Here’s a contemporary fantasy with an Arthurian twist. I was happy to win an ARC from fellow book blogger Akossiwa Ketoglo.
The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni. Harper Collins Children’s, 2014.
Recent orphan Jax Aubrey, 13, through some legal manipulation he doesn’t understand, is stuck with 18-year-old stranger Riley Pendare as his guardian. Riley is often gone and there’s never enough food in the house, so Jax is doing everything he can to move back in with some cousins. Then he wakes up one morning to find that all the people have vanished, leaving him alone in an abandoned world. After making his best preparations for disaster survival, he wakes up the next day only to find everything normal again.
Finally, Riley starts to give him some very limited explanations: Jax has inherited his father’s ability to live through the Eighth Day, an extra day magically sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. There are three types of people in the world: normal people; transitioners like Jax and Riley who experience all eight days; and the Kin, forever exiled to just the eighth day. The magic dates back to the time of King Arthur, when Merlin created the spell. In the modern era, this results in a culture where swearing fealty is still an important part of everyday life and people get tattoos featuring their family crests to enhance their magical powers.
Jax finds himself caught up in a war between factions. The only person he really trusts is Evangeline, the teenage Kin girl whom Riley has been keeping locked up in the house next door to theirs. But Jax’s ignorance of his new world and his determination to free Evangaline start things spiraling quickly out of control. Soon they find that they will need to save not just themselves but the whole world!
This is an exciting, action-oriented book, which I wanted to like more than I did. A lot of the problems could have been avoided if Riley had just been upfront with Jax at the beginning, always frustrating. The connection to Arthurian legend was tenuous enough to be disappointing to me, since I really like that. A love triangle that was introduced at the last minute felt out of place, and in general, I prefer more character focus in my reading. On the other hand, the idea of the eighth day is fun and original, and Jax and Evangeline are likeable characters. I could really see Percy Jackson fans getting excited about the possibility of being part of a society where magical family daggers are still important. I’d happily give this to readers, middle school or so, who want an adventurous contemporary fantasy book.