21 August, 2010

Book Review: The Warrior Heir



Title: The Warrior Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: Hyperion
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 426
Rating: 2.7 out of 5
Cover Rating: 3 out of 5. It's all right, but it's a little bland. The sword's not . . . well, very decorative. From the descriptions in the book I would have expected it to be really, really bright and gleaming with jewels on it (there's one ruby-like stone, but it's really small). This thing is sort of tarnished and the blade's got little marks all over it. The black background is all right, and I like the way they put the words along the side, but I wish the font had been more dramatic. If the back had been more colorful it would have reminded me of Finnikin of the Rock.

Back flap:

Before he knew about the Roses, sixteen-year-old Jack lived an unremarkable life in the small Ohio town of Trinity. Only the medicine he has to take daily and the thick scar above his heart set him apart from the other high schoolers. Then one day Jack skips his medicine. Suddenly, he is stronger, fiercer, and more confident than ever before. And it feels great--until he loses control of his own strength and nearly kills another player during soccer team tryouts.
   Soon, Jack learns the startling truth about himself: he is a Weirlind, part of an underground society of magical people who live among us. At their helm sits the feuding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose, whose power is determined by playing the Game--a magical tournament in which each house sponsors a warrior to fight to the death. The winning house rules the Weir.
   As if this bizarre heritage isn't enough, Jack finds out he's not just another member of the Weirlind--he's one the warriors--at a time when both houses are scouting for a player. 

My expectations: I expected a lot from this book, since I'd heard some stuff about it before and I thought it would be a good read.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite meet my expectations.

About the book: Well, for one thing, there's some training in this book. Jack's a warrior, and therefore he needs warrior training in preparation in case he has to fight in the Game. However, while I enjoyed that aspect, I couldn't really get into the experience. Basically, it's just "he trained for five hours" instead of a more detailed explanation of what he was learning, how, why, and what he and his trainer were doing with the learned material. It just felt hollow, and I couldn't get excited about it. It's the same for the actual fighting--dull, unexciting, and bland. (Maybe the cover fits the book better than I thought.)

Plot:

I could guess the ending halfway through the book, and no joke. I was like "um, folks? I already know what's going to happen in the end!" which sort of wrecked the ending for me. There was some tension, but based on characters' previous performance and personalities, it wasn't a great ending and rather predictable. 

Also, there was a deus ex machina ending added on to the guessable developments. (Deus ex machina means "a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new character, ability, or object" according to Wikipedia. It's a take on the fact in some old plays they used to have a god come down in a chariot or whatever and solve everyone's issues). That's a really weak way to end a book. Really weak way to end a book. It's like saying "Oh, is there a problem? Let's bring in some grand force and end the problem! Woohoo!"

If I hadn't guessed the major plot points, I would have said this was a much better book. But some things are just so blindly obvious it's just "how could they not REALIZE that?!" and I felt like shaking the characters hard to clear their heads. But besides that--maybe I just read too much for anything to be a surprise, though that's a depressing thought--the plot's okay, even though there aren't a whole lot of twists. I still say it's pretty bland.


Characters:

I couldn't really get attached to anyone. It felt really sort of hollow and--if I might use the word again--bland, and I could never get all riled up, even when it was life-or-death situation.

Jack's all right. He's not great, he's not spectacular, and he's just your average guy who wants an average life in an average town like Trinity. He's not exactly dull . . . but he's not a terribly exciting person, either, like, say, Jace. I don't know why, but I felt that he was sort of younger than what his stated age was. Judging by his reactions, emotions, and personality, he just seemed like 14 instead of 16.

Leander Hastings is an odd character. I'm not sure what to make of him, since he's certainly not all that trustworthy, but I guess it fits into the plot well enough.

Aunt Linda. I wouldn't say she's a bee with an itch exactly, but really, she's--get this--an enchanter. And her charms work on men and women alike. Persuasion? Go to Aunt Linda. Manipulation? Aunt Linda's your girl. Seduction? Well, I'll bet that wouldn't totally be below her if necessary.

Ellen's okay as female characters go. I wasn't really attached to her, and I found her attitude all right, but that was about it. Nothing really special.

Will and Fitch--so-so, like most of the other characters.

Setting/Other Factors:

I like the idea of the Game. A lot, actually. I wished that Chima had elaborated more on its history, its rituals, etc., but I didn't get that much about it, since it was majorly glossed over even in parts where more could have been put in. I also wish that she had presented more about the wizards earlier in the book, because all of a sudden Jack's dealing with a lot of them and the reader hardly knows anything about them. It's more telling than actually showing about them.

That's another thing that probably contributed to the hollow-ness of the book. I felt like it was all "tell, tell, tell" and not "show, show, show", which I infinitely prefer. Show me he's in pain. Show me he's angry. Show me that there's tension. Show me the character's body language and reactions and don't just have words coming out of his mouth.

Other: One thing about this book is that it seems to be some strange sort of YA and MG hybrid. I felt that the language used was more of a MG type, but there is also some YA content. Because there's little descriptive fighting and graphic injury like in Eragon or a fantasy book like that I though it might be MG, but there are also scenes akin to waterboarding and there seems to be more romance stuff than in a MG novel. For example: there's a part where one woman goes over to a "young, good-looking man" (I think that's what it says) and the next scene is in the morning and it mentions that "he was willing to talk". So I suppose you could classify it as a YA book, although I do wish the language had been different in that case--more complex with more subtleties.

Do I recommend this book? Not really. It's not a bad read or a good read, it's just a so-so read.

-----The Golden Eagle

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