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not as good as the first in the series
on 30 August 2013
Sadly, this one didn't work for me as well as the first in the series.
The heroine, Jo, is not growing on me. She was interestingly damaged in book 1. In book 2, she seems rigidly closed. I have no idea at all why the people around her seem to want her to stay... She seems prickly, ungrateful, uncooperative, resentful and petulant. Not much for me to like there. She has a strange relationship with Cormac. I don't understand why he seems to fancy her, and there is little about him that seems attractive. They argue with spectacular, public childishness, but no one takes much notice.
Jo makes a single, large gesture of generosity to her 'friend' the waitress. However, I haven't seen enough of their relationship to value the gesture. I've only seen the girl twice in this book, once she was sniping at Jo, the other time she wasn't involved in the romantic subtext... The effect? I don't care about her, and therefore I don't value Jo's self sacrifice.
I'm not sure about the writing style, either. There's a lot of 'telling' and not enough 'showing'. Jo manipulates wormholes with amazingly awesome uniqueness, but we get no details on how, which kind of deflates her impressiveness. Scenes where she and others manipulate cosmic forces, wormholes the size of cities, alchemical planet saving, are a few paragraphs long. They read rather like 'I told them to channel me more power. They did. I felt the wormhole's edges knit together. We were really glad when it closed.'
Am I exaggerating? Yes. Am I being unfair? Possibly. I guess I just like to have things described in enough detail for me to visualise the (amazing) scenario, and empathise with the characters as they risk their lives. I would also appreciate more description before and after these earth shattering events - a little more performance anxiety beforehand, and post-crisis fatigue would add to the effect and increase my identification with the characters and their danger.
I suppose the writing seems choppy. Do you think the author writes in small chunks? Small sound bites of creativity, rather than long relaxed sessions of writing? I noticed that one chapter changed subject 3 times in the first three paragraphs. Each one was appropriate to the plot, but it was disruptive and distracting to be dragged from subject to subject.
My interest waned about 3/4 of the way through the book, and this bitty, choppy style meant that when I started to skim read (to find out what happened at the end) I lost track of the action very quickly. It also meant that I nearly missed the grand finale - the lack of build up, the short event, and brief end phase meant that I skimmed right to the end of the book without realising that there had even been a finale! I had to backtrack to find it.
So what would have made this more absorbing and an easier read? It wouldn't take much.
The plot and world building has fascinating and limitless possibilities. More detail please! Jo and Cormac went to another planet, but apart from a tiny bit of description about thin air, moss, trees and buildings, I haven't a clue what the place was like. Smells? Weather? Animals? Birds? Insects? I don't even know what the werewolves look like in wolf form!
Jo was a pre-med student, so she is intelligent. Wouldn't it be marvellous if she used that intelligence? She should be thinking, plotting, planning, researching... Instead she strops about sulking and complaining. Surely she is bright enough to win the odd argument with Cormac, every now and then.
Why doesn't she ask questions and find out who and what she is? She could be picking the brains of henchmen, elves, other keepers... She could be testing the limits of her 'powers', ransacking peoples memories, questioning how the contracts work, building a knowledge base... Instead she marches into danger (alone), and lets Cormac mop up afterwards (again), and waits for other people to feed her info.
I suppose, the root of my problem with this book is the characterisation - none of the characters rise above 2 dimensionality - which is a great pity, because the potential is vast.
I have noticed that the longer my review, the more I am disappointed by the waste of potential, and there is sooo much potential here. If the writing just kicked up a gear, this series could be a winner, and then I would write some short sycophantic review that just gives the author another notch on their quill.