This review can also be read on my blog, Stumptown Books
The first two novels of this series I read an older printing of (this series isn't available on the Kindle, unfortunately), and the third novel, Dark Whispers
, was my first contact with the reprints. They got a new artist, which I think is a travesty as the covers for Into the Land of the Unicorns
and Song of the Wanderer
are simply gorgeous and fit the series perfectly. When I brought home my copy of this one, I was aghast at the terrible outfit they made Cara wear on the cover. This is more shallow of me than I would like to admit, but seriously, mustard yellow jerkin, eggplant purple cloak, and red hair? Those do not go well together! We all judge books by their cover whether we want to or not, and stunning cover art will often lead me to buy a book I wouldn't otherwise try. This one, on the other hand, smacks of a bad movie poster. Then there's the book itself; it is on creamy paper with brown ink. I do not have bad eyes but this made it extremely hard for me to read as there just wasn't enough contrast. This is the first time I've ever seen brown ink being used in a book and I hope I never come across it again (except in the sequel of course :( ) Sadly I can only assume this means that every book in the series has had this treatment in the reprinting.
Ok enough about the physical aspect, it was just frivolously annoying and only made me question Coville's editor, not the man's intelligence. He obviously has a lot of ideas and trying to get them all down in a young adult or even children's medium perhaps wasn't the best choice. A number of very adult situations occur that then have no repercussions as he just breezes over them. Whereas I am sitting there horrified at what I just read, the characters are like "Well that was sucky for you. Now stop complaining. Moving on!" Cara is consistently called wiser than her years, or more brave and courageous than the adult hunters, and although she is put into many trying situations, it always seemed more of a "This is what the author wanted to happen here, not what would have really happened." That sounds silly talking about a fantasy book, but the prodigious amount of coincidences and stupidity that always
work out makes her seem a lot less brave and a lot more ridiculously lucky. As the reader, you know everything will always work out for the best. Even if a character dies it never seems to have much affect, and that makes me feel pretty damn uncaring and heartless.
Cara is once again given a quest that requires a long distance to travel. I was beginning to tire of travel in the last book, but now we follow several of the friends she's made along the way. All these characters criss crossing Luster bogged down the story, in my opinion. This installation makes heavy use of the omniscient narrator, which the other novels only used sparingly, and usually only when a character was telling a story. Now even Cara's dad is a point of view character, and I hated
his entire story and quest. I guess the emerald prison in the last book was kind of cool (but not that cool), however the seemingly endless ruby prison in this novel was so grating to me. I never had any reason to like Ian Hunter, and his quest made him even more tiresome. He's just a bland father figure going through the motions of loving his daughter.
The first novel had the beginnings of a great fantasy world, but instead of keeping the story tight and concise, it has become too spread out and uninteresting. It's like Bruce Coville kept on getting ideas and found ways to incorporate them that didn't really fit into the story he started in the first book. I may be totally wrong about that, but especially with how long it took him to finish this series, I feel he probably had no clue where he was going at the beginning, and that really detracted from my enjoyment of both the second and third installments of this series.