The Merchant of Death by D.J. MacHale has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Pendragon” series.
Bobby Pendragon kisses the girl of his dreams and heads for a basketball game when his eccentric Uncle Press takes him into a medieval world of another dimension called Denduron. Little by little, Bobby learns that he is a Traveler who, with his special powers, must try to help the Milago miners escape the tyrannical rule of the Bedoowans. The Bedoowans’ leader, Kagan, is controlled by an evil Traveler named Saint Dane, who wants to bring chaos wherever he goes. With the aid of other young Travelers, Loor and Alder, Bobby saves his uncle from the Bedoowans and strives to stop the use of tak, a massively destructive weapon. Bobby writes about all his adventures and sends his journals back through time and space to his friends Mark and Courtney.
Bobby asserts that the account of David and Goliath is “just a story.” The Bedoowans force the Milago people to fight vicious creatures called quigs in an arena. Bobby likens this to the way Christians were killed in the Roman Coliseum.
Bobby, Uncle Press and the other Travelers believe their mission is to save Halla. Halla is everything: every time, every territory and every living entity. It separates order from chaos, and if it crumbles, “there will be nothing but darkness. Everywhere. For everyone.”
Uncle Press leads Bobby into intense danger, offering little explanation to the 14-year-old. Bobby’s parents never appear in the story. They vanish along with his house when he first goes to Denduron. At the end, Uncle Press seems to indicate that Bobby will be fine without his parents for the time being. The villain, Saint Dane, is determined to cause havoc and destruction for all so that Halla (see “Other belief systems”) will fall. He is able to change into any form, and he whispers suggestions to people to make them do his bidding.
Words like a–, h—, p—ed and the misuse of God’s name appear several times. Scenes involving the predatory quigs often end in gory descriptions of the animals feeding on people (or each other). A homeless man runs in front of a subway train and dies.
Bobby and Courtney share an open-mouthed kiss in the beginning of the book.
Note: This is the first book in a long series.
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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.