Ezra Scott,
Angel Up My Sleeve
(Fontanel, 2001)

Many of us carry childhood memories of playing games from fantasy shows like Star Trek or something like it. On summer days when the rain poured down and the garage or the attic or the basement was the only place to play, youthful games of fantasy became roles that fit like a second skin. Of course, sometimes near fistfights would break out when one wanted to be the captain of the ship, or the chief villain, and no one wanted a bit part. All of the roles enacted in those games were cast in black and white, with no ambiguity. Thus, Angel Up My Sleeve, a book deeply rooted in much of human heroic epics, is akin to the games we played as children. It is not, however, child's play.

Angel Up My Sleeve initially appears to be a book written for "tweens" or children a bit older. However, unlike some books in a similar style, such as Holes, A Wrinkle in Time or the ubiquitous Harry Potter stories, this book is not written for a tween, teen or adult. It lacks the zest, sparkle, twists and turns of other books that appeal to most readers of this genre. This is sad news, because there are segments that are nearly enough to ensnare the reader, such as when Dana, the heroine and queen of the fantastic characters in this world, meets various demons and must accomplish impossible tasks -- or suffer dire consequences. Dana manages to complete the tasks and acquires her magic sword -- in miniature.

There is no clearly defined villain, even though one (variously named Tar, Var and Zar) sometimes appears. Dana is also the victim of a fiendish brother who locks her in her closet and makes her life a living hell. But in the world where she is queen, she is a heroine capable of much more than she believes.

In a plot twist analogous to The Wizard of Oz, in which Dorothy receives a concussion from the twister and we are left to wonder if her adventure was all a dream, Dana's adventures begin with a high fever. Her release comes from a familiar, Ibbur, who becomes her traveling companion on her journey to self.

This book is full of promise, and the author is obviously quite conversant with legends and imagery, particularly with that of the Celtic peoples. However, I am unable to find an audience for whom I would recommend this book. The author would do well to be clearer about his target audience, which seems quite limited. This book is colorful, mystical, but clearly not magical. It did not cast a spell over me, and for the average fantasy reader, it is ultimately, a disappointment.

- Rambles
written by Ann Flynt
published 25 April 2004

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