Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Review: FINN FINNEGAN by Darby Karchut

First Paragraph: "Son of a goat!" The boy swore and jumped back. A second squirt of bird poop landed with a plop, this time on the toe of his shoe. "Oh, real funny," he said with a grimace. He glared up at the crow swinging back and forth on the power line overhead, sooty wings spread wide for balance. The bird cocked its head and stared back, its eye a red-rimmed marble.

Darby Karchut will be here Thursday to face the 7 Questions.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Esteemed Reader! I'm listening to The Departed soundtrack and drinking my coffee "Irish." I realize everyone else will be properly celebrating on Sunday, but I say we should be allowed to pinch non-green-wearers more than one day a year.

Esteemed Reader, the only name I can think of more Irish than Darby Karchut has got to be Finn Finnegan. The cover of this week's book is green, just in case there might be any doubt in the reader's mind this will be an Irish-themed story. I guess the publisher wouldn't spring for the sound module ensuring each time a reader opens the book it plays Danny Boy:)

"Finn Finnegan is a Fine Folio of Fantastic Fiction!" There's my blurb should the good people at Spencer Hill Press desire to slap it on Finn's cover next to the blurb from the author of Ashfall and Ashen Winter. That's right. Those white words across the forehead of the hunky pale kid whose piercing blue eyes are meant to attract female readers (and I have no doubt they will) belong to none other than our favorite cannibal, Mike Mullin.

The publishing world is a small place and we writers are all six degrees of Kevin Bacon from someone else. That's worth remembering when you want to make fun of a book for having a green cover to signify Irish-ness:) I've looked the cover over multiple times for a shamrock and haven't found one, but I'm betting there's one hidden somewhere like an Irish Waldo.

Finn (not bleedin Finnegan) MacCullen is a thirteen-year-old apprentice with the famous Irish temperament (no idea what that means). But he's the lad to follow for a series of adventures. Girls want him and boys want to be him. He's joining forces with Gideon Lir, a Knight and warrior whose a bit of  Hagrid mixed with a bit of Dumbledore.

Gideon Lir is the one to break the news to Finn that like a fair number of non-magic folks in Ireland, he's been born into a holy war with a race of goblin-like creatures called the Amandan:

"Since the beginning of time, the non-human beings of Ireland, the Tuatha Da Dananan and the Amandan, have battled for control of our beloved land. For both have a claim to it, as our ancestral home. In fact, the Amandan believe they first emerged from the peat bogs of Eire--the Bog-born. In a sense, they and the land are one."
"What about us?"
"Why, we are descendants of Danu, one of the Celtic goddesses of war. Hence our flair for battle. She bestowed upon us the Emerald Isle as our own as long as we could hold it from the Amandan, and our struggle with the beasties would have been contained to Ireland if it wasn't for the invaders.

The Amandan are shape-shifting nasties who regularly attack Finn when the story's dragging a bit:) There's plenty of action throughout and the reader will leave this first story eager for book 2 (teased at the end). Book 1 does a nice job of setting up the world of Finn and preparing us for what promises to be be an exciting series. As such, Karchut hints at several future plot lines and lays down the rules for her fantasy:

The Knight nodded. "Whatever kills a mortal can kill us. Except our powers and our training make us just a wee bit more difficult to destroy. Always remember this, Finn." He tapped his torc for emphasis. "In spite of being part human, ye come from an ancient line of warriors."

Finn Finnegan is a great read and you're going to have a good time, largely because Darby Karchut is genuinely funny. Finn and Gideon Lir banter like the best comedy teams and their journal entries are particularly fun. Karchut hints at some possibly darker territory ahead in the books to come, but Finn Finnegan is at it's best during its many action scenes and jokes.

This made me laugh:

"I dinna write the rules. It clearly states in the 'How to Train Yer Apprentice' manual that the apprentice does the laundry."
"Can I see this manual? When we get back?"
"I seem to recall that I've misplaced me copy."
"So, how do I know you're not just making all this sh--crap up?"

Something that struck me curious was Karchut's casual swearing throughout the text. Finn Finnegan is written much like a MG novel with YA elements, making it the quintessential tween adventure. Time will tell which direction the sequels take the story, but Karchut slips in more than one "ass" and "arse," yet falls short of a sh@* (as do I, apparently).

I don't really have a point here, except it's odd how some language is just fine for a tween novel and some isn't. For instance, if I had written poop, no one would care, excrement, no one would've noticed, but if I write the other word, it's vulgar.  It's a wacky world of social norms and I have no doubt Karchut is bucking them to endear younger readers to her. If a teacher reads this book to her class and has to read the word "ass," those students will request more of that author's book be read:)

In conclusion, Finn Finnegan is a good time read and you're going to enjoy yourself. This St. Patrick's Day, don't just get pass-out drunk. Read Finn Finnegan while-st you drink, then pass out (this blurb also available). As always, I'll leave you with my favorite passages from Finn Finnegan:

Grief poked a claw into Gideon's heart.

Her features began twisting and shifting with a moist popping sound. (I love all passages featuring the word "moist" -- MGN)

Finn nodded politely. Read Shakespeare--yeah, like that's ever going to happen. 

He round himself tumbling back down the slope, his arms flailing as he tried to control his fall. Branches clawed at him, leaving burning scratches along his back and stomach where his tee shirt pulled up. The ground and sky exchanged places in slow motion. 

Finn's voice cracked as he let out a yell and charged.
And tripped over a half-buried log in the sand.
He slammed face-first into the ground, sand abrading his cheek. The air whooshed out of him. He laid there, mouth opening and shutting like a stranded fish.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: All reviews here will be written to highlight a book’s positive qualities. It is my policy that if I don’t have something nice to say online, I won’t say anything at all (usually). I’ll leave you to discover the negative qualities of each week’s book on your own. 


  1. LOL! I am totally grabbing your blurbs to use - you write the funniest posts! And thank you for helping spread the word about Finn!

  2. What a fun review. I hadn't heard of this book before. Love the idea that Finn and Gideon banter like a comedy duo.

    As for the S word: Jerry Spinelli's first novel, Space Station Seventh Grade, is sprinkled with multiple uses of that word, yet the book is considered middle grade.

    1. That's a very good point. I, for one, would prefer to have more swearing in MG. But that's just me:)

  3. Sounds like an upper middle grade book which are my favorites. Like Joanne, I hadn't heard of this before. Thanks for letting us know about it.

    And yay, you're back on my blog roll.

  4. Sounds like a great book, especially the lively banter. I'll be looking for it, thanks.

  5. This sounds fantastic~ right up my middle grade alley :) Darby lives in my neck of the woods (*waves to Darby). I can't make it to her appearance this Saturday, but I'm shooting to make one in April to get a signed copy!


Thanks for stopping by, Esteemed Reader! And thanks for taking the time to comment. You are awesome.