by Ellen Oh
HarperTeen, January 2 2013
young adult fantasy
digital review copy received via Edelweiss
Kira might be hated and feared throughout the Seven Kingdoms for her unnatural yellow eyes and fearsome lady warrior skills, but as long as she can do her job and keep her cousin, the crown prince Taejo, safe from demons, she's fine with her life. Then someone in the court turns traitor against Hansong, and Kira's forced to flee with the prince to safety. But then he gets kidnapped, she goes back to Hansong, they flee again, and then they go in search of a treasure that might make the prince into the One who will save them all! Maybe.Sorry sorry sorry for the snark. :(
I think I actually like it now. The strong blue and red colours are pleasing, as is the (somewhat chaotic) background to the jewel. The extended descenders of P and Y don't go with the font, but overall this cover has made its way into my good books.
The writing. The writing, the writing, the writing. Awkwardness abounds. There's telling instead of showing, a lack of flow, character emotions that jump from one to another, and through it all, there's no sense of voice to get us engaged into Kira's third-person perspective. The characters tell each other information that's already been told; dialogue tags ("Brother Woojin said", "Kira asked", "Kwan said to Kira") are all over the place. It's like a new speed bump, every time you come up against a slice of bad writing, and it really takes the steam out of this book.
There is an authentic Korean feel to this book, thanks to the character names, the food and the lifestyles. However, the worldbuilding falls short. Names of cities and the Seven Kingdoms litter the pages, so numerous that when it comes down the politics, there's no intrigue or anticipation on the part of the reader, since we don't even know who's who. Not even the prophecy ("Seven become three; three become one") makes the lands more memorable or interesting. As well, there seem to be no ground rules for the fantastical creatures: beyond demons and imps (who are apparently blanket-evil), it seems that anything goes.
Fight scenes that spot the novel regularly are a highpoint: authentic fight vocabulary describes Kira's every movement and swords, arrows and appendages are flung about with convincing efficiency. However, they match the pacing of this book: short and stilted. Extremely short chapters cut off the scenes that would normally develop the characters and their interactions, and the multiple legs of the story's journey seem circuitous.
Without solid writing, worldbuilding basics or characters worth investing in, this novel founders. Not recommended.
Rating: 1.8 out of 5