Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Book Review: Esperanza by Trish J. MacGregor

Pros: interesting mythology and setting

Cons: very slow paced, some things didn't add up, few Ecuadorian characters

Tess Livingston and Ian Ritter meet at the Bodego Cielo in Ecuador, neither one quite sure how they got tickets to Esperanza, a mountain city where brujos - hungry ghosts - can take solid forms or possess the bodies of unwary tourists.  Meanwhile, Dominica, the leader of the brujos tribe, is planning a major takeover.

After learning what's going on and a brief affair, they're thrust back into their regular lives, separated by time and distance.  And being hunted by brujos.

This is a hard book to talk about without giving spoilers.  You don't learn what's happening with the two protagonists until about 100 pages into the book, at which point things pick up in the story telling, as the brujos start actively hunting the protagonists. 

While I liked the South American (and other) mythology used in the book (shape shifters, time travel, etc.), there were a few things that didn't add up.  For example, the premise of the book is that Esperanza is past the Rio Palo, which translates to Stick River in English.  Stick River = the River Styx, over which souls must cross in Greek mythology to get to the afterlife.  Unfortunately, the word 'styx' is Greek for 'hate', not 'stick', so this doesn't quite work.

I also found it disappointing that the protagonists were both white, given the setting and mythology used.  Indeed, one of the Ecuadorians helping them turned out to be a white man in disguise, and they're helped more by an Australian expat living in Ecuador than by locals.  Even Dominica, the antagonist, was Spanish in origin.

MacGregor uses some French and a decent amount of Spanish, some of which she translates or paraphrases, but often she'll leave it untranslated.  Which is fine if you know those languages, or enough of them to get the gist of what's being said, but can be annoying if you don't know them or like knowing everything that's going on in a book.

The ending was a bit disappointing.  The climax felt rushed after the slow pacing of the rest of the book and it was surprising how quickly the characters forgot the dangers posed by the brujos.

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