Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Review: The Grimoire: Lichgates, by S.M. Boyce

The Grimoire turns its own pages and can answer any question asked of it, and Kara Magari is its next target. 

Kara has no idea what she's getting herself into when she stumbles across the old book while hiking a hidden trail. Once she opens it, she's thrown into Ourea: a beautiful world full of terrifying things that want the Grimoire's secrets. Everyone in this new world is trying to find her, and most want to control the new-found power the book bestows upon her. Even if Kara does escape, Ourea will only drag her back.

Braeden Drakonin grew up in Ourea, and all he’s ever known of life is lying. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. He has one question to ask the book—one question that can fix everything in his broken world—and he’s not letting Kara out of his sight until he gets an answer.

There’s no going back now.

This book is an enchanting high fantasy that draws on the essence of both The Neverending Story and Alice in Wonderland, plot devices from Stargate SG-1 and Narnia, and a quest like that of Luke Skywalker's. One of my first thoughts while reading it was if I were a filmmaker recreating this story, I would treat it in a matter similar to Watership Down...showing the human dimension in live action, and Ourea's scenes animated (Final Fantasy style at that). Simply, it would be very hard to render a world as beautiful as the one Ms. Boyce has created on Earth. Soaring towered of them UNDERWATER. Even the elements that are brutal are beautiful.

The author balances the wonder out by injecting a healthy dose of humanity at its worst. None of the people trust each other, as main character Kara discovers early on. In what I consider the strongest scene of the book, a slender queen on an afternoon stroll finds herself face to face her people's worst enemy...a man easily four-times her size and she battles him with wits and steel. Lorraine is beautiful, wise, capable of unconditional love and forgiveness, but beneath her skin, she is ruthless as her opponent. Every ruler of Ourea is, because every throne requires it.

But, Lichgates is not without its problems. The ratio of narration to dialog (with far more narrative) is unusual in a Young Adult novel. I also found the chapters to be unbalanced. The main character's struggle with guilt and death is appropriate, and expertly handled by the author, as are the philosophical questions regarding free will and genocide. But as the story requires introducing the reader to settings, races, creatures, magic, all while following the main character on a quest that runs parallel to this, plus rounding out an number of characters, the author was almost required to "tell" much of the story opposed to "show" to get it all in a YA length story. I felt a bit let down by how quickly events and discoveries came. Also, in the prose, there are brilliant passages that ignite all of the senses, followed by sections I refrained from skimming. They didn't hold my interest, but because the author drops very subtle hints, I was concerned that I'd miss something important. However, this was not frequent.

At the end, I was very happy to have picked up this book and delighted with the story when I finished it. I am looking forward to the next book in The Grimoire Trilogy


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