Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Nina of the Dark by Ken Catran
Children's Fantasy approx 9-12
Nina is raised as a slave, but her special abilities mean that she is the only person capable of saving the world.
Yes, as you can probably tell by the opening paragraph -- this book is full of thinly disguised cliché fantasy stereotypes, so if that's what you're after, you'll probably love it. I didn't, and unusually it wasn't the writing that put me off -- it was the characters. Not only were they shallow, but they acted like puppets to be directed by nothing more than the plot, and often heavily directed by author devices like "the balance of the world," and the completely new "thumb hurting."
The action is episodic, a little bit like a random Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Now, that's not entirely a bad thing, and the action was mostly fun, except when, for no reason at all, important fight scenes are skipped and then revisited in retrospect. And the reason for this seemed to be that the book wasn't written around the action, so much as things being explained to Nina. Those one-way dialogues are the big turning points of the story. This having stuff explained, and having objects and events fall into Nina's lap in my view are plot flaws, and trumpeting them undermines her character, the decisions she makes, and how she fights for them. If only more emphasis had been put on those moments, instead of the jiggery-pokery behind the scenes stuff, the story might have worked.
My overall impression was simply that the author did not have respect for his audience, and if that is the case, I suggest he turns his very able pen toward the adult market.
Review by Alicia Ponder