Saturday, November 17, 2012

E-Book Review (Revised): Treason (Book II) / Author: S.M. Boyce

Thanks to S.M. Boyce for the ARC (Advanced Review Copy)

First Published in Daily Times / Saturday, November 17, 2012

Published under the Title: Isens and Muses & Vagabonds O' My

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

As Ourea looms into view, young Kara Magari, the only human in this fantasy realm is no longer a rookie, Braeden Drakonin is still a reluctant Heir, the trenches remain occupied and cases of intrigue have been dusted off for a re-match.

Treason is the highly anticipated sequel to Lichgates, a YA (Young Adult) novel penned by S.M. Boyce that returns to the magical land of Ourea, home to warring factions, savage critters and disappointed fathers.

Kara, who takes a wrong turn and turns up in Ourea, is revealed as the first Vagabond in a thousand years with the ability to control the Grimoire, a book of revelations. The Yakona race, divided into six Kingdoms, finds her irresistible for their cause. Her newfound powers come with a steep learning curve and a roster of duties. This proves to be handy in the political theatre, staging an impromptu battle of wits with the Bloods (rulers).

As a Vagabond, Ms. Magari is highly sought after, hunted, admired and reviled. The subsequent adventures of Kara Magari and her companion Braeden, their individual quest and collective fate test the bounds of their friendship, and the Bloods’ patience, no doubt.

The second part of the Grimoire Trilogy picks up soon after the events of Lichgates (See Review Here). The author laid out the groundwork for an impending war, ending the first book on a delicious cliffhanger. The sequel reaches for familiar themes of betrayal, self-sacrifice, chivalry, loss, vengeance and strained familial bonds to re-do the set in melodramatic colours. It also throws in some good old-fashioned teen angst inside the numerous political sparring rings.

Book II delves deeper into the mythology, chasing its attractive leads down paths that turn diplomacy missions into crusades and awkward family reunions into awkward soap operas. The image of wonderland is but fleeting, fading with the sarcastic lyth (a guard dog of sorts); trouble still brews on the horizon and Ourea’s restless heart takes centre-stage. Old characters return, loyalties are tested, and alliances are brokered. The plot carves the outlines of Kara’s tryst with destiny from the unacknowledged ghosts of the past, sending her on a hearts and minds mission — Ourea style.

Readers who linger on the uneven trail can dwell on the ambitious scale of this epic adventure. That maze of complex emotions is inlaid with sombre tones that can broker the release of characters trapped inside stereotypes. There will be sporadic gleams of wisdom and interesting shades of morality to take the focus off the dull edges and occasionally stilted dialogue. Ourea has the look of a typical fantasy world, and the feel of a gigantic chessboard. Things move rapidly and the bit players and power brokers crowding the landscape struggle to stay relevant with the power-hungry Bloods running amok. The added dimensions of deception and hidden agendas chain Ourea’s fickle soul to real world counterparts.

The book empowers its characters but does not offer magical quick fixes. Heroes come in various shades of ‘flawed’ and pompous villains refuse to don the traditional black. It also turns the damsel in distress scenario on its head. This time the narrative cuts away from Kara’s perspective, tracing multiple paths to the long and convoluted road to redemption. Readers get more character insight and back story that prompt them to revisit the past and take another look at their motivations. Boyce gives larger roles to characters who had a cameo in Lichgates, wounding the network of intrigue tighter around the axis. The author also ties loose ends left in Book I and introduces a fresh vantage point and some helpful exposition that clarifies the pattern of seemingly quick resolutions, specifically Kara’s quest in putting together the map pieces. Fans of the previous book will relish such detours.

Many will admire this strong-willed heroine for her determination to chart her own course. Others might wonder at her naiveté that makes her such a convenient mark, given the time spent in the company of the all-knowing, all-encompassing Grimoire — home to the original Vagabond’s soul or Braeden who knows the ins and outs of the Yakona kind. The only explanation that comes from Braeden will be that “Yakona politics became more treacherous with each generation.” Perhaps Kara’s lot can improve with a Yoda who could walk her through the perils of building bridges in rough neighbourhoods and grill her in the art of street smart and war.

Boyce develops the mythology, mining Ourea’s hidden store of potential for the visual feast and its complex dynamics for the horror. Given its brutal history, Treason keeps the tradition of dishing out action-packed sequences and fancy footwork in opulent looking courtrooms or inelegant back room deals alive and well. What role Ourea’s resident supernaturals (helpful muses and soul stealing isens) hope to play in the future remains unclear.

Simply written and artfully designed, parts of Treason are driven by an inherent darkness but our heroes and heroines cleverly skirt the abyss. The last few chapters where Boyce ups the stakes and then changes the game quietly enter more confident territory prompting the ‘oh-no-she-didn’t’ head shake and pushing Kara towards a different direction. The end game is in sight and Heritagethe final book in the trilogy due sometime in Fall 2013 — brings the Grimoire Trilogy to a close. Meanwhile, Lichgates (Book I) has been re-released.

Treason is out now.

Fans who want to win a guest appearance in the final installment of the Grimoire Trilogy Click Here.


Images courtesy of: http://www.thegrimoirebooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Braeden-Drakonin2.png