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The King’s Fifth – Scott O’Dell

15 Dec

n266096This week is Cartography week, a series of posts loosely linked together, a bit like I was, to that gang who stole that the cornerstone of modern society, which I don’t want to talk about….

‘Upon it no mark showed, no river, no mountain, no city – only the single word UNKNOWN.’

It is the 15th of December in the year of our Lord’s birth 2013, your journey begins with this review and continues onto New Spain the setting of this high adventure, so please venture yourself to gather quills, compasses and star charts and have them at the ready…

It begins in a cell in a fortress situated on the East coast of Mexico, the drawing of a map and the tracing of a story, a story of vast distances and also of life.

Does it not interest you to know what lies there? What glittering cities of gold and treasure?’

Treasure maps, you have to love ’em and as History will attest, greedy Europeans were right at home brutalising other nations in order to gain this infamous metal.  Just like real history though, the lengths gone to for the hunt and the distressing situations the treasure seekers get into are utterly fascinating and create timeless stories.

The author has made this a book for all ages, down to a simple narrative that is as compelling, as for adults as it is for the younger reader, it helps to have a central character who is only 15 as well in that respect. Just like treasure island, King Solomon’s Mines et al, the exploration is immediately evocative of the time period,  that pushing into the emptiness of the map, a sense of country as yet unspoiled by mass human inhabitants, the need to know to seek new minerals, push frontiers and above all to be dramatic and ignore the plight of the indigenous people.

33The obsessional madness that drives otherwise sane people to be reckless and dredge the depths of stupidity in their pursuit of the yellow stuff really does bring to the fore, what we hold dear and what values we choose for our lives. It is easy to forget that the narrator was 15 when the adventures he shared in occurred.

‘It does not haunt me, but I think of it. I would like to travel and see it’

This is a book you will fly through, two or three sittings should have you done with it,  I loved the intentional – or not – echoes of epic journeys taken, including such fine works as Voss and Allan Quatermain.  The lightness of the narrative makes for a read that shows the implications of greed and humans behaving despicably but this is never made to seem to over simplified even though the writing style is very easy to get into.

it all seemed a bit familiar when I started to read it and it didn’t take long to realise that it was the inspiration for the awesome hit TV show The Mysterious Cities of Gold, the characters are more well-rounded and developed in the book though as you would expect.  Just like the TV series there is that sense of wonder…that enticing feeling that keeps us searching and reading only to discover there is more we must know.

 ‘Far off rose mysterious mountains, watching over a land no map maker had yet set eyes upon.’

This is the country marked UNKNOWN, by which I mean every new book you have yet to read

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26 Comments

Posted by on 15/12/2013 in Children's Literature

 

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26 responses to “The King’s Fifth – Scott O’Dell

  1. Al

    15/12/2013 at 14:05

    It sounds like a fun book. One that I may be able to get my son to read as well. He isn’t so much into books, so if I could drag him into something like this, it may be handy.

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    • Ste J

      15/12/2013 at 14:16

      Thanks for that sir! It is a good book and if he doesn’t like it, well it’s another one for you so either way money well spent lol.

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      • Al

        15/12/2013 at 14:18

        Good point 😀

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  2. Alastair Savage

    16/12/2013 at 00:59

    I wonder if they have chosen the wrong cover image for the book. From your review, it sounds like a lot of fun: a rip-roaring adventure in ‘the New World’. Unfortunately, the cover makes it look like some dull history tome. Maybe they are looking for some kind of academic cachet or something.
    The Mysterious Cities of Gold. That takes me back. I haven’t thought about that series for sooooo long!

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    • Ste J

      20/12/2013 at 11:51

      it is a cracking series, I was one of those people outside HMV on the day it was released, champing at the bit to get my nostalgia fix. The front cover of King’s Fifth does show the map aspect admirably but is a bit light on epic excitement. where the age old…native attacking armour bound European from a great height with gold gleaming in the background. Those were heady days.

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  3. anna amundsen

    16/12/2013 at 01:47

    Just yesterday I was writing about the ‘adventure fiction’. I’m in the mood for ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’, or ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’, but O’Dell would do, too. I’ll note it on my list.
    This cartography week idea of yours is splendid. I am loving it.

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    • Ste J

      20/12/2013 at 11:42

      Journey to the Centre of the Earth was great, I loved the science that Verne used and his vision was just wonderful. I haven’t read Around the World in Eighty Days yet…but I did find Stendhal’s The Red and the Black the other day so this pleases Ste.

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      • anna amundsen

        23/12/2013 at 05:03

        Great! I have a wish to re-read it again, but with so many newly acquired books I am very drawn to I don’t think it will happen. Not yet..

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        • Ste J

          26/12/2013 at 10:59

          I know that feeling lol, it’s all to easy to stack up a fantastic bunch and have no time for the really loved ones. I to share that pain.

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  4. sakuraandme

    16/12/2013 at 07:35

    Evening! 🙂
    You made it almost sound like a romance novel and I fell in love with it! Haha
    I so love the way you write. Oh and the fact you like my toes, it all helps! Hahahaha
    No seriously, it sounds like a great book and what a great review. Time for nite nite for this Aussie woman. Hugs Paula xxx

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    • Ste J

      20/12/2013 at 11:44

      I guess it is a romance in the sense of the romantic spin I put on it, I do love to fall in love with ideas and let them take me wherever they lead. I guess books are just a way for me to exercise my love muscle..by which I mean my brain of course ha! xx

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      • sakuraandme

        21/12/2013 at 19:35

        Hahaha! That’s the second time today you made me giggle to myself! Hugs from Oz, Paula x

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  5. gargoylebruce

    16/12/2013 at 17:48

    Oh God, what a time to have run out of quills!

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  6. George Collingwood

    19/12/2013 at 12:53

    This sounds great!

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    • Ste J

      20/12/2013 at 11:46

      Adventure, treasure and a big dog…what more do you need!?!

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  7. thejerseygal®™

    26/12/2013 at 12:55

    Brilliantly worded review! It makes me want to get the book and read it with my kids. It is here, that your words show how descriptive you can be. Bravo.

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    • Ste J

      26/12/2013 at 13:01

      Thanks, I honestly wasn’t to happy with this one…there were lots of noisy distractions and after a day or two of wrestling with it, I just put it out. Perhaps I need to do that more often. It pleases me to inspire family reading!

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      • thejerseygal®™

        26/12/2013 at 13:13

        You’re your own tough crowd! Here, these words, they’re golden and read aloud, they shine so bright:

        “……Just like treasure island, King Solomon’s Mines et al, the exploration is immediately evocative of the time period, that pushing into the emptiness of the map, a sense of country as yet unspoiled by mass human inhabitants, the need to know to seek new minerals, push frontiers and above all to be dramatic and ignore the plight of the indigenous people.

        The obsessional madness that drives otherwise sane people to be reckless and dredge the depths of stupidity in their pursuit of the yellow stuff really does bring to the fore, what we hold dear and what values we choose for our lives. It is easy to forget that the narrator was 15 when the adventures he shared in occurred.”

        Brilliant. This is where you excel. Keep with descriptions as such. I like your colorful mind.

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        • Ste J

          26/12/2013 at 13:18

          I guess like a lot of us on here, we don’t see what other people see, so I do appreciate your words of encouragement. I like that phrase, a colourful mind…I think they are bright primary colours.

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          • thejerseygal®™

            26/12/2013 at 13:24

            At least you can identify them! And of course, it’s great things aren’t in black and white. It’s nice to see you express your thoughts in a way that paints vivid images. Keep up the great work.

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            • Ste J

              26/12/2013 at 13:26

              I will, if you keep writing also. I love seeing words I am familiar with rendered in hitherto unimagined ways. Yay to more writing…and reading.

              Like

               

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