The Pendragon Series is my favorite book series of all time, probably because it’s one of the first book series I’ve read at a time where I thought reading was for nerds and other types of total losers. In 8th grade The Merchant of Death, the first of the Pendragon series, jumped off the shelf and immediately caught my eye. I thought the cover was interesting and so I read the back to see what it was about. It intrigued me so I figured I would read the first couple of chapters to see if it was worth reading and I was immediately hooked. A friend of mine had rented another copy from the library and also fell in love with it. However there was only one copy for the rest of the books in the series and so we raced each other to read it first. And at the end of the final page of the entire series, I found a new love of reading.
Some readers like this reviewer will take issue with some of the simple storytelling found in the first book. With a well defined hero and bad guy, but that is only if one looks at the first book by itself. When in reality the first book is just a fragment of a much larger story, which should go without saying, but some people treat it as such. This particular reviewer talks about how black and white the heroes are as well as how the narrative pushes forward. And while I kind of agree with somethings, like how there were times things could have been explained to the main character, I do disagree on a lot of points made.
I don’t even know what I can say to do justice to my feelings for it. I can’t quantify the impact it, and the other nine books, have had on me since then. It’s an absolute masterpiece of character development and complex plotting. It shows the good guys losing to the bad guys. It shows kids growing up to become adults in a believable way, as brought to my attention by this reviewer. It shows that everyone, even the best protagonist and evilest villain, is composed of shades of gray. Even five years after the release of the final installment in the series, it still stands as one of the best things I’ve ever read. And, as you know, I read a lot of things.
The characters are so lovable and I found myself easily getting attached to them. The relationships made between them are wonderful and the action and suspense just leave you wanting more. The plot is well thought out and the writing style is awesome. The concept of the series may not be the most original but the execution definately is.
The first book starts out slow but once you keep reading you will get hooked and STAY hooked and pretty much devour each book one after another!
I was nervous to reread this. My fifth-grade self had different standards and tastes than I do now. I know more about what makes good writing and good storytelling. What if Pendragon no longer met this standard?
Yes, I did find issues with The Merchant of Death that I didn’t in fifth grade. The narration is awkward and simplistic at times. Action sequences still take place in block paragraphs. A few slang terms slip out that sound odd coming from a 14-year-old. The beginning is cliche and overused–normal suburban kid gets whisked off on some grand adventure and is chosen to save everyone.
It’s not perfect. But who am I kidding? I love it. I had so much fun rereading this. I forgot how completely inept Bobby is at the very beginning. I forgot Loor’s incredible sass. The implied Press/Osa ship. Don’t tell me that’s not a thing.
So many things I didn’t forget just made me incredibly happy upon rereading them. The twistiness of a certain reveal (reread=look for foreshadowing!). The fabulousness of Osa. Mark Dimond’s endearing awkwardness. Courtney Chetwynde, a somewhat “masculine” female character whose personality runs far deeper than just “can beat boys at sports”.
Like I mentioned before, Bobby Pendragon starts out as a useless protagonist. For much of the book, every time he tries to help, he messes up. Big time. Let’s face it–if many of us were pulled out of our normal lives into this type of adventure, we’d probably mess everything up, too. And yet, Bobby just keeps going. He keeps trying. It’s believable, it’s real, and it’s also a lot of fun. More than anything else, that was my reaction to this book: it’s just a ridiculous amount of fun to reread.
I would also agree with this reviewer who points out that there are still a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to the end of the book about how these “Travelers were created”, and mostly more about the history of the world that had been created. It feels like this is just a snapshot of a long ongoing war. And I believe this is backed by the fact the the author released a few prequel novels that I will admit I have not had the chance to read. So this negative, pet peeve of mine may have already been addressed, but for right now from my perspective, it has not.
It’s worth noting that I have the advantage of knowing how the series progresses from here. Without this, I would be far less excited about The Merchant of Death itself. I know how much more complex it gets, though. I’ve read through the next nine books of character development and writing improvement. I’ve gone with Bobby and the others as they change and mature. More than anything else, though, I have the ability to see the series as a whole and appreciate the immense planning that must have gone into it. Everything builds on everything else, and all foundations are laid early on, setting the series up for increasingly bigger, better things. It just gets cooler from here. Darker, yes, but also more awesome. I’m excited to reread the rest of the series.
Andrew. Lindsey. Nakia. “Bobby Pendragon From Zero to Hero.” YaReviews.com.
Mitrovich, Matt. “Book Review: The Merchant of Death by D.J. MacHale.” AmazingStoriesMag.com, published 8 Mar. 2016.