Book Review: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science-Fiction

Publishing Info: August 14th 2011 by Chicken House (first published 2009)

Pages: 371

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade – a walled encampment at the entre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze. Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there – or what’s happened to the world outside.

 

So I’m rather late to the Maze Runner party. Having heard such praise for it and there being a film which was released last year, I thought I would give it a go. Dystopia is one of my favourite genres, but there is so much fluff out there, especially in the Young Adult market. The Maze Runner in some ways disappointed me but also thrilled me.

The beginning of the novel is rather confusing. It is told in third person from Thomas’s viewpoint, which means we only know what he knows. So I guess the reader is confused because Thomas is confused. Eventually, things begin to start making sense though and the more you get into it the better it gets.

The writing style isn’t particularly amazing. It’s quite ordinary and to be honest the writing could be much better. Often the language was a little too ‘telling’ and impersonal meaning it was hard to connect to the main character, Thomas, whose thoughts we are supposed to be sharing.

The characters are one of the weakest aspects of the novel. I just felt like there wasn’t much to distinguish them, they didn’t stand out, and their personalities weren’t clear. For the first half of the book Thomas didn’t seem to have much personality, I found him quite bland. But as I got to know him he grew on me. Though he’s nothing special, nothing different from any of the other protagonists out there. There is one thing that makes him interesting, but I really can’t say because it would mean giving away major spoilers! Many of the other characters were fairly flat at the start as well but like with Thomas they became clearer as the story went on.

The plot is definitely the strongest aspect. It really kept me hooked and almost every chapter has a cliff hanger, meaning I couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to know what was going to happen. Throughout the book my head was full of questions which I was biting my nails to find out the answers to. There is some question of believability, but I will wait to pass judgement on that until I have finished the series (as there are many questions still unanswered at the end of this first book).

I’m definitely interested to see where it will go next and will read the rest of the series. A lot of people love this book and a lot of people hate it. There are an awful lot of flaws to it, but I couldn’t help but love it because of the suspenseful plot.

Book Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Fairies

Publishing Info: February 1st 2010 by Harlequin Teen

Pages: 363

Star Rating: 3.5/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth – that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil, no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

 

The Iron King is the first book in Julie Kagawa’s urban fantasy series which brings fairies into the modern age. The main reason I picked up this book was the recommendations of my friends. The paranormal genre is one I’ve begun to stay away from after many disappointing reads, however, I thought I would give this a go as dark fairies sounded different to vampires and werewolves and the like.

My first impression was a negative one. The writing style doesn’t really do anything for me. Sometimes the wording doesn’t always flow and Meghan’s voice in the narrative feels quite immature at times. It took me a while to ‘get into’ the story, it was at least halfway through before I started to enjoy it and want to keep reading.

In terms of characters I found most of them to be quite weak. Meghan always seems to have to be rescued by others, frequently playing the ‘damsel in distress’ role and very rarely being able to use her brain. It takes until the last few chapters of the book before she is able to act on her own and fight for herself. The redeeming part of her characterisation is her determination to get her brother back no matter the consequences. Puck is a good character, always having a good line to add some humour. I didn’t connect with Ash much, though he grew on me as the book went on. Kagawa did a good job of presenting him as cold and unemotional. Grimalkin steals the show for me for most of the book, despite not being one of the three main characters. Grim’s characterisation is best of all the characters.

The changeling plot isn’t all that original and as the world of the fey is very much based on actual myths and legends there isn’t much room for Kagawa’s own world building (apart from a particular part of the world which is entirely her own creation but no spoilers). It didn’t take too long to establish the plot which I thought was good, Kagawa gets to the point quite quickly but once the ‘saving the brother’ storyline is established it takes ages for anything much to happen. I like the element of adventure the book has as a lot of similar YA books focus on romance and nothing much happens in them. Thankfully, the romance doesn’t dominate the story which is one of its saving points.

Overall, this book is much better than many paranormal YA novels and for once the romance is a side plot that hardly crops up rather than being the focus of the plot. I liked that there was adventure and some events were unexpected (though I wouldn’t say it was full of twists and turns, more of a sprinkling). The minor characters (especially Grimalkin) steal the show with Meghan being a very mediocre and at times annoying main character. I’ll be reading the next one at least because I bought the books together since they were on offer. I’ve heard they get better as they go along so hopefully I will enjoy the next one more.

Now I have to take a moment to compare this to Poison by Chris Wooding. This book is about a female main character called Poison who has to rescue her sister who has been swapped for a fairy changeling. These books have the same premise but Chris Wooding pulls it off a million times better. Poison is dark, adventurous, compelling, exciting, and void of irritating, whiny main characters. If you want to read a YA book about fairies pick this up. It is leagues superior to The Iron King.

Book Review: Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Eragon by Christopher Paolini (Book 1 in the Inheritance Cycle)

WARNING: there may be some spoilers in this review

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Adventure

Publishing Info: Corgi, January 6th 2005

Pages: 528

Star Rating: 4/5

Summary: Eragon follows the story of a young farm boy called Eragon who, while out hunting to find food for his family, stumbles upon what he believes to be a stone. The ‘stone’ is in fact a dragon egg and the dragon Saphira hatches from it. These two are bonded as Dragon and Rider and therefore inseparable. Eragon begins a journey across Alagaesia to avenge his murdered uncle and join the rebel force, the Varden, to fight against the Empire.   

I shall start of by saying this is one of those books that you either love or hate. When I first read this I was completely in love with it; but after reading some reviews, and looking at the book again, I began to notice some of the things other reviewers had pointed out.

By no means is Eragon a perfect book, for a start it was written by a fifteen year old, how could it be perfect? One of the key criticisms I have seen, and agree with, is that Paolini took too many ideas from other authors. Obviously authors gain inspiration from other people’s writing but what Paolini failed to do was make the story his own. Eragon has been described as ‘the first Star Wars film with a Lord of the Rings paintjob’ and after thinking about this I am afraid I would have to agree. The events that take place in the book mirror the original Star Wars film incredibly well. When you read Eragon you don’t necessarily notice this at first as it’s been disguised with dragons and a fantasy world which blinds you into thinking the work is unique and original. (Although if you like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings you might not mind this all too much).

Another problem with the novel is the characters, all of which aren’t that memorable. The dragon, Saphira, is incredibly lacking in character development and Paolini treats her more as a plot device than a character. Eragon seems to gain skills at an incredible rate; he may be a ‘Rider’ but he still seems to develop skills a little too quickly. Also, at times a lot of the descriptions are unnecessary or dragged out for far too long which can get a little tedious.

There is a little light on the horizon, however. I found the history of the Rider’s and the world Paolini built around that a great point of the story. That is what drew me in as much as the plot itself. I found myself wanting to know more about this link between Riders and Dragons and the more I learnt the more I was intrigued.

Even though there are some problems with the book I cannot deny that I thoroughly enjoyed it and still love it. If you pick this book up without a critical eye, and read it for fun then it is a very enjoyable book. I have now read the whole series, so it can’t be that bad if I read to the end, right? Overall, Eragon is a good, but not perfect or amazing, fantasy adventure which is enjoyable to read. I would recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy though it does take a little dedication to get through it.