I think “meh” pretty much sums it up. It’s hard to write something because this book simply doesn’t evoke any feelings in me other than boredom and frustration (at the writing).

There are a number of flaws to this book that kept bugging me:

1. Writing

First off, the writing style. I can’t help but feel that there is a beautiful, rich world in this book that is waiting to be discovered. However, the entire time, the writing constantly switches between spartan descriptions of events, locations, creatures on one hand, to paragraph long descriptions of a forest pathway on the other.

Big events are described in no more than a few sentences, in no way doing justice to the situation. It makes you feel that if you read to fast you would just miss it. The pacing is all over the place, all the time.

e.g the book pretty much ramps up to the “Roundabout” games (if you can call it ramping at this pace), claiming that these games are something like the “Olympics” on campus. However, the entire “games” section is put in just a few pages (an event that allegedly takes a full day). It’s like listening to the highlights of a sports game on the radio and not an intriguing epic fantasy concours.

The entire book feels like it’s a mere skeleton for a story, hitting bullet point after bullet point, but still waiting to be fleshed out later.

Oh, also, there is this gem. The author would have you believe that the main character runs through a maze (that he has never seen), with his eyes shut, without making a single mistake, breaking not even this game’s record but every record on this event. Now, I don’t know about you, but in my eyes this would be a pretty major feat to accomplish, and yet, this his how the entire scene is described:

The moment the game began, I moved with utter swiftness. I felt an assuredness I had not felt before. I closed my eyes. As I did, I could see the maze in my mind. One corner after another, I moved through the maze with breathtaking speed. As I ran with my eyes closed, I could see the Dark Forest. The maze became an abstraction of the trees and the forest where the trees resided.

I stepped forward and opened my eyes. I had completed the maze. It was a record time, not just this game but for all games since the very first Roundabout. I had achieved the high score, a perfect score. The crowd erupted at the sight of the first such success in 87 years, and I allowed myself a moment to take it in.

Could this be any shorter? Any more deprived of feeling? I mean, it’s so short, if you read fast enough you just might miss it. I don’t see how this is not relevant to the story since the connection between the Everville problems and the games are hinted on more occasions than the occasions where the main character actually makes sense. This is one of those epic moments, there should be proper build up and a climax.

One more of these pretties:

Main character and his pet arrive at a ravine that they absolutely need to cross, this is how the “gravity” of the situation is described.

If they failed, they would lie dead at the bottom of the crevasse. They would have to be willing to give up their only assurance of survival if they were going to make it across, so that’s what they decided to do.

Seriously? what. the. fuck.

One more flaw. The author has chosen to use a strict first person perspective in this book. Apart from the fact that I don’t like this, there are a few problems with this. Most importantly that it doesn’t allow the author to write about things that happen to other characters if they don’t vocalize this (so that the main character could pick up on it). But, in stead of bothering about that restriction, the author plainly switches to 3rd person mode whenever he feels necessary. These are passages that really stand out by the way they stumble in a book that is basically a large monologue.

2. Characters

Well, here we can be short as there are about 7 characters in the book, but there just as well could have been 1. All the other characters are utterly useless and generic. Not one of these gets much attention when it comes to personality. Seriously, the most interesting secondary character is Zee, and only because his first appearance creates an air of mystery about his history.

Even the main character is boring as hell, we know little to nothing about him, his hopes, personality traits, … How the hell am I supposed to feel for this guy? He narrates himself so incredibly dry that I wonder why he even bothers to live.

3. Plot

The plot feels very thin and generic. The author tries to create a very complicated world with a lot of different races but he fails to describe all of these sufficiently to make the world (and it’s problems by extension) believable in any way. He makes things even worse when he tries to include space / time into the equation.

Please tell me how I’m supposed to take anything in this book serious when this pops up fairly early in the book?

Anika looked at me and said, “You know this is really cool!”

“Yeah! This is fantastic! Maybe you’re some kind of superhero or something!”

“I don’t know about that,” I said to Dante.

“The Keeper didn’t say anything about superpowers and it seems like we’re in some kind of trouble that needs to be fixed.”

“Well, Anika and I will be your sidekicks! Just let us know when we can help!”

“Thanks Dante. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this.”

Bottom line for me is that this book will probably work very well with people who like the Narnia series and the likes. I’m definitely not the target audience so my opinion on the matter isn’t all that relevant.

Thanks to the author for providing me with a free copy.

--- ---