Tag Archives: not recommended

The Red Sun (Legends of Orkney #1)

Title: The Red Sun

Author: Alane Adams

Series: Legends of Orkney #1

Sam knows there’s something creepy about his new English teacher. She’s too interested in him, and weird things happen around her. But he never imagined the truth: he’s a Son of Odin, his parents are refugees from another world, and the birthplace he never knew needs him to break a terrible curse afflicting its sun. And his substitute English teacher is a powerful witch who wants to take over the world . . .

I never thought stupid protagonists were a dealbreaker until I read this book. Because Sam isn’t just ignorant and making bad choices based on lack of understanding. He’s walking into bad choices with both eyes open. The plot can unfortunately be summed up as: if someone is shifty, untrustworthy, outright evil, or wants him dead, he will do whatever they say. If someone has actually cared about him and put his best interests at heart, he will hide things from them and cut them out of his life.

*cue book bashing against wall*

It doesn’t even start that badly. Sam is a normal kid with a bit of a temper (and some interesting things that happen when he loses that temper). A weird new teacher shows up who has an evil interest in him, and shortly thereafter Sam finds himself in another world that requires his efforts to save. So far so good—all the bad decisions, like not telling his mom about the magical mishaps he’s run into, or trying to convince himself things aren’t really as bad as they seem, are well within reason.

Then we get to the alternate world. At that point, through the end of the book, it’s almost a comedy of “how stupid can you get?” Witches with magical powers have kidnapped his friends, so Sam wants to blaze after them—despite the fact that the few people who care about him warn him the witches are powerful, the ones eager to help him are the really shifty lot, and everyone else who depends on him to do this other quest is going to die if he doesn’t do that one eventually. So Sam goes after the witches. This goes about as well as you might expect.

And why are the witches evil? It seems to be something with their magic being intrinsically evil, which is never explained—Sam is assumed corrupted because he has witch magic, not because he’s done anything with it. But it’s not like he’s sacrificing babies to get power. It’s a combination of some internal force plus mystic words. I could write this off as prejudice against witches, except the plot enforces this by making Sam experience corruption the more he uses his power.

Moving beyond the characters, the general situation with the world didn’t make a lot of sense to me either. The sun is poisoned, which is fine, but the rate of everything dying and people starving seemed vastly accelerated to me. Crops wither and instantly there are people starving. This ignores the obvious problem that if crops were still growing, they were probably not being eaten just yet. No one kept any food? No one had dried/preserved anything in case of a drought or insects or a poor harvest? And with the threat to the animals known, no one is making any effort to keep their herds/flocks indoors during the day to graze or forage by night?

If the stupid overload hasn’t driven you off yet, the characters might. Sam has very little struggles with doing the wrong thing–he just does it anyway. The bad guys (with the High Council as the worst offenders) are ludicrously one-dimensional, with any depth sacrificed for the “everyone hates Sam” angle. Nearly every character treats him like an object and not a person, whether it’s the good guys who have voluntold him to go on this quest or the bad guys who voluntold him for a different quest. Mavery is supposed to have redeeming qualities but mostly comes off as really annoying, and Keely and Howie are almost comically helpless and unable to contribute to the plot other than being used as hostages (the final battle . . . I think I was almost laughing, which is not the effect the plot was going for).

I regret picking up this book. It looked good, started decently, but my desperate hope that it would eventually get better was completely wasted. I rate this book Not Recommended.

07-Ghost (anime)

Title: 07-Ghost
Episodes: 1-25

Teito Klein is a sklave (military slave) of the Barsburg Empire. But when he stumbles across the man who killed the only father he remembers, he’s forced to flee. Sheltering in the sanctuary of the Church, which is a neutral zone, he struggles to figure out his own mind and heart, and tries to get the power for revenge.

It’s amazing to me that I can dislike the anime so much when I liked the manga a good deal. Part of the problem is the animation itself. The fights are poorly animated, with a lot of white blur effects used to hide the fact that nobody is moving or doing anything interesting. It also feels very badly paced. Fights aren’t the only time no one is doing much—most of the anime consists of two or three people standing around talking at each other. After the action-packed first episode, the series grinds almost to a halt as Teito spends most of his time thinking about things. The anime even throws in a few extra Kor to try to give Mikage time to build up as a character before things go haywire, but since those extra encounters do nothing for the plot, it doesn’t change much.

Also, where the homosexual subtext in the manga could be subtle, the anime isn’t even trying to hide it. Every small significant encounter is overplayed. I still think that the series isn’t helped by trying to make pretty much every relationship a romantic one. It downplays what could be a more interesting web of different types of relationships, like Frau treating Teito more like a mentor to a student (which he is, most of the time, and then something will happen that reminds me Frau is probably almost twice Teito’s age).

I suppose this didn’t bother me in the manga as much because I’m used to reading books, and the walls of text were laying down interesting history, worldbuilding, or mysteries to keep me engaged. In a television show format, though, it didn’t work nearly as well (although maybe some of that could have been alleviated through better shot framing and more dynamic scenes). Furthermore, the anime cuts off right after the bishop exam—which means most of the backstory and action, as well as the most interesting revelations, happens afterwards.

I did enjoy hearing the Raggs Requiem put to music, although that’s the only part of this show I can see myself going back to. It’s actually quite a nice song, and if you only read the manga, I’d encourage you to give it a listen. A version with lyrics is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhcpDInNl0U

All in all, I’m mostly disappointed in this adaptation. Given where it cuts off, plot-wise, it can’t offer any real resolution to the partial story it was trying to build, and Ayanami, although still an evil villain, feels pretty incompetent overall, as his role is mostly just to sit and look menacing. If you’re at all curious about the story in 07-Ghost, check out the manga. I rate this Not Recommended.

The Owl Keeper

Title: The Owl Keeper

Author: Christine Brodien-Jones

Max used to have a good life with his grandma, who taught him all about the silver owls and the prophecy that one day the Owl Keeper would overthrow the darkness with the help of a silver owl. But after his grandma dies, he contracts a strange disease that leaves him allergic to sunlight. Then the silver owl shows up. Max is infatuated with the owl, but the government is trying to exterminate them . . .

This book tries to blend fantasy with dystopia, and in my opinion usually fails. From the few dates given, we’re not quite 100 years out, yet some unexplained experiment with the weather split the moon in two (now THAT would have been a story) and generally devastated the natural seasonal cycles (this would make more sense if Earth’s rotation or orbit changed, not its weather). Due to the weather issues, the government is constructing huge domed cities for everyone to live in, thus abandoning the exterior world to the various disasters and monsters that have cropped up (or were created through genetic experiments).

On the other hand, we have a prophecy, glowing silver owls that can do magic, Destiny confirmed by birthmarks, an Absolute Darkness working for evil, etc.

Personally I think this should’ve stuck with the fantasy. It wouldn’t have been hard to turn most of the dystopian elements fantastic, whereas the dystopia really struggles with the fantasy.

For example, we are presumably on Earth (simply because nothing says otherwise), yet we have magical silver owls that have been around for hundreds of years, in addition to a prophecy that’s apparently well known enough that the government feels the need to rebroadcast slightly altered versions of it to trivialize it. The genetic mutations worked for me when it was Misshapens living in the forest or creatures who have presumably been under development for years . . . but then there is someone who materially transforms instantly after only one shot. Or how one bite of a loaded muffin is enough to paralyze normal brain function immediately, but can still be shaken off a very short time later. Or how falling asleep in conditions clearly conducive to freezing to death not only has them waking up without outside intervention, but without so much as frostbite to show for it.

So the science is falling over because it’s acting more like magic. The setting is also prone to annoying conveniences like a Frozen Zone being within walking distance of a more normally temperate town. Nothing was offered to explain this other than the weather related experiment from way back when.

I can forgive a shoddy setting for excellent characters. These aren’t. Rose introduces herself by being obnoxious and a liar, and the only reason I can think for Max bothering is because he has no one but the even-more-depressing housekeeper to talk to. Regardless, the fact that she’s such a liar makes it hard for me to swallow that she’s telling the truth later, just because she says she is (Max conveniently can’t verify anything that comes out of her mouth). So when she eventually starts to have problems, I found myself less than sympathetic.

Max is better, but not by much. He suffers from extreme stupidity. I can roll my eyes and move past the fact that he never once suspected his sinister guardian was working against him, but when he has the opportunity to throw away the device he now KNOWS is bad for him . . . and takes it WITH HIM . . . The plot doesn’t even try to explain that. Max just thinks he has no idea why he’s doing it. I don’t either. It’s a really poor way to build dramatic tension in the following scene so someone can fight him for it and threaten to stab him with it all over again.

I’m not even sure if the ending was meant to tie things up or lead into a sequel, as it could read either way. I don’t care, as I have zero desire to pick up another book. The worldbuilding has too many inconsistencies and the characters make me want to throw the book at the wall. I rate this book Not Recommended.

Spirit Gate (Crossroads #1)

Title: Spirit Gate

Author: Kate Elliot

Series: Crossroads #1

I’m not going to attempt a summary because I couldn’t force myself to finish. Besides, the main reason I quit reading was because 75 pages in, basically nothing had happened yet.

I wanted to like this, and gave it a good shot. But the glacial pacing killed my interest, and I wasn’t overly fond of any of the characters either. Marit has way too much page time for being a minor character (and the way the book starts I had initially assumed she would be the main character). Joss’s main concerns are getting drunk or laid (and how often the story is going there in the first few chapters reminds me of yet another reason I don’t usually care for adult books. Even though it never gets explicit—can’t we have someone with an INTERESTING hobby/obsession for once?). Mai didn’t seem too bad, but Ti, her cousin, is so childish and annoying that was a good enough reason to quit rather than plug away hoping it got better.

The depth of detail is very good, in one sense: it’s easy to get a picture of the world. I like the reeves, and the way their partnership works. The eagles are basically eagles, and the flying contraption pictured on the cover makes a lot more sense than most renditions I’ve seen of flying on a bird. Unfortunately, it’s a world where relatively normal life is happening for an extended period of time. Joss is sent to guard a caravan of merchants—and nothing happens. Dark things happen to the side, or in the background, but Joss is concerned mainly with doing his everyday duties in his everyday manner, and . . . I lost interest. After what he discovered with the Guardians, I had been hoping he’d actually go off and do more about it (I suppose he does, but it’s explained away in about two sentences of backstory).

So this may be a wonderful book for people with more patience, but I prefer more movement in the plot. Not Recommended.

The Twin Powers

Title: The Twin Powers

Author: Robert Lipsyte

(This is a sequel to The Twinning Project)

Half-alien twins Eddie and Tom live on parallel Earths, one in 1958 and one in 2012. But life hasn’t changed much after their brief adventures . . . until a new alien shows up at school, and the boys discover the Primary Race which monitors them and the planets plans to destroy the Earths. Now they must master their powers and find the answers before it’s too late.

I liked the first book despite some big problems in worldbuilding. This one takes more care over its prose, but the plot takes a nosedive and the already shaky setting pretty much gives up in favor of dialing everything up to 11.

So: boys back in their own times, on their own Earths, having done pretty much nothing since the close of the last book, then run into Hercules, who humiliates them and tells them to learn how to use their powers. This part isn’t so bad—it’s what I wanted to happen after the teases in the previous book. The actual powers are not very well explained, other than “whatever I want to happen, within some limits,” so it’s not clear how they actually work (psionics, mostly, but then there are a number of places where they manipulate light or otherwise make material changes, so who knows).

Then . . . we’ve apparently forgotten about poverty and hunger as issues in favor of climate change and nukes being the big scary forces out to destroy the earth. And the Tech-Off Day/Week has now gotten so big Eddie is repeatedly on television about it and even goes to Washington (when in real life I think a small subset of people might really appreciate it and most of the rest of the world would just laugh at him or shrug him off and continue their lives). And then we get the government goonies who have somehow figured out aliens are involved in all this and start making trouble for everyone.

And that was pretty much where the plot completely lost me. The federal agents are, of course, officially government sanctioned and have no problem with kidnapping and torturing 13-year-old kids, grilling them for information about aliens. I pretty much started laughing when said agency then decides to throw non-astronauts on a rocket launching to meet a mysterious spaceship that presumably belongs to aliens (there is so much wrong with this picture I can’t begin to start or I’ll go off for pages). Or when the alien planet is apparently so close that a shuttle can get there in a few hours. (Bonus: What force destroyed the alien planet? Climate change! *headdesk*)

And then how everyone fixed the problem by stopping a particular test in the desert . . . The time frame is all wrong, for one. Nuclear bombs had already been used in WWII, and this is 1958. If they truly wanted to stop nuclear power they’re a few decades late to the party. Although that still bases everything on the assumption that the second, supposedly separate Earth is actually a mirror of the primary Earth (which given the explanation of how it was created, still makes no sense).

Anyway. I was hoping for something I could laugh at even if it didn’t hold up well to a closer inspection, but the only laughter I could summon was in disbelief. I rate this book Not Recommended.

Curse of Arastold (The Silverskin Legacy #2)

Title: Curse of Arastold

Author: Jo Whittemore

Series: The Silverskin Legacy #2

Ainsley and Megan have had enough adventures in the world of Arylon, which they entered accidentally. But for Ainsley, those adventures have left an unfortunate residue: he’s caught the Illness that plagues certain magic-users, turning them into dragons. Although Megan is convinced the Illness can be cured, Ainsley isn’t so sure . . . or sure he even wants a cure.

I tried to find the first book, since I picked this one up on a sale rack, but I couldn’t find it, so eventually I just decided to read this one and hope I could figure out the story. After all, the first chapter didn’t seem too hard to follow.

That was a mistake.

This is a sequel that heavily relies on the first book, so I’m not going to talk too much about certain characters that I assume were set up previously and which I just didn’t get a chance to read about. I’ll try to focus on what’s here and what works or doesn’t work.

The basic story isn’t bad. Ainsley isn’t entirely convinced being a dragon is a curse (and he definitely doesn’t want to give up magic, whose use is accelerating his downfall). He does, however, want to protect his friend Megan from whatever he might unleash. Megan, for her part, refuses to lose her friend to a curse, even if their relationship is as much fighting as friendship. The story also never drags, as it springs from one event to the next pretty rapidly. The final battle, which closes out the fight that begins in the first chapter, is a great way to end. And Ainsley’s final request to Arastold made me happy, as that will doubtless play into what happens next.

But the book is so disjointed. Ainsley in the cave segments are the best part of the story because it’s grounded in where he is, what he’s feeling and doing and seeing, and what’s actually going on. Outside of that, the story feels like it does a little bit here, then a little bit over there, often without a lot of transition, or a good idea of what the stakes are. The two random people that show up right before the end are a perfect example. I’m assuming they had a role in the first book and ought to be familiar, but people? Here? Now? Who just spout some vaguely threatening nonsense and turn right around and leave? It does nothing for the story and the hints of trouble to come would’ve been better elsewhere, or just left out entirely.

And if Ainsley is the strong point of the story (mostly), Megan is the weak point. I spent a long time thinking the strange guy who joins them is using magic on her only to find that no, she’s just attracted to him and apparently losing most of her brain function as a result. And the “romance”, if you can even call it that, is so awkward it’s embarrassing to read. These two people, who met in the previous book but do not appear to know each other well at all, decide to make their first in-depth conversation all about . . . how many people the other person has slept with? Because apparently the most important thing to ascertain about a potential love interest is whether they’ve already done it with someone else and you’ll be second. Their whole relationship is such a mess. Unfortunately, given the talk about him having One True Bonded Relationship, it’s also pretty evident where this is likely to end up.

Overall, this had some good ideas, but the story executes poorly. If you are going to read it, make sure to read the first book first, as that will doubtless make the world, the characters, and their relationships a lot more understandable. I rate this book Not Recommended.

The Feverbird’s Claw

Title: The Feverbird’s Claw

Author: Jane Kurtz

Moralin has learned to fight, despite this being against the traditions. But on the eve of the rite of her initiation into full adulthood, she takes a foolish risk and falls into the hands of her tribe’s enemies. Now, captured and brought back with them, she turns her mind to escape and how she might return home.

Both the official summary (and mine) don’t do a great job of summing up what this book is about. In my case, because I’m still not entirely sure where it was going or what it was trying to do. I liked the way what gods mean and what humans interpret are often at odds, and that revolutions don’t always take big flashy battles or people dying. I liked that Moralin grows a bit of a heart despite how fiercely she tries to hold on to hatred.

And…. that’s pretty much all I liked. The book begins with someone trying to kill Moralin—why? This is not really explained nor brought up again (although it’s highly likely the incident when she was a child was also an attempted murder, though the reasons she was assaulted as well as the reason she was spared are left entirely unsaid). I can construct an explanation that fits the details, but without any supporting evidence, I can also explain it all as random coincidences.

Then Moralin is captured by a tribe she despises and that her city is probably at war with (it’s a little hard to tell, since it seems like the city isn’t actively hunting them down, nor they actively attacking the city). But apart from the initial kidnapping, this does not proceed in a manner that makes any sense. She isn’t forced to work, or presented with marriage candidates, or even forcibly married to anyone. Her kidnappers basically let her mooch off them until she decides to participate in the life of the tribe, as well as allowing her to decide what she’s going to do with them. This is especially puzzling because the orphan girl who watches her is not presented with any of the options she, a mere kidnapped enemy, is afforded.

Then we have a long escape sequence in which no one cares she’s leaving and the only enemy is the harsh wild. Followed by a baffling trade sequence in which the bead she carries allows her to bargain for a life when she was, moments ago, a prisoner again.

Really, it all feels like there’s some cultural subtext that ought to have been present but wasn’t, some prophecies that were apparently uttered completely off page, and an ending that was searching for some kind of story but didn’t quite find it. I rate this book Not Recommended.