Book Review: The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell (four stars)

Book Review: The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell (four stars)

“It is your duty to save souls,” Mendoza said. “It is mine to save lives. Our lives.”

Excellent historical fiction for young adults. O’Dell drops the reader into the periphery of a well-known historical event—Coronado’s exploration of the American southwest during the sixteenth century—and spins an engaging

But as the two men left the camp and went up the trail with the bags and implements loaded on a mule, I said to myself, “I shall never in this life see them again.”

Published in 1966. Historical fiction of this quality is now rare. O’Dell recognizes issues present in his narrative, but doesn’t derail the story by sermonizing. Current offerings tend to emphasize message over history.

“Let your manner be courteous. Do not forget that when there is no honey in the jar, it is wise to have some in the mouth.” 

Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Five Stars)

Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Five Stars)

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

Excellent. Award-winning journey of self-, world-, and supernatural-discovery by likeable protagonist. Hero’s journey format exactly fits Coelho’s purpose. Fun reading.

“It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

Respectfully, if not accurately melds Jewish, Christian, and Islamic spiritual inputs to Santiago’s growth. Santiago is simultaneously everyone and unique. Partisans of each faith may be offended, but Coelho provides and intimate, yet global search for identity and promise.

“You have been a real blessing to me. Today, I understand something I didn’t see before: every blessing ignored becomes a curse.”

Quibbles: so many errors about north Africa geography and cultures that readers will suspect Coelho drew his details from Arabic sources. Bedouin, clothing conventions, and oasis details are clearly inventions to serve the story, not to be taken as credible.

“The wise men understood that this natural world is only an image and a copy of paradise. The existence of this world is simply a guarantee that there exists a world that is perfect.”