Tuesday, June 25, 2013
This novel follows the story of seventeen-year-old named Jacob, from his painfully dull existence in Florida, to a mysterious island off of the coast of Wales, in search of answers for the murder of his grandfather, and the truth behind the strange stories the old man used to tell him... Tales about a boy who was inhabited by bees, a brother/sister duo whose were much mightier than their size would suggest, a girl who could levitate and another who could control plants, and most special still, a girl who could control fire, all living in an orphanage during WWII. However, the reality he finds, is even stranger than the stories, and it soon becomes clear, that in facing the truth, he must also face a future different from anything he has ever known.
The novel was incredibly fast-paced, with nary a dull moment or pause in action, with plenty of suspense pulling the story forward at every step. While the constant movement might have been construed as sloppy or a little too frenetic at key points, the effect was, overall, fitting of Jacob's rapidly changing world view. In fact, that's what this book served as, primarily: not a world-builder, but definitely a world-changer. A lot of it, especially in the middle, assisted in the transition of the construction of Jacob's reality into one of an altered semi-reality... Still, this endless flow of movement and change got a little hectic, and I would have appreciated a little more demonstration of the world than oration of its composition. You know, showing, rather than telling. (Then again, this maybe because it is a YA fantasy, and the length and believability might have been called into questioning on that count).
The characters are incredibly intriguing, the descriptions are vivid (and that's saying something, that Wales and muddy bogs and creeping fog can ever be described as "vivid"), and the plot was very interesting, with multiple layers, and a lot of twists and turns. The ending especially was incredibly suspenseful, but the plot twist was a little too expected and poorly orchestrated for my taste. It was obvious to spot, but it didn't detract from the ending too much.
The best aspect of the book by far was the photos from which the book originated. The fact that the plot was cobbled together from strange snippets and odd photos found at random garage sales and flea markets, was SO COOL, and definitely served as a super unique origin for this super unique story. The best part is, there's even more of the origin story present in the back of my copy...
I was sent this book through Goodreads, as the novel moves forward from it's status as a New York Times Best-Seller in hardcover, into paperback form, in preparation for the release of it's sequel, Hollow City, come next January 14th. This edition of the already-popular novel includes an extensive Q&A with Mr. Riggs in the back of the book, even more creepy pictures - those not used in the novel itself, as well as others hinting at the fates that await the children in their next adventure - and a fairly large chunk of the first chapter of the sequel as well. The extra materials were just as cool as the book itself, as the Q&A detailed even more of the amazing origins of the novel, and that was the part I liked best.
Though maybe a little unsuited for those who don't like overly predictable novels, this is a good, creepy read for the YA Fantasy/Horror types, as well as adults who are willing to sit through some drudge-y info-dumping and teen romance. At the end of the day, it was still a pretty welcome distraction for me.