This one was a tough review. Mostly because I had a lot of negative reactions to it. But I’m giving it five stars all the same. I toyed with two stars but this one gets a pass even with my negative reaction to it.
Firstly I love the world this book is set in. The writing was easy enough to understand that I could easily immerse myself in it without too much brainpower. The pacing was great. The action kept coming. The tension never really left when there wasn’t action because the urgency of the main characters completing their task was always front and centre. Which, when dealing with a save the world/realm story, is essential. If the pace is too slow you can’t really feel that the end goal is important. That wasn’t the case with this novel.
All of the characters are very well fleshed out. There’s no confusing them and their place in the plot is clearly defined. It has all the elements of action, fantasy, teen angst and the journey to finding one’s true self. It was all of these same things that caused me to have issues.
The following may contain spoilers
Starting off with Ames, the main character Porter’s cousin. After many fights, near-death experiences, and seeing people around him die, he is forever on this happy cloud, like yeah we are gonna win because we have magic. The enemy literally has stupid amounts of power, more than they have from stealing souls, and they barely survive attacks. Also using magic drains people so just the act of saving themselves could overexert them. I find it stupidly hard to believe that a teen isn’t of the intelligence level to understand the real danger. The one-off sentence near the end of the book about being afraid but not showing fear was too late. It felt like the line between a positive outlook and just blatant disregard for the gravity of the situation wasn’t handled well. I was equally as annoyed as a porter, and Fira and Conri was with him. It was justifiable.
Then there’s Porter. Him not being confident in his own skill and how that played out was fine. Again, for him, it was his character’s personality that was frustrating. They are in a war situation. There is zero he can do about it, and, whether he thinks he can do it or not, he spends the entire book moaning about wanting to be home and playing soccer (football if you live where I do😉). No matter what anyone says, how much death he sees, or how many near-death experiences he receives, it’s all about getting home, and how he can’t save them, and why couldn’t someone else be the chosen one. In the beginning, it was alright, but after a while, you hit a point when it becomes frustrating. When given a choice between letting your own world be destroyed plus the one your in, or attempting to do something about it you choose neither and just mope about the soccer you’re not playing, that was just problematic. He didn’t try really, and then just like Ames, it gets to the end, like 80 percent to go and suddenly everyone is speeching him on how he can do it and so on and it was like he didn’t learn anything, he just suddenly magically had confidence and people suddenly believed in him.
Also, Ames’ heroic bit at the end, really digs in to his lack of grasping the seriousness of stuff, while simultaneously speaking to how Porter just knows stuff all of a sudden.
This brings me to the sisters. They are the best things up in this book Fira and Conri are everything. They saved this book. Understood the task they had to do. Went headfirst into it even second-guessing their decisions yet still going forward. So they weren’t perfect but still had the will to do the thing. And, they often, tried to impress this importance on Porter who never got it, and didn’t even try with Ames because he was a lost cost. Basically no point in digging into them, they were written as well as any character could be.
My problem with all of this is, considering the sisters couldn’t change his mind, and porter moaned about wanting to be a normal boy the entire book, the learning curve was nonexistent. It read like, nah… you don’t have to learn from your circumstances, just stay the same until the very end of the book and then poof, magically become the person you’re supposed to be. There weren’t enough signs to show gradual change. That each task was changing him somehow. His power seemed to be increasing and getting easier but a lot of that was due to the TOK in the staff he held, using him. Not him coming into believing himself at a slow but sure pace. The same for Ames.
It felt like you can completely ignore the seriousness of a situation until you maybe almost die, (which also didn’t work) and making the effort to learn about magic, in the brief time you have, just so you can understand the situation you’re in, is def not needed. He never seemed to learn anything like the difference between movie earth magic and real-life magic. How simply having magic is not enough to win, because the bad guys have magic too and in the real world good guys can lose and often do. Then, (this bit is a spoiler) at the end he doesn’t want anything to do with magic at all. I was totally blindsided by this. Literally, all it took was one thing in the last five percent of the book to make him realise, after all that happened, that it wasn’t for him? Sigh. If he said yes at least he would’ve been forced to understand the seriousness of things through training.
So that’s my take on the two main characters. That slow progression into stepping up into their roles didn’t happen and it read, to me, like as long as you shape up at the very end when it counts, nothing before it matters. All this said, it still gets five stars. Why? I’ve read enough of these books to know most readers will probably enjoy my issues like it’s the best thing ever. It’s their kind of angst. Also, the world was interesting to dig into. The two sisters were written well. Basically, all the things a book in the young adult fantasy genre, right down to keeping up the sense of urgency with good pacing, are here. In my opinion, anyway, they are all here. That means for the audience and what this story set out to do it hit all the notes. For me I think the message about coming into your own may not have been handled the best, and the idea of finding maturity in life-threatening situations was missed. But the fact I had a negative reaction to this story doesn’t take away from the fact that it is good.
I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a nice, fun, action-packed, magical journey of kids being forced into adult and life threatening situations and how they navigate this. It will definitely be worth the read.