Pathfinder - by Orson Scott Card

"Card succeeds in placing action in the proper location, heartbreak in others, and some brilliant brainteasers."

As one of the leaders in sci-fi and fantasy novella, Orson Scott Card plays to his strengths in one of his latest books, Pathfinder, introducing a brand new set of characters. The reader embarks along with the main character Rigg, a common boy upriver in a unique and foreign land on an earthlike planet. Rigg, a bright young boy who works with his Father trapping furs, has the remarkable ability to see and learn from people's paths from the past. There is one path he cannot see, however: Father's path. Rigg receives a brilliant and objective education from Father, who works to exercise every corner of Rigg's mind, yet never telling him why he requires Rigg to become fluent in several languages, understand how to financially succeed, and how to read people's emotions by their facial expressions. All these different and curious happenings, along with some time travel, space travel, violence, and mix-ups with royalty make for a plotline that's a no-sleep no-eat straight-through reader.

As with many of his other books, Orson Scott Card's style is at times mysteriously vague, yet at others completely straightforward. This transition from indistinct to definite and back again creates a sense of dependence upon the author to tell you the truth. Also, Card throws in some dark humor, puns, and crude humor, which leaves you chuckling intermittently at awkward moments.

The dialogue in this novel is pleasantly genuine and authentic. Card's mastery of diction and vocabulary allows him to bestow his characters with realistic conversations and ideas. Witty comments made by Rigg help the reader understand him and give him a realistic feel, like he could walk off your page and you would know exactly who he was simply by listening to him talk. For example, Umbo, a close friend of Rigg's, doesn't understand why they are putting on airs of being rich:

   "But we don't have any of those (luxuries)," Umbo said.

   "Exactly, and we mean to have them, so we'll be hungry and thirsty in the bank, but we won't look like poor privicks."

   "We are poor privicks," muttered Umbo. This witty exchange is an example of some of the delightful dialogue played around with by Orson Scott Card. Card obviously knows how children really talk, and can allow Umbo and Rigg to express themselves realistically.

I personally liked this book. It is very rare that a truly original idea is transformed into a novel, and Orson Scott Card succeeds in placing action in the proper location, heartbreak in others, and some brilliant brainteasers. I often found myself having to read lines three or four times to grasp what Card was saying. Another reason I enjoyed this book was that it had some of the best-developed characters in young adult literature, excepting Harry Potter, Alex Rider, and Katniss Everdeen, of course. Card shows his true colors as he opens up his characters to growth and weakness, displaying Rigg as a boisterous young adolescent, oddly mature manipulator, and broken and confused child who is searching for his place in the bizarre and violent world of Stashiland: the land between the Walls.

   -Kevin E.