Reviewed By K.J. Simmill for Readers’ Favorite
Case Connor had really done it this time. His legal guardian was furious, and his tales about minotaurs and a mantis-man foiling his attempt to get his hands on the latest Monster Arcanum for Battle Realms, and ransacking the shop in the process, had been the final straw. He has been whisked away to a place where the worst of the worst were said to go, and not all of them made it back from Camp Bundai alive. He is not alone on this disastrous trip and, strangely, each of the boys shared the same interest in Battle Realms. Perhaps stranger still is the real reason they were sent there. Everyone in the camp has something that separates them from the masses, a reason for being brought to this archaic, medieval military prison camp, and it is one he never would have expected.
Case Connor and The Trials of Sand and Fire is a well written urban fantasy by George Lamore, narrated in the first-person perspective of Case Connor, the main protagonist. The narrative style is extremely well presented in that it is both engaging and fits the age group and viewpoints of the characters perfectly. There are some great descriptions and plays on reality, not to mention the seamless blending of two worlds - one of the modern day discovered world, and another of the long forgotten secrets hidden in the Australian outback where there are many kinds of predators and prey that seem too close to Case's favourite books to be a coincidence. The characters show tremendous strength and growth throughout the plot, and as a reader I was eager to unlock and fit together all the pieces given from beginning to end. This is a book driven by the characters as they fight to survive something none of them were prepared for, and joining them on the journey made for a great reading experience.
Reviewed By Viga Boland for Readers’ Favorite
If I were asked to provide a title for this review, it would be “Expect the Unexpected”. I truly had no idea what I was taking on in selecting Case Connor and the Trials of Sand and Fire by George Lamore, but I was intrigued by the idea that an American teen who had fallen foul of the law was being sent to a “hellish reform camp” in Australia. Sounded like a mighty penalty for whatever Case Connor had done. But by the time I reached the early chapter where young Case and a group of Aussie teens and their pilot crash in the burning deserts of Australia, I was hooked! Would anyone survive and if they did, how long before they’d be rescued? And if they weren’t rescued, then how would they survive the scorching days and chilly nights with no shelter, no food, and a limited supply of water?
A good half a book later, thanks to advice from the near-dead pilot whom this ragged band of kids refused to abandon and Case’s intelligent leadership, the group, nearly dead themselves, ultimately makes it to the boot camp from hell. But what they find there is nothing anyone, not the teens or the readers of this book will expect. It’s as if they have slipped back in time to a medieval world, a world where inmates…for lack of a better description…are taught survival skills, along with the fundamentals of math and science. There are no TVs, no smartphones, no computer games. Hard work and exhaustion, coupled with tough punishments for small infractions fill the teens’ days.
And just when we think we’ve figured out what has been going on, the author answers the question that Case has been asking since he first found himself on a bus in Australia: why was he sent there in the first place? Readers are as surprised as Case is by the answer, which then leaves everyone wondering what will happen to him and his fellow survivors in the next book. This book is aimed at young adult readers but much to my surprise, this septuagenarian reviewer enjoyed it too. While it’s a rather wild adventure that teens who are into alternate universes, time travel possibilities and the challenges of computer games will gobble up, it’s also a rather touching story full of the ideals for which both adults and teens should strive. Like I said above, expect the unexpected. You will find this story of Case Connor and the Trials of Sand and Fire very different and even endearing.
Reviewed By Lesley Jones for Readers’ Favorite
In Case Connor and The Trials of Sand and Fire by George Lamore, Case Connor, a mischievous, teenage scamp, has pushed the patience of his lawyer guardian too far. His troublesome behaviour has now landed him on a plane ride to the Australian outback, and a reform camp that only exists in nightmares. When the plane crashes, Case and other teenage delinquents have to use all their survival skills to find their way back to civilization. They are soon discovered and find themselves inside the brutal reform camp from which no one has ever escaped. Case realizes that the camp's merciless regime is not the only unusual thing about the camp. Strange goings on in the dead of night make him determined to escape the camp and get back to normality. But Case must first succeed and survive the infamous Trials of Sand and Fire.
This is an exceptionally well-written story by an author who has mastered the art of building well-structured characters that you want to see succeed. Case is a strong and self-confident protagonist, and he is supported by an excellent range of characters. The camp leaders are sinister but not clichéd villains, which I loved. The formidable and courageous Arpharma was a great female character but my favourite was Carrot; he made me laugh throughout. The dialogue for each character is unique to their personality too. The suspense and tension as the camp mates' fight to survive the tasks set for them is enthralling. I was completely drawn in. The conflict within the plot was also well placed, making the book a complete nail-biting action adventure. The ending left me wanting to know more about these characters. Now I wait with anticipation for book 2.
Reviewed By Caitlin Lyle Farley for Readers’ Favorite
Troubled teen Case Connor is on his last chance after he insists he saw two men transform into monsters in the game shop he’s accused of ransacking. Days later, Case wakes up on a bus in Australia with four other boys, all of them shackled to their seats and bound for Bundai’s Camp for Troubled Youth. This unwelcome trip gets worse when the light aircraft ferrying them for the last part of the journey crashes in the desert. With only the last minute directions from the unconscious pilot and the meager supplies they’ve salvaged from the plane, Case and the other survivors set off for Camp Bundai.
Case Connor and The Trials of Sand and Fire by George Lamore is a rollicking adventure that combines survival with a subtle twist of fantasy and alternative history. I loved the ingenuity with which Case and the other boys faced their hellish trek through the desert and the general emphasis on surviving in both the harsh Australian bush and the fierce routine of Camp Bundai. It soon becomes clear there’s more to this story than meets the eye, but Lamore is in no hurry to reveal the truth behind the strange and vicious creatures Case encounters in the desert, or any of the other anomalous elements that infringe on reality. A big pinch of humour entertains throughout while the lightning fast pace and solid build of intrigue into a riveting climax and denouement make Case Connor and The Trials of Sand and Fire an unputdownable novel.