This first fantasy book in the "Pendragon" series by D.J. MacHale is published by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.
The Merchant of Death is written for kids ages 9 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
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.
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.
Other Belief Systems
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.”
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.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Based on the information presented about the explosive material tak and the way people who owned it acted, what point do you think the author was trying to make about weapons?
Do you agree with his viewpoint?
- Did Saint Dane remind you of anyone mentioned in the Bible?
- What are some ways Saint Dane tricked and manipulated people and circumstances in Denduron?
- What makes someone a hero?
- Was Bobby a born hero, or did he have to grow into his role?
- What are some ways an average person can be heroic?
- Why do you think Bobby was encouraged to keep a journal?
- Do you keep a journal, or have you ever thought about doing so?
- What might be some positive results of writing down your thoughts, experiences and activities?
Note: This is the first book in a long series.
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