word count but at the same time a strict list of the plot points that needed to be in the book and so to satisfy both the author just stuck in a huge convenience moment. It made the plot feel jagged and actually uncared for, like the realism is right at the bottom of the priority list for this story.
In all, The Magnificent 12: The Call is a great story but it is clearly not for the eyes of older teens or adults who want a lot more from a book. The narrator is overpowering and the characters hard to construct and at times it feels like the author doesn’t care much but perhaps that is what tween boys really like – I’m afraid I don’t know, I never was one.