30 September, 2010

"Early" Review


Once again i am clearly not a member of the target audience of a book i received from the Early Reviewer programme of Librarything ~ which makes it interesting that i have a couple of times been given books aimed at juveniles (what i think the trade calls Young Adults); i suppose that it must be linked to the large number of books of that kind which we, as book loving parents of several children who have been or are young adults, own. At least one previous book of this genre (Sugarcoated) i seem to recall having quite enjoyed, at least, without going back and rereading my review; i wish that i could say the same of this one, but i have to be honest, and say i really struggled reading Shadowland.

There are just about two hundred pages here, and i was clearly halfway through (literally, in the actual meaning of that much misused word, page 100) before i fully grasped what was happening, let alone beginning to care about the characters. Of course, it must be admitted that a good portion of the problem i was having was related to the second way in which i am not a member of Lassiter’s target audience: This is the third book in a (projected) quintology, and i have not read either of the first two, thus i had no idea, going in, what was happening, who was involved, whom i should be cheering for. That disconnect is particularly strong in this book, perhaps in the series, much more than many series (Lord of the Rings and the Narnia Chronicles spring to mind immediately) where each book is sufficiently self-contained to stand alone.

Lassiter makes it clear, as i understand it, that the books are not really intended to be read apart from each other; in an Author Note [sic] at the end of the book she says, “These are not the kind of events that can be neatly wrapped up at the end of a book” (an overly broad statement, in some ways, as almost any conceivable book has some loose ends), making it clear that she understands the way her characters and plots are flowing from volume to volume of the series. It isn’t clear, however, that she understands how very difficult her particular method makes it for the casual reader to find his way into the individual volumes; i hadn’t, as mentioned above, any notion of the books, and it was horribly difficult to learn. A further difficulty, i found, was that there were several (even now i’m not certain) different groups of characters, linked in some way, though not clear in the narrative, with separate (but linked) plots, and Lassiter jumps between them very frequently, perhaps too frequently, before the reader has time to grasp and start to follow the current group.

All this ought not be taken to mean that i am ungrateful for the book ~ i haven’t yet been ungrateful for an Early Reviewer book (even Rooms, which was so appalling i couldn’t finish it!) ~ simply that i believe Lassiter was not well served by her publishers; though the final two volumes of the quintology appear not to have been written yet (or, at least, are unpublished), she might have been better advised to hold them all back until the whole was finished, to be published as one book. Certainly, if the others are of a size with this, at a thousand pages (of quite large print, going by this one) it would not be beyond possibility. The advantage of keeping her readers would probably outweigh (at least for an author) the financial benefits of publishing five books over one.

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