Friday, April 6, 2012
A few weeks ago, I was given a Kindle as a belated birthday gift. Initially, this present was anything but wanted. I’ve always been stubbornly against getting an E-reader as I always felt that they were awkward and impersonal. Mind you, all these opinions were formed without ever having tried an E-read. However, though part of me itched to return the present, I knew that I could not without causing offense. So I settled, and decided to use the Kindle as an expensive dictionary(which was a blessing, as my former electronic dictionary broke from over use). Eventually however curiosity got the best of me and I decided to actually try and read something on it. Project Gutenberg is my new best friend. After a difficult adjustment period, I realized that E-readers aren’t quite the devils I thought they were. They are definitely more environmentally friendly than printed books, though they lack some of the comfort. And I’m all about the environment(I want to be safe from any future Ent uprisings). And it is a good thing I have an E-reader too, since it would seem there are oodles of E-book giveaways for willing readers. One such giveaway(entered via Goodreads) gifted me with a book called "The Grimoire: Lichgates" by S.M.Boyce. Now, I love free things, so naturally I set out to savor my free prize as soon as my schedule would allow me.
The basic premise of the "Lichgates" is a very common one, and it’s a type of story I happen to really enjoy: girl/boy enters a strange magical world and has to somehow survive. There are many variations of this basic plot point, and it’s been retold a variety of ways for the simple fact that we fantasy readers always dream of being thrust into similar circumstances. In the case of "Lichgates", it is a girl named Kara Magari that is taken from modern America into a magical world called Ourea, which seems to exist alongside of our own but hosts a variety of different magical creatures and races. Ourea is entered through a lichgate—a magical portal that connects our world to Ourea, and connects the different worlds of Ourea to eachother. Readers get very little chance to know Kara before a rush of events finds her in an underground library and the new Vagabond. From the library she is pulled into a fast paced adventure that is full of twist and turns, deceit, bustling love, and creatures from her worst nightmares. If I had to compare "Lichgates" to any other stories, I would call it a cross between some of L.J.Smith’s Night World books("Black Dawn" specifically comes to mind) and the television series Avatar: The Last Airbender. If you’re not familiar with A:TLA(mind you, I’m not referring to the shoddy, disgraceful live-action adaptation), the basic premise is that an Avatar is born into a world of people with the ability to control the elements in order to help maintain piece in the four lands. The Vagabond’s role is not too dissimilar, though there is no reincarnation involved.
Overall, I really liked "Lichgates" and had very few complaints or irritations with the story. The story is an interesting variation of a well known premise(girl/boy finds themselves in strange magical world) with a believably human main character. One of my first complaints with the books was the initial pacing. The beginning of the story had very little set-up before readers were suddenly taken to a very confusing situation. Now, this sort of face-paced narrative isn’t always a bad thing. Infact, it makes sense from a certain perspective. If you want readers to understand how chaotic the events were for the character, naturally it stands to reason that you would write in a fast and somewhat chaotic ways. I used to hate this in books, having grown up on long epics and classics that took their time to get to the point. I have come to appreciate it in first person narrative like the Percy Jackson books, but it just felt a little out of place in this story. This is really more of a personal nitpicking though, and it didn’t really detract from the story. My second minor complaint involved certain objects that Kara has to find in the story. These objects are supposed to be secret and are meant to lead her to a place that only she as a Vagabond should know how. So, if these objects were so important you’d expect them to be a bear to find, right? Erm, no. Infact, some of the objects are even gifted to her, and the ones that she has to find on her own she finds with little difficulty. It makes you wonder how it was that only one person had ever found one of these "well hidden" objects before. I kept waiting for Boyce to give an explanation for why Kara was able to find these artifacts so easily, perhaps linking it to her unique powers as a Vagabond. But no explanation came. Once again, this doesn’t really detract from the intrigue of the story too much. It was just a little amusing and mildly eye-brow raising. As a whole however, this is a really engaging story. True, I felt that it moved too quickly in certain places(especially during moments of conflict in the story), but the tale itself was still very engrossing and I found myself trying to guess what plot twist would happen next. The romance in the story is mild and developed and a steady pace as well, which is very refreshing.
Basically, if you like some of the darkness of Night World but the curiosities of Alice in Wonderland, you’ll probably love this book. Did I mention that the main female character isn’t a twat? Because if you’re anything like me, having a strong female lead is a must in a book. This book is available in both print and E-book format, though the print is a tad pricey, on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Still not convinced if you want to give this book a try? Visit S.M.Boyce’s website for a much more engaging description.