Tuesday, June 11, 2002

"Promise of Zion" Series for Young Readers: Books 3 and 4

Previous reviews have told of the first two books in Robert Elmer’s "Promise of Zion" series. Now, a look at books three and four in the series:

In Refugee Treasure, the third book in Robert Elmer's "Promise of Zion" series for young readers, Dov Zalinsky wanders the streets of Jerusalem in search of his family. He soon meets an Arab Christian man, and finds himself involved with his new friend's problems. Mr. Bin-Jazzi has some newly discovered, ancient scrolls, and Arab men will stop at nothing to steal the scrolls. Dov finds many adventures as he explores Jerusalem and helps hide the scrolls.

Meanwhile, Emily Parkinson is back with her parents in Jerusalem. Many British families have already left the country due to the political problems, and now the Parkinsons want to send Emily away by the end of the year as well. Emily, though, does not want to leave what is, after all, her home; she hardly remembers her birth country. She also cannot stop thinking about Dov Zalinsky, and begins her own investigation to find the boy's parents.

Refugee Treasure shows the beginning signs of growth and maturity in the main two characters. Hardened, stubborn Dov is now more willing to accept help from others. Emily is no longer the naïve, trusting child who only believes what her daddy has told her. Now her eyes are opened more to the plight of Jews such as poor Dov and others less fortunate than she. Accordingly, the two children get along better when they finally meet again, having both matured through their experiences.

Whereas the previous book, Peace Rebel, covered a time period of less than two weeks, this third story covers the next few months, from September through November 1947. It is a turbulent period in Palestine, with the British announcing their withdrawal from the area that September. Then on November 29, 1947, the United Nations votes to allow a new state of Israel. Dov and Emily are part of the adventure, a time of history making. Radio broadcasts in the story's background are taken from the actual words of those BBC broadcasts. The Dead Sea Scrolls were also discovered this same year, and a minor character is introduced who in fact had the scrolls in his care during this time period.

The fourth book in the "Promise of Zion" series, Brother Enemy, continues the ongoing story of Dov Zalinski and Emily Parkinson, thirteen-year-olds in Palestine in the late 1940s.

Several months have passed since the day the UN voted for a state of Israel, and Arab violence against the Jews has escalated. In the spring of 1948, Dov sneaks over to the Wailing Wall – in Arab disguise – and still encounters trouble. Jews are no longer safe in the Arab quarter, where Dov once lived with Mr. Bin-Jazzi, an Arab Christian. Soon Dov finds himself back in the Jewish quarter, working with the Hagenah, the Jewish volunteer army. Then he gets involved with radio technology and broadcasts for Israel’s cause, while continuing his search for his older brother, Natan.

Emily, previously determined to stay in Jerusalem, watches as the city she loves erupts in violence that touches her own life as well. Her mother lives in fear, never leaving their house, and Emily is forced to realize her own selfishness – and how she can make her mother happy. Thus she comes to accept the inevitable of going "home" to England.

Historic events in Brother Enemy include an urban bombing near a shopping center – based on two actual bombings from the time – as well as the Hagenah’s battle against Arabs near a small town.

Both Refugee Treasure and Brother Enemy are enjoyable and educational. The stories provide great action adventure with a rich historical setting, complete with author notes and suggestions for learning more about the historical period.

Saturday, June 1, 2002

Angel of Mercy: Kit Shannon in 1904

Tracie Peterson and James Scott Bell's "Shannon Saga" series concludes with the third book, Angel of Mercy, published this June. Angel of Mercy finds Kit Shannon embroiled in yet another high-profile murder case, this time during the summer of 1904. Officer Ed Hanratty, one of the bad guys from the previous book (Angels Flight) is accused of murder, and insists that only Kit Shannon can represent him. Kit reluctantly takes the case, unconvinced of her client's innocence, but determined to see justice done and a fair hearing for her client. As always, the city's influential are against her and pressure her to stop the case.

The main characters from previous books are still here, plus a few new fictional as well as historical characters. William Randolph Hearst, successful newspaper tycoon and now presidential hopeful, has decided to compete against the Los Angeles Times with his new paper, the Examiner, and use his yellow journalism to influence politics in another city. President Teddy Roosevelt even makes a few visits to LA, and Kit soon meets both famous men. Clarence Darrow (see review of Angels Flight) makes a brief appearance at the beginning, in a debate arranged in the previous book between him, Kit Shannon, and liberal Christian Dr. Lazarus. Kit's friend and mentor Earl Rogers, a renowned lawyer from the time, is back as well to encourage Kit and even defend her at court occasionally.

Among the fictional characters, Tom Phelps now works for William Randolph Hearst. Elinor Wynn, previously engaged to Ted Fox, now strives for revenge against Kit Shannon. Ted Fox returns as well, still sorting through his emotional problems. Ted and Kit's feelings for each other, and Ted's struggle with his disability (in the previous book he lost a leg) provide interesting subplots, though fans realize by now that somehow Ted and Kit will get together in the end. Aunt Freddy once again looks to spiritualists and attaches herself to a money-grubbing charlatan, and Kit feels she must protect her aunt. Enemy Heath Sloate resurfaces from the first book (City of Angels), just as sleazy and controlling as ever, and working behind the scenes to destroy Kit Shannon. Among such a hectic and troublesome life, Kit has a few friends, such as her Mexican friend Corazon. Corazon's role is expanded as she shows detective skills and becomes Kit's investigator / detective.

Like the first two books in the "Shannon Saga," the storyline is exciting and suspenseful, a good page-turner with a final rousing trial scene full of surprises. At a little over 250 pages, Angel of Mercy is much shorter than the first two books (both of which had 380 pages). Still, this book pulls-off another exciting read while wrapping up the loose ends of the ongoing sub-plots between the characters for the "Shannon Saga" conclusion.