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Book Review Time!

June 11, 2011

So, I started reading a lot lately. I think I’d mentioned that a few posts ago, and how I generally stick to the young adult fantasy section because real life is full of enough crap that I don’t like to be reading all about it. See, if it’s fantasy, I don’t get all freaked out by it since it can’t ever really happen.

That’s what passes for logic in Crappy Gardener Land. I win.

I’ve been itching to read the series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott ever since I saw that my friend had some of them on her bookshelf and the covers looked kinda neat. Yes I did just say that. I, The Crappy Gardener, judged a book by its cover. And just like all the other times I’ve done that, it was an entirely accurate assessment. Huh. I win again. I’m on a roll.

Here’s my take on the series so far. I’m in the middle of the third very long book (488 pages, which I would not normally say is long, except that you haven’t read my review yet) and felt that I wanted to review it.

The Bad:

First off, I’m in the middle of the third book, and they’re only like five days into this crazy adventure. Really? I mean, the books move super fast. All three have been hundreds of pages long and have been packed full to the brim with intense action. But there’s where I started to have a tiny bit of a problem with it: the concept of time is not successfully addressed.

I’m going to try not to spoil plot points here, but there are so many superfluous scenes in each book that I don’t know if I could really. Perhaps it’s because I read so much that these things bother me; in the past few days I burned through two and a half in not very many hours. It’s not difficult reading really, but I do use a kind of speed-reading technique so easy reading goes even faster than usual.

My point is that by the third book there have been so many twists of plots and emergence of new, over-the-top characters, I’m getting a little bit…well, it kindof feels like it’s jumped the shark a bit.

And I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read that so-and-so’s smile is ‘terrifying.’ The first time I read that phrase, I got it. Someone had grossly underestimated someone elses power and got burned when the first someone let loose on them. It was good writing the first time, but the second, third and fourth times, I’m thinking, “Really?” and felt almost like when you’re accelerating in your car – if you’ve felt this you’ll know what I’m talking about – and then you let off the gas pedal and you feel the car slow a bit and then you get that weird feeling in your chest.

It slows down the story when I’m jolted out of my speed-reading rhythm to sigh in disappointment because of writing instead of a plot point. The plot takes many, many twists and turns which are sometimes exciting and sometimes outlandish even for a fantasy book. Maybe I’m just getting frustrated because by the third book (!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!) Nicholas and Perenelle still haven’t reunited and Josh keeps freaking out and getting angry and weird over nothing really, and sometimes the author doesn’t quite get the emotions and expressions correct in a given situation.

Oh last not so good point: the author doesn’t really ever describe the space between characters in the fight scenes. For example, in The Sorceress, there’s a fight scene between the twins, Flamel, and a few others that I don’t want to reveal because it’s interesting, and The Horned God with his Wild Hunt. So the twins and Flamel and some others are doing battle and stuff but he’s not really describing where they are specifically, when all the sudden the guy who has been dogging their steps this whole time is close enough to the twins that his and Josh’s swords strike over a huge and burning moat of tall flames.

It just didn’t make sense.

The Good:

All the above being said, there is a lot of good to this series. I’ve covered that I don’t read much in the way of serious literature anymore (been there, done all of it) and prefer ‘filler’ as a friend would call it.

The books are entertaining. The characters are generally likeable – at least, the ones you’re supposed to like – and the plot is very fast moving. Even though the historical and mythological characters the author uses don’t behave the way we would expect them to based on what we’ve heard, it’s really nice to have them woven in among the fabric of a story taking place in modern times and not focusing on them or being a morality tale.

As an aside, the fact that I don’t think they’re behaving the way I would expect them to based on the stories I’ve read could also be because a lot of that sort of thing – historical and mythological figures – gets twisted with the storyteller’s own brand of propaganda. Writing always reveals a lot about the author. Michael Scott is Irish and I really have no idea what sources he was pulling from.

He excels at describing details of the senses: specific smells, colors, textures, etc. It makes it remarkably easy to get sucked into the books, which are fun and exciting and absorbing.

He uses Machiavelli as one of the bad guys, and I have to say that his depiction of his character in particular is really, incredibly riveting. My description of Machiavelli would end at dismissively acknowledging him to be ‘kindof a jerk’ but Scott has him calm, dangerous, an expert manipulator, and a genius strategist. Even though he’s a bad guy, he’s not a reckless, arrogant slime like the other antagonist. I find myself really enjoying his part in the story.

So bottom line. As of this point, despite small frustrations that could be attributed to my insistence on reading books far below my reading level, I am really enjoying this series and wish the rest of it would be published already because I want to know how it turns out. I know the fourth is published but I probably won’t be reading it unless they get it at the library. I’ll not pay $17 for a book unless it’s LOTR or Harry Potter. And I already have those.

Oh also for parents: these books are very child-friendly. I’d say depending on your children and their maturity level that ages nine/ten and up would be okay. There are some parts that could be mildly scary: swordfights with monsters and mentions of insects, monster scratches, magic and vampires. Again, it depends on the child.




2 Comments leave one →
  1. robert permalink
    June 27, 2011 5:16 pm

    double rainbow

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