________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 23 . . . . February 20, 2015


1. (The Last Thirteen, Bk.13).

James Phelan.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2015.
185 pp., trade pbk. & html, $7.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4431-3999-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4431-3400-2 (html).

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Andrew Laudicina.

**½ /4



"We're so close," Alex said out loud. "It seems impossible. I mean—it's hard to imagine such an awesome machine being created so long ago. And that when it's put together, it's gonna reveal something of even greater . . . awesomeness?"

Despite herself, Eva chuckled.

"We all must go to the Gate with an open mind," Dr. Dark said, his arm still around Xavier. "It will truly be an important discovery—or rediscovery, as it were. We really won't know what it can do until we open it."

Consistent until the very end, 1 delivers much of the same in terms of plot and pacing, but not exactly what most would have hoped for in a finale for a series which spans 13 books. After decoding the mystery of his final dream with friends, Sam discovers the identity of the last of the thirteen, and with that knowledge the true identity of the evil Solaris. Shaken by this revelation, but still determined to win the race and secure the power of the Dreamscape, Sam, along with the Professor, travels to Venice to retrieve the final gear to the all important da Vinci machine. Sam and the Professor secure the gear, but in doing so are unable to escape capture by Solaris. Sam is taken to Egypt where he is reunited with the remaining dreamers who were earlier seized by Solaris as well. Against their will, they are forced to assemble the da Vinci machine, which all but hands control of the Dreamscape and its immense power to Solaris.

      The reveal of Solaris' identity is exposed far too early to capitalize on any suspense; the selection, itself, seems odd as well, forcing readers to remember an obscure character who debuted back in the series opener and was only mentioned a few times thereafter. Citing general madness and a lust for power, the reasoning for Solaris' actions and that of his fellow conspirator (the real evil genius behind the prophecy) are also rather underwhelming. Truly frustrating considering that a fully stocked backstory existed to help explain a more plausible (and pleasing) motive, one which could have linked seemingly disparate themes throughout the series and created a cohesive, coherent tale that rewards readers who have followed along from the beginning. A slew of characters meet their untimely demise for no reason other than to lighten the load of the narrative and build emotional conflict which fails to register any resonance to the plot.

      Clearly not a series which will win critical acclaim; nevertheless, "The Last Thirteen" has appreciable merit with its uncomplicated vocabulary and easy flowing prose, ideally suited for reluctant and easily frustrated readers interested in high energy adventure tales. Likely also a suitable selection for those who struggle with committing long term to a franchise as readers can conceivably cherry pick individual titles in the series and still exit with an enjoyable reading experience, as long as the first book is used to orient the reader and all subsequent selections are made chronologically. Who knows, the cliff hanger endings may prove endearing enough to compel certain readers to continue along with the series until completion.


Andrew Laudicina is a MLIS graduate from the University of Western Ontario in London; he currently resides in Windsor, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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