The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

It's The End Of The World As We Know It (Review: The Daykeeper's Grimoire by Christy Raedeke)

The Daykeepers' Grimoire
(Prophecy of Days, book 1)
Christy Raedeke
Flux 2010

The story of Caity Mac Fireland, a girl from San Francisco whose parents drag her to an isle off the coast of Scotland to manage some family property. Caity finds that a Mayan relic is concealed there, intentionally left centuries ago by Mayan Daykeepers in an attempt to keep their profound knowledge about the year 2012 alive into the current era. As she delves into this world of secret knowledge, Caity is helped along by a visiting family friend and Feng Shui master, Uncle Li; a Mayan elder named Bolon; and Mr. Papers, her pet monkey that communicates through origami. A handsome Scottish lad gets pulled into the intrigue, as do several other people with questionable motives and loyalties. Caity must weave together a tapestry of information in order to make her radical discovery, a mystery protected by an elite coterie of power-brokers who influence world events. Caity’s twenty-first century mind is put to the test as she tries to uncover the answer to an ancient riddle while trying to outwit this powerful group that will stop at nothing to control the secret, and her.
(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads)

Has anyone ever played the “movie pitch” game? No? OK, well you basicall have to come up with an idea for a new movie and then “pitch” it using previous films as reference. For example, were I to be pitching a movie that involved a robotic shark who believes he's a real shark destined to save the world from the next ice age then I may very well describe it as “AI meets Jaws meets The Day After Tomorrow”. Bear with me, this is totally going somewhere(sort of)...For those of you who are still here, were I to be pitching The Daykeeper's Grimoire using other books as reference, I would have to say that it's a little like Artemis Fowl(minus the fairy) meets The Da Vinci Code(minus the tweed and loafers... I mean, who wears that??) meets Curious George(minus the man with the yellow hat). And for the hell of it, lets shove a little bit of the Celestine Prophecy and I Capture The Castle in for good measure (minus the endless drivel and the 1930's respectively). This is in no way meant to sound like The Daykeeper's Grimoire is unoriginal – quite the opposite – I mean, can YOU imagine a book made up of all of the above?

Protagonist Caity introduces herself quickly and succinctly in a rather tongue in cheek prologue. She states that she'd rather get her back story out of the way quickly so that we can get on with the actual story. A girl after my own heart, I really could not agree more. Within about five pages we know that Caity is from San Fransisco but finds herself adrift on the remote (and fictional) Scottish island that houses her families ancestral home. Scotland – yay! I'm Scottish, but more on that later... And what an ancestral home it is. Breidablik Castle is what every castle should be. Huge rooms, oversized four-poster beds, ginormous fireplaces, a comforting cook and (most importantly) a secret chamber. Add to that a monkey who communicates through the medium of origami (see? I was going somewhere with Curious George) and a delectable Scottish boy (aren't they all?) you're all set for the oddest story that I have come across in ages.

Basically, it all revolves around ancient Mayan prophecies and the fact that the world may or may not end in 2012 – at the very least, they believed that 2012 was an important date for humanity and conciousness and Caity finds herself at the forefront of educating the youth demographic on Mayan calendars and their relevance in fighting the shadowy Fraternitas Regni Occulti – a sinister organisation who appear to be planning on controlling human conciousness on a mass scale to their own nefarious ends. If all this sounds fairly vague, it is because I found the endless explanations regarding the Galactic Centre, electromagnetism, calenders (of which the Maya had several) and the “26,000 cycle of precession” as baffling as the last series of Lost. I have to admit that by halfway through the book, I was starting to skim read any passages that mentioned the Maya as I found them pretty dry and often confusing. I'm not hugely into Feng Shui, prophecies or mysticism but I bet Chrisy Raedeke is and all power to her for using this interest as a jumping off point for her story. While the lengthy expositioning of information didn't really do it for me, I still enjoyed the story as a whole and would hope that, now the basic foundation is laid out, there will be less talk and more action in future installments (this being the first book in The Prophecy of Days series).

What carried the book for me personally, was the characters. Caity is such a lot of fun and has a truly original voice and character. While still a typical teenager in that she crushes terribly on the lovely Alex she also has a childlike quality to her which is a lot of fun. The adult characters are also fairly interesting. Caity's parents are absent-minded code-breakers and safe-crackers which beats the standard YA mum/dad cutouts and her Uncle Li and the mysterious Tenzo add fully fledged adult characters to her adventure which isn't something you see that much of in YA fiction. As a love interest, Alex is pretty good. He has a quietness to him that is lovely and I would have liked to have seen more of him. But..... and it's a big BUT.... I have really issue with the way that he speaks. I am Scottish born and bred. I have lived in the north, south, east and west of the country and actually grew up on a remote Scottish island. To this day, I have never met a teenage boy (or child, or man below 80) or, in point of fact, anyone out with Shakespeare and Robert Burns who uses words such as “'tis”, “twixt” or “'twas”. It is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Oddly, only Alex seems to speak this way - the older Scottish characters speak perfectly reasonable. Perhaps a future story arch is that Alex is a throwback to Shakespearian times. Perhaps he is Shakespeare. I suspect not, though. OK – rant over.

All in all, The Daykeeper's Grimoire is pretty impressive for a debut novel. While some passages fell flat for me, the ideas informing them are interesting and it is a hugely original storyline – I cannot think of anything else out there in YA world quite like it. Pick it up and give it a shot. I can guarantee that you will want to keep reading to the end and that you will probably add Prophecy of Days book two to your wish list as, if nothing else, it will be extremely interesting to see where Christy Raedeke takes us next.
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