cover comparison

Heart of Avalon: First Impressions

Oh, Heart of Avalon (originally stylized as Heart of AvAlon). I had no idea when exactly this book was originally released, other than it was sometime in late 2004. I had just left home for college, and the local Borders didn’t carry the Avalon books, so I had to special order it. And after I finally got it, I walked around campus trying very hard to hide a children’s fantasy book in my backpack between my Intro to Semantics textbook and a copy of The Song of Roland.

This is the last Avalon book that had an original edition published, so it’s the last time I get to show off differences between editions. And trust me, there are a lot of changes between editions in this book. But the story is still essentially the same: Emily learns new abilities, struggles with how to use them, and gets some much-needed character development. The book’s title doesn’t follow the same naming convention as other Emily books (i.e. there’s no unicorns mentioned), but you know it’s an Emily book because she’s on the cover.

For you Jewel Riders fans, this book is “Song of the Rainbow” meets “Jewel of the Sea” meets “Shadowsong”. The plots and major elements of those episodes are just taken in their entirety and mixed up a little. When reading both editions, I noticed at least one Jewel Riders reference on every page — that’s how numerous the connections are in this book. Hell, a line from the show’s theme song is the key to opening up a dungeon at the end of the book!

And speaking of connections, look at the covers for both editions!

See that heart-shaped jewel in front of Emily? That’s her Rainbow Jewel +2 … which is later called a Heart Stone. That’s right, Jewel Riders fans: Emily gets the freaking Heart Stone!

Otherwise, both covers are exactly the same. You got Emily on a tropical island, with a watery figure giving her a Heart Stone Rainbow Jewel +2. I always found it funny that the original edition cover is trying very hard to hide that the water chick is nude (note: female chests don’t work that way!), and that Emily is staring at some space beyond the watery figure. Blankly staring faces, even when they’re not looking directly at you, are still creepy.

What to expect from this book:

  • Some serious character development for Emily!
  • Tons of Jewel Riders references!
  • A new male party member!
  • Some secrets regarding the Original Party are finally revealed!
  • Some secrets regarding current party members are alluded to!

Next time: the party visits New Camelot, and Emily feels severely under-leveled.

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Ghost Wolf: First Impressions

Ah, Ghost Wolf. You were the first book I had to special order because the local Borders didn’t regularly stock the series at the time it was released. You were the weird book with the trippy extradimensional travel that was a little hard to understand upon initial reading. But mostly, I remember you for introducing Adriane’s parents and having them settle in one of the more stereotypical artist communes in upstate New York.

Obviously, this is an Adriane-centric book, in which a ton of shit gets piled on her. And I mean a lot: there’s family issues, problems with Ravenswood, and some stuff concerning her bonded animals. Did I say “animals”, as in the plural? That was kinda spoileriffic — but then, it is mentioned on the cover blurb, so I guess it’s not.

Anyway, on to Jewel Riders connections. The book is essentially “Badlands”, in which Fallon reunites with her artisan parents, who don’t approve of her being a Jewel Rider. But there are shout-outs to “Dreamfields” (there’s a lot of weird dream-stuff in this book), “Wizard of Gardenia” (topiary monsters), and “Mystery Island” (the dweasel tea party).

Ghost Wolf original cover
I remember this cover being a lot shinier in real life. This image makes the border look really dull. But hey, now I know there was actually a pattern on the border, instead of a shimmery, oil-slicky brown blob. This is one of the few times I like the original cover more than the new one. Adriane’s standing in the middle of a forest, possibly trying to summon Fenrir. Oh, and I think Dreamer makes a cover appearance in the background there, but I’m not sure. Sometimes you can’t really tell with these old covers.

Ghost Wolf new cover
Hey, doesn’t the cover art look kinda different here? Well, the regular artist for the series couldn’t get the cover or interior illustrations done in time for publication, so someone else (Shiei, who did the art for the last two volumes of Warlock Diaries) finished the sketches. So a lot of the artwork looks really wonky — like this cover, for example. Adriane has this out-of-character XTREME SNOWBOARDING TO THE MAXX! look on her face, and Dreamer looks really cartoony. And wait — didn’t one of those characters on the cover get nuked a few books back? Um … spoiler alert?

What to expect from this book:
* Me getting help from my art grad school friends for artist references!
* More Charday family issues!
* An actual threat to Earth!
* Middle school students getting really involved in nature conservation!
* Bitchy Ms. Windor action!
* A token male character!

Next time: Something that only appears in the original edition.

All’s Fairy in Love and War: First Impressions

I remember the day I purchased the original edition of this book surprisingly well: It was Christmas Eve, and I was at Borders looking for last minute gifts. So I wandered into the children’s book section, and discovered that a new Avalon book had been released. So yeah … I bought myself an early Christmas present.

Obviously, this is a Kara-centric book. She’s on the cover, and the title is a play on a quote from another 17th-century playwright (“All is fair in love and war,” from John Lyly’s Euphues). I never really liked the title of this book, though, because I don’t think it makes much sense. Does everything concern fairies in love and war? Is everything of a fae nature? I get that the book introduces the Fairy Realms, but I think that could’ve been inserted in the title with a bit more finesse.

For you Jewel Riders fans, this book is most similar to “The Faery Princess”, in which the Jewel Riders have an adventure in a fairy kingdom. But there are shout-outs to “Wizard’s Peak”, “Full Circle”, and “Prince of the Forest”. Oh, and Kara spends most of this book in an outfit reminiscent of Gwen’s party dress.

Full disclosure here: I hate the cover to the original edition. I’m very glad to have purchased this book at Christmastime, so I could hide it under everything else I bought! Kara’s hanging out in a weird technicolor forest, accompanied by poorly-photoshopped fairies and a flaming horse. The only good thing about this is that I love how Kara’s Unicorn Jewel is depicted. But Kara’s dress isn’t the pink poofy costume described in the book, and the way the horse appears in the background has always bothered me. But hey, there’s no disturbing staring faces, which is nice.

Now, I just adore the new edition cover. Kara’s in one of her pimped-out outfits from the book, and we see one of the new token male characters! The dashing green boy is Beast Boy the Forest Prince, who ends up being a major side-character for the rest of the series. And he’s bad-ass, because he actually uses a sword the entire time he’s with the party. (Unlike a certain dragon-riding mage we know.) Also, we see a lot more interesting fairy creatures, and … well, it’s kinda spoilers to reveal who the donkey-headed guy is. Let’s just say it’s a male character we’ve already been introduced to.

What to expect from this book:

  • A new realm to explore!
  • Middle-schoolers butchering Shakespeare!
  • More fun with Kara’s convoluted family tree!
  • Pimped-out outfits galore!
  • A new party member!

Next time: Kara’s closet explodes.

Song of the Unicorns: First Impressions

A long time ago, back when I finished reading the original Web of Magic series, I had no idea there was going to be a sequel. And then I walked into my local Borders a few weeks after completing the last book, and found a display for something called Avalon: Quest for Magic. I wasn’t sure if it was at all related to my favorite book series, since the series logo was in some generic font, but upon looking at the poorly-photoshopped cover and the description on the back, I knew for certain that the party’s adventures were going to continue somehow. And I say “somehow” because the original edition of Trial by Fire wrapped things up pretty nicely.

Song of the Unicorns is not my favorite entry in the series by any means. It’s like a filler episode of an anime series, except it serves to introduce new characters, new concepts, and a new conflict — the latter of which, in the original edition, is executed poorly. The only part of the book that excited me was that it took place in New Mexico, where I spent many a summer and winter in my youth. Unfortunately, my experiences were all in the mountains in the northern part of the state, where — gasp! — it snows during the winter. I know next to nothing about the Carlsbad Caverns and the surrounding area, where the story takes place. (What I can tell you, though, is that the party is severely underdressed for winter there ^_^)

In case you couldn’t tell, this is an Emily-centric book. She deals with a lot of family issues in this one, namely coping with her father’s remarriage.

It was a challenge to think of which Jewel Riders episodes this book was inspired by. It’s like mix of “Home Sweet Heartstone” (in which the Jewel Riders hang out with lots of young magical animals and sing songs) and “Morgana” (the start of the second season, which introduces a new villain and a new quest). Starting with this book, the Jewel Riders comparisons start to become more obvious, since the party is eventually charged with collecting Mineral McGuffins.

Not much to say about the covers: they both feature the party surrounded by unicorn colts and fillies. I don’t like the original cover, mainly because the girls don’t look like a cohesive party. Adriane’s looking off like there’s danger somewhere (or she’s on a rock album cover), Emily’s having fun with unicorns, and Kara looks like she’s having an unpleasant bowel movement. At least on the new cover the entire party’s enjoying their cute, My Little Pony-esque overlords. (Also, Dreamer makes another cover appearance.)

What to expect from this book:

  • More Fletcher family issues!
  • An even more annoying character than Ozzie!
  • A minor character we won’t see again for a long while!
  • Kara casting Polymorph like it’s going out of style!
  • A new quest!
  • Obnoxious unicorn bleating!
  • An Evil Council of Evil!
  • More fun with the original party!

Next time: Look, two new characters!
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Credit where it’s due: original cover from the official Avalon site, new cover from Amazon.

Trial by Fire: First Impressions

A long time ago, back when the original editions of Avalon were published, I bought the first six books all at once, thinking that that was the entire series. (The Quest for Magic / second half of the series hadn’t been released yet.) So when I finally got around to Trial by Fire, I thought, “OMG! This is it, the end we’ve all been waiting for! Everyone will fulfill their part of the prophecy, Avalon will be found, and the Sorceress will be defeated! Yay! This will be so freaking awesome.” And believe it or not, all of that happened, and I thought it was a satisfying end to my favorite guilty-pleasure series. Granted, that was before a) Quest for Magic was published and poorly tacked on that BS with the Power Crystals, and b) the new editions came out and added information on the original party and the Sorceress’ past that better connects both halves of the series.

So, if Avalon was a video game, Trial by Fire would be the Disk One Final Dungeon, which looks like the end, but totally isn’t. I mean, come on, the party raids the Sorceress’ lair, Kara reaches the Gates of Avalon, Stormbringer sacrifices herself, and the party defeats the Sorceress … and then in the next book (or at the end of this one in the new edition), the party discovers they have to collect Mineral MacGuffins and save the Magic Web. It’s like Final Fantasy VI, where you blow up the sky fortress … and then have to run around in the World of Ruin to find your party and defeat the big bad for good.

Trial by Fire doesn’t fit any of the series’ naming conventions, but it’s a party-centric, arc-ending book like Full Circle. And it totally makes up for the suckitude that is Spellsinger.

I can’t really think of an episode of Jewel Riders that corresponds to this book exactly. The closest I can think of is probably “Jewel Quest”, because in that episode the Jewel Riders raid Kale’s castle, Gwen gets her Sunstone, and the girls kick off their quest to find the Crown Jewels. Anyone else around here who’s watched Jewel Riders and read Avalon can chime in with their opinion, because I’m stumped.

original coverBoth covers do a decent job of showing that things start getting serious at this point. The original cover has Kara in possession of a Fairy Map, with the Sorceress watching her menacingly. Again, this is one of the few times we see a non-party member on the cover — and the only time in either edition that a villain makes a cover appearance! I actually kinda like those weird cat eyes she has. I’ve always liked the border around the image on this cover, too. The design of the Fairy Map … not so much. (Especially after you’ve read the entire series and discovered that the Magic Web looks like a random jumble of pathways, and not like a spider’s web.)

new coverNow, the new cover shows that things might not be in the party’s favor. The party is surrounded by all sorts of dark beasties mounted on giant black horses, and our heroes look like they may be screwed. Look at how freaked out the girls and Ozzie are! (Yay, Ozzie appears on a cover again! Oh, and this is Dreamer’s first cover appearance, too — if you can find him hiding behind the book’s title.) How’re they gonna get out of this mess?

What to expect from this book:

  • Awesome displays of badassery!
  • More fun in everyone’s favorite magical nuclear wasteland!
  • More thinking with portals!
  • Kara finally getting a Sparkly Rock!
  • Zach, the Token Male Character!
  • More powerful and annoying bosses!

Next time: Moonshadow tries to get out of a tiny net.
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Credit where it’s due: old cover from the official Avalon site, new cover from Amazon.

Spellsinger: First Impressions

Spellsinger. Oh my f’ing god Spellsinger. I’m probably echoing 90% of fandom by admitting how much I hate this book. Basically, Kara acts really bitchy — like, out of character bitchy — and (in the original edition) gets rewarded for it. At least the new edition explains her OOC-ness and makes her face the consequences of her actions, but it still doesn’t wash out the bad taste this book leaves in my mouth.

This is also the Obligatory Musical Volume that I’ve been referring to on occasion. Usually when a show resorts to a Musical Episode, it means the showrunners are totally out of ideas. However, Spellsinger has been hinted at since Book 2, so it’s existence is more organic and less “Oh, wouldn’t it be fun if all the characters broke out into song for an entire book?” Of course, you could argue that it exists solely to introduce young readers to Be*Tween songs….

Anyway, this is one of the inter-party conflict books; you can tell because the title is the name of a character class. I know, spellsinging is technically a talent a magic user in the Avalon universe can have, but whatever.

It took me a long while to figure out which Jewel Riders episode this book reminded me of, until I remembered that it followed the plot of what has to be the worst episode of that series: “Fashion Fever”. In that episode, Gwen/Starla is given a shapeshifting dress to wear at the royal fashion show. However, said dress brainwashes the princess into infiltrating the Jewel Keep, obtaining the locations of the remaining Wizard Jewels, and handing the information to Kale and Morgana. Luckily, the other Jewel Riders stop Gwen/Starla from reaching the Keep. The only redeeming part of that episode is that there’s an actual sword fight — which, honestly, I wish there was more of in Jewel Riders.

I don’t have too much to say about the covers, other than that I hate the original one. The girls’ hair colors are badly painted in, Adriane’s wearing a weird silver tracksuit and playing a Daisy guitar (I remember picking up a catalog for them when I first got the book), Kara’s vaguely pointing at something (a Fairy Map, which I didn’t notice until recently), and Emily’s just hanging out. At least the new cover shows the girls playing the correct instruments — Adriane with her Fender Stratocaster, and Emily with her flute. Oh, and Ozzie makes a rare cover appearance.

Just a heads-up: My recaps for this book are going to be very media-intensive. Expect a truckload of video clips — because it’s not a true musical unless there’s music. Also, almost every fight in this book can be illustrated by clips from the Scott Pilgrim movie or video game, and the music from both are way better than Be*Tween’s stuff. (On a side note: am I the only one who hates Be*Tween?)

What to look forward to in this book:
* OOC Kara and Adriane!
* Video clips galore!
* Pimped-out Kara Outfits!
* Really bad music!
* Skrulls!
* Everyone’s favorite German commander-turned-magic koala!

Next time: Kara has mommy issues.
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Credit where it’s due: old cover from the official Avalon site, new cover from Amazon.

Secret of the Unicorn: First Impressions

Yay, I found a computer!

It’s harder to detect Emily-centric books by their titles: this book and Song of the Unicorns make it obvious, because they both mention unicorns; but then you have Heart of Avalon and (arguably) Circles in the Stream, which break the pattern. I guess what marks them as Emily books is their general themes — basically, Emily has to face some challenge that involves healing or controlling magic in some fashion. She at first has her doubts whether she can aid an animal, but after a while she finds the inner strength to succeed at her task. My only problem is that Emily doesn’t encounter anything especially trying until very late in the series, when she discovers that she can also cause harm; then she spends the last book realizing that she must find a balance between healing and killing. And since none of this development occurs until the last quarter of the series, the earlier Emily books are kind of boring for me to get through. (Not as bad as most Kara-centric books, however.)

Secret of the Unicorn is the first book to blend together a few Jewel Riders plots. Here it’s “Shadowsong” (in which Tamara follows a mysterious song that leads her to a distressed unicorn) plus some elements from “Song of the Rainbow” (in which Tamara is charmed by a magic harp when playing a certain song) and “Jewel Quest” (well, only the parts in which Sunstar doubts her ability to fly).

I can’t really comment on the covers, since they are very similar. They both show Emily and a unicorn hanging out in vaguely wintry places. At least in the new edition Emily remembers to dress accordingly for the weather. The original edition cover places Emily’s Sparkly Rock (which has been called the Rainbow Jewel since some point in Cry of the Wolf) in the forefront, but … I hate how it’s depicted. It’s some sort of rainbow-banded stone, instead of the color-changing crystal dandelion it’s usually described as. And isn’t it supposed to be in some sort of silver bracelet now? Whatever, the differences are just cosmetic; the essence of the covers are the same. Oddly enough, this is one of the few times I prefer the original cover to the new one….

What to expect from this book:

  • Emily healing many animals!
  • More Fletcher family issues!
  • Marching band!
  • The party’s first foray onto (into?) the Magic Web!

Next time (whenever that is): Emily considers auditioning for the marching band.

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Credit where it’s due: original cover from the official Avalon site, new cover from Amazon.