Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Book Review: Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

Pros: realistic characters, interesting plot, interesting background, fast paced

Cons: don’t see the scene the entire book revolves around, Alastair’s accent comes and goes

For Parents: some non-graphic violence, minor sexual content, drug abuse

Fifteen year old Quin is nearing the day when she, her cousin (well, third cousin but one of their relatives remarried so they’re really only half third cousins), and John, the boy she loves, are initiated as Seekers.  They’ve been training for this for years, learning how to fight to make the world a better place.  But John knows that Quin’s father is more brutal than she understands.  And the Seekers are no longer the noble warriors that she’s been taught they are.

The book is split into 3 parts.  The first segment deals with the teens’ hopes before the initiation and the immediate aftermath of the ceremony.  The second segment deals with events some time later, as the protagonists have tried to move on from what’s happened.  The third brings the players together again to decide whether their futures will be determined by the choices of their past.

I loved the characters.  As events unfold each protagonist makes decisions that deeply affects the rest of their lives.  Subsequent decisions aren’t necessarily good ones, even though each does their best to move on.  I especially liked learning more about Maud and the history of the Dreads.  I hope more of this history will be revealed in future books.

Quin starts off fairly naive, but ended up going in directions I hadn’t expected.  At first I thought she was wrong about John and how he would deal with the knowledge he was looking for, but as the book progressed I slowly realized that she was right and that his quest was destroying him.  At the same time, I liked John, sympathizing with his plight, as a youth.  But time and decisions make him less noble.  Shinobu has the most startling transformation between the first and second sections of the book.  Here too, his reasons for his actions are completely understandable, even if his decline is not pleasant to read. 

This is brought up by a character in the book, but it seemed bizarre that both Quin’s mom and Shinobu’s dad try to warn them away from their initiation but refuse to explain why.  It’s impossible to make an informed decision without information and these two know for a fact that their children don’t understand what they’re making an oath to do.  Similarly, lightly warning the kids off only made the kids more determined to take their oaths.

Alastair, Shinobu’s father, is a big, red-headed, Scottish man.  Sometimes he speaks with a Scottish accent (cannae, etc.), and sometimes he doesn’t.  There doesn’t appear to be a reason why his accent comes and goes.

My main complaint with the book is that the pivotal moment of the book, the scene the entire book turns on, the scene where Quin and Shinobu go on their first mission to become Seekers, is never properly described.  We’re given a few glimpses, enough to know it was horrible, but not enough to properly understand what Quin and Shinobu actually did on the mission.  And this knowledge is essential to understand and sympathize with their following actions.  Their despair, depression, Quin’s bout of OCD, their extreme hatred of her father (but not so much Sinobu’s) all come down to what happened in that scene.  I think retaining this scene would have increased my emotional attachment to Quin and Shinobu as well as made John’s mission more sympathetic, but I also understand that the scene would have been dark and bloody and the author probably wanted to keep a younger rating for the book.  

Ultimately I really enjoyed the book.  It’s well written, fast paced and at times thought provoking.  It’s got an interesting magic element underlying how the Seekers can do what they do.  It’s got some characters who really go through the wringer.  Can’t wait for the next book.

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