A light fantasy tale that never delves too
deep into its characters or setting, it was still fun to read. Many
aspects seemed to be controlled by the author rather than happening
logically, just as the characters complain to the main author character.
first page, I could tell this was going to be a campy-style fantasy
novel. The dragon-fight sequence in the first chapter was full of
cliché’s, and the style made me wonder if I was going to be able to keep
reading through to the end. But it got better, and a lot more readable,
though it never lost the campy style.
The premise of the story
is that although Jeff, an author, is being pressured to finish his
latest book, he is magically drawn into the world that he created,
interacts with his characters, and learns that he is not the only
influence in their world.
The implications of the story world
have been investigated before, especially in the way authors describe
how they “discover” things as they write, instead of simply “making it
up”. In this story, Jeff discovers that he barely knows the characters
in his book at all. When he is brought into the world of Andvell, when
he thinks he’s dreaming, the characters tell him that when he is
finished with them, they go home and eat, drink, and have other
adventures. He doesn’t know that Maggie has five kids, that she’s not as
sure of herself as he thought, or that the others call her Maggie -she’s
always been Margaret to him.
Jasmine complains to him to stop
putting false memories of Brady into her head. She insists that she
loves Corey, but traveling with them, Jeff sees the attachment that
Jasmine has to the young scholar.
While it’s fun to join an
author in his own world, where he gradually comes to accept that he’s
not in a dream, there is little substance to the story. The author
delivers a new world that is populated by people, but they don’t feel
real to me. Few of them react as if they were made to survive. Corey is
such a bully and reactionary that it’s hard to see how he survived so
Jeff himself is not really a likable character, in
the sense that although he tells stories for a living, and as such knows
the thought pattern of people, and how they will react, he acts as if
he’s been written, as well (which of course he is, by the author of
Evensong). But his reactions, which should be based on observation,
knowing this is a fantasy world, are exactly the same as the characters
that he has written. He accepts the duel with Corey, knowing his skill.
He runs off to the haunted forest with Jasmine, and even sells his
literary soul to the Three Sisters in order to gain access to the room
where the villain is holding the woman he’s been fantasizing over. All
of this without using a small part of his author’s ability.
Maggie brought him to the world of Andvell to help them survive. With
the dragon and the drought, and people disappearing, they’re having a
really rough time. Jeff had nothing to do with the disappearing people,
though, and that worries everybody. They discover that Raul, the villain
Jeff planned to introduce later in the story, has a history with these
people, and is behind the disappearances.
Raul doesn’t really
prove to be much of a villain. He captures Jeff, brings him to his
secret lair, and, realizing that he can’t influence Jeff directly, he
brings another person to Andvell -the woman that Jeff has been pining
for at the corner café, one of the baristas. In order to save Cassie,
Raul wants Jeff to write the end of the story such that the evil wizard
conquers the world. And so Jeff does, though he hates himself for it.
I don’t understand why Jeff wouldn’t write a good story, where
he balances his long-forged characters as well as Raul. Raul couldn’t
know that he might write Maggie into a stronger mage during interlude
scenes, nor form a secret army behind his back. Jeff isn’t willing to
even explore those avenues, given the risk he might put Cassie in. No
matter the risk that Raul or one of his guards might torture her or kill
her anyway. It seems to me that his readers might object to suddenly
giving over half the book to a new villain, neglecting the characters
he's developed over the years.
And so, while he’s able to
influence Andvell only when he’s writing about it, he decides to go back
there to rescue the girl physically, which makes no sense whatsoever. In
the process, the Three Sisters, who had aligned with Raul for a time,
exchange his imagination (of which I couldn’t see much evidence in the
first place) for a key that will unlock the door to Cassie’s cell. While
he does rescue her and urges Maggie to send her back (what’s to prevent
Raul from taking her again?), Jeff is captured trying to bring down the
shield that protects Raul’s castle.
He spends an unreasonably
long time rotting in a cell, while who-knows-what happens in the outside
world, until he convinces one of the guards to help him escape. The
woman’s turnaround is not believable at all, even if she has a sister in
the village Raul is about to conquer. She’s been loyal to Raul all her
life, and Jeff is able to reveal doubts in a few short conversations? As
a side note, at one point, the floor to Jeff’s cell is flooded, but only
a few minutes later the guard is able to push food under the door,
apparently oblivious to it, and Jeff isn’t wet or cold after that as he
escapes. The guard is killed in the process of bringing the shield down.
Raul, of course, stops his bloody crusade to return to his home
base, even though nobody would be able to resist him even if he stayed
away for longer. His army of the dead (the missing people) are wasted,
and he fights one-on-one against Jasmine and the one-armed Jayden (who
lost half his body to the mutated bear attack). Finally, Maggie is able
to send Jeff and Cassie back to Montreal, where Jeff writes an ending to
the story where Raul is caught in the spell and disappears.
author at least did something unexpected with the dragon. Although it
killed Corey, it turns out the thing wasn’t the menace everybody thought
it was. It was awakened by Raul, and somehow interacted with the shield,
but never amounted to anything else.
The only character that I
really liked was Brady, who gave thought to his actions and words, and
prepared for whatever he was about to do. Maggie was fun, but with five
kids, she was a little preoccupied.
I would stop here in this
series, except that I understand the next book takes place in Montreal.
I can’t resist that kind of premise, and the story wasn’t bad enough
that I would try to resist. It was simply underwhelming and felt like it
needed some depth, rather than the lite feeling it gave all the way