Reviews: The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni

The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni (HarperCollins,  Expected Publication: April 22, 2014)

What if you woke up one morning and everyone in the world had disappeared?  The morning after his thirteenth birthday, Jax Aubrey wakes up to an empty house, and an empty town.  It’s as if everyone in the world has vanished, and he’s the only one left.  The next day he wakes up and everyone is there again, everything is back to normal . . . but what Jax experienced wasn’t a dream.  Jax discovers he is part of a magical heritage that allows him to exist during a secret, extra day of the week.  While most people only have seven days, for Jax there is another day, a magical day sandwiched in between Wednesday night and Thursday morning.  There are others like him–Transitioners–who can live all eight days of the week, and there are those who live only on that special eighth day–locked out of the other seven days completely.  The world Jax has entered into is an exciting one–but it is also a dangerous one. One wrong decision could have deadly consequences for Jax . . . and for his world.

When  it comes to speculative fiction, I don’t impress all that easily.  Part of this is a symptom of reading it constantly over many years.  I’ve seen the good, the bad, the great time and time again.  And I love the genre, and I love to see new writers and encourage them in their pursuits.  But I read most of the time as an adult, quickly considering quality, pacing, story in terms of how to talk about the book and possibly review it.  It takes a lot to turn me back into a middle grade reader breathlessly turning pages to find out what’s going to happen next. Forgetting all that criteria and review potential stuff.  I grabbed The Eighth Day off my tbr pile to read without any real expectations.  I started the book on the train and just kept reading.  I forgot about being a librarian, a reviewer and just merrily plunged through the book.

Having swallowed the story in a few short hours, I’m looking at things as a reviewer and a librarian again.  Now, “unhappy boy discovers he has secret magical heritage that entitles him to join a special society of people who have access to another world that normal folks don’t know about” is pretty much the core that drives Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.  It’s also an overused trope of fantasy that usually makes me cringe, grit my teeth and not be particularly forgiving.  So it’s a remarkable book that can use that plot in such a way that I don’t notice they’re using it  until I’m well and fully invested in the story and enjoying it too much to be bothered.  The Eighth Day manages to take several of these familiar tropes and weave them together into a satisfying tween urban fantasy adventure that feels fresh and entertaining. That’s no little accomplishment.

While the concept of a mysterious eighth day in the week is a fascinating teaser for pulling in a reader and a well built part of the fantasy, what really makes this book so compelling is the solid writing.  Good writing takes natural talent and usually a hell of a lot of work.  (The author is free to correct me on the hard work thing, of course.)  Its the kind of writing where the reader can effortlessly lose themselves in reading . . . to the point they forget that they’re reading at all .   Dianne K. Salerni hooks readers from the first page and delivers  a story that entertains and satisfies  while leaving some tantalizing threads to be explored later in the series.  My only real quibble with the story was that there’s a scene in the climactic battle where Riley chooses an action that felt a little too out of the blue.  It would have helped to have a little more foreshadowing of Riley’s actions at that point, though it’s clear the author didn’t want to reveal too much ahead of time.

As a protagonist, Jax is a young teen with plenty of flaws and rough edges.  He makes mistakes, breaks the rules and generally acts like teenage kid who’s not real happy with his current circumstances.  It’s no wonder when his guardian, Riley, is anything but a competent parental figure and Jax knows it.  It makes him angry and frustrated and wanting desperately to be with family rather than with this stranger.   Rather than a cipher placed in a magical story to give the readers a window into the world, he’s a fleshed out character with his own set of feelings and desires.   We don’t get to see the full character arc of Jax quite yet, but that’s unsurprising considering this is the first book in a trilogy. The other characters in this story are vivid, interesting, and most of them are nicely ambiguous,  falling into the grey area of the moral spectrum.  Each individual has their own interests, struggles and limitations.  The additional magic gifts they possess  can make them dangerous or powerful, but it doesn’t make them superheroes.

 Take Scott Westerfeld’s Midnighters series, combine it with The Dark is Rising seqence, and throw in a dash of The Lightning Thief, and you’ll have something like this book.

Note: An advanced reader copy was provided by the publisher.

Publisher: HarperCollins

Expected Publication Date: April 2014

ISBN13:     9780062272157

Recommended for ages 9-14

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on April 12, 2014, in General Posts, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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