CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 7. . . .October 16, 2009
Twelve-year-old Josh and his 14-year-old sister Erica are left in the care of Paul, their grandfather, while their archeologist parents go on a dig in Mexico. Paul and the children are on their way to Alberta to dirt bike and look for dinosaur bones when Jonas, an old friend from Paul's youth, tracks them down in a hotel. It turns out that Paul has something Jonas has been seeking for years: a blue stone that is part of the Mask of Kulkaan, "the most powerful weapon the world has ever known." Jonas has time to tell Paul that the Crystalline Order's evil leader—von Wallenstein—is trying to obtain the last missing pieces of the mask so that he can control the world. When Jonas is abducted, Paul, Josh, and Erica decide to carry on Jonas's plan to thwart von Wallenstein. On their way to collecting the mask pieces needed by von Wallenstein (as per Jonas's directions), Paul is knocked into a coma by thugs from the Crystalline Order. Josh and Erica attempt to carry on without their grandfather, but after getting the final pieces, they are caught by von Wallenstein. According to legend, the power of the mask will return "with the breath of the boy" and "by the hand of the girl." Von Wallenstein believes that Josh and Erica are the children required to fulfill the prophecy of the mask and make him ruler of all. When he forces the reassembled mask onto Josh's face, it comes to life, glowing and molding to Josh's features like a blue, crystalline skin. Josh falls to the floor, writhing in agony. The moment Erica touches the mask to pull it from Josh's face, both children vanish. While von Wallenstein races to find them, the children use the mask to make their grandfather better. Then Paul, Erica, and Josh use the mask's magical powers to take them to an ancient temple in Mexico where Jonas said they could destroy the mask. Von Wallenstein arrives at the temple just as the mask is about to be destroyed. Too late, he realizes that his interpretation of the legend was flawed, and he ends up being obliterated with the mask.
The Doomsday Mask is a completely plot-driven, contemporary novel that moves at breakneck speed from prologue to epilogue. The story flies from one briefly described calamity to the next, including gunfire and an explosion (during the prologue), a road chase in which Erica drives a motorcycle, the collapse of an ancient temple, and an earthquake (during the epilogue). The story's omniscient narrator usually focuses on the actions of Josh and Erica but occasionally switches to members of the Crystalline Order. Except for von Wallenstein—a somewhat erudite yet typical villain—the story's characters all sound alike. There is no character development and strangely, at the novel's conclusion, Paul stops the children from telling their parents about the experience which they've just been through. This short novel is the type often picked by young reluctant readers for a mandatory book report. It has some vocabulary ("paleontologist," "archeologist") and stylistic devices (prologue, epilogue) that a teacher may appreciate, but its lack of character development results in readers feeling little to no empathy for the story's protagonist(s). Ultimately, this leaves them wondering why they should bother with fiction.
Karen Rankin is a Toronto, ON, teacher and writer of children's stories.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal
use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any
other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.