July 12, 2011
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Meridian Sozu is a Fenestra—the half-human, half-angel link between the living and the dead. She has the dark responsibility of helping souls transition safely into the afterlife. If people die without the help of a Fenestra, their souls are left vulnerable to be stolen by the Aternocti, a dark band of forces who disrupt the balance of good and evil in the world and cause chaos.
Having recently lost her beloved Auntie—the woman who showed her what it meant to be a Fenestra—Meridian has hit the road with Tens, her love and sworn protector, in hopes of finding another Fenestra. Their search leads them to Indiana, where Juliet, a responsible and loving teenager, works tirelessly in the nursing home where she and several other foster kids are housed. Surrounded by death, Juliet struggles to make a loving home for the younger kids, and to protect them from the violent whims of their foster mother. But she is struggling against forces she can't understand . . . and even as she feels a pull toward the dying, their sickness seems to infect her, weighing her down. . . .
Will Meri and Tens find Juliet in time to save her from a life of misery and illness? And will Meri and Tens' own romance weather the storms of new discoveries?
When I reviewed book one in this series, Meridian, last year, I said overall I liked the story, but. I think I'm basically going to be saying the same thing this time, and for mostly the same reasons. This worries me a bit because it means that either there hasn't been growth OR this is just Kizer's style, in which case I will never be completely satisfied. Whichever it is, the result is the same: I was left at times feeling a little underwhelmed by what I think could be a really good story.
There are times that it is. The mythology is interesting, and Kizer is very, very talented at creating in Meridian a character I believe. There are things that she thinks or says or feels that ring so true to me, and scenes that are so cringingly, awkwardly realistic that I feel Kizer nailed her. She shows great insight into the emotions and reactions and feelings of her MC, and it brings her to life. Wildcat Fireflies sees the addition of a few new characters, one of them another Fenestra by the name of Juliet, and Kizer breathes the same life and believability into her as she does Meridian. These two girls have personalities, flaws and strengths, that feel very in keeping with the lives they've led, and I respect that.
But there are counterparts to the dynamic main characters, and these counterparts are often very flat. In fact, most of the side characters are pretty flat; they tend to be either wholly dark or wholly light, and there's never any doubt which. You know from the minute they enter the story which side they are on, and they never deviate from it. I said in my review of Meridian that the bad guys and good guys may as well come with big declarative flags over their heads, and that remains true for this second book. As the reader, we never get to have doubts or form our own opinions because everything is basically handed to us: we have merely to wait to see how it all plays out.
It's akin to the HUGE pet peeve I mentioned last time, and that's the use of deus ex machina. <----- That makes an appearance (pun intended) again in this book, but I'm going to try not to go off on too much of a tangent because I've covered it before. Suffice it to say, I haaaaaate it when authors use DEM, because why should I care if I know that no matter what happens, someone is going to come along and wipe the slate clean? Where's the tension, where's the struggle? There's no need to worry about anyone, ever, because it doesn't matter what they do: someone is going to wave a magic wand and fix it.
Hand in hand with the use of actual DEM is the obviousness that I was talking about before I did in fact go off on a bit of a tangent. There's an easy convenience to it that robs the story of potential for tension, and that's a letdown. So much in the story, signs and magical aids and white knight helpers everywhere Meridian turns - it all falls under the umbrella of divine intervention or something along those lines, and maybe it's just that I'm not religious, but this doesn't work for me. Why make everything so easy and obvious? And if all of these magical helpers and whatnot can be sent, why are Meridian and the other Fenestra even needed? Can't the baddies just be obliterated, and everything be peaches and puppies? It just doesn't work for me. And it's a shame, because I think it's doing a disservice to what is otherwise a fascinating story.
Kizer does dark really well, and she doesn't shy away from things, which I respect. I would have liked to be able to explore this without knowing that it's all going to be swept under the rug in a lightning fast showdown, where the Ultimate Bad Guy that was so impossible to beat is defeated or scared off in all of a paragraph. This, after nearly 500 pages of build-up. It feels like a lot of work for very little payoff.
[And while I'm mentioning the length, on a technical note, I could have done with a heavier editing-hand. I did read an ARC, so I'm sure things will be tightened up, but this was a looong book, and though some of that can be chalked up to it essentially being two stories interwoven, it still could have used some trimming and some all-around editing. There were times when the sentence structure was damn near unintelligible.]
So, where does that leave us? If you were a fan of Meridian, I'd say definitely pick this up.
If you're not adverse to clear cut Good v. Bad, and a fair dose of divine intervention, pick this up.
But if these things bother you, my recommendation is hesitant. It took me a good long while before I was able to feel invested in the story; I did get there, and I do like these characters and the bones of the story, so if you're willing to set some things aside, this can be quite enjoyable at times. There is enough there to keep me willing to read more from the series, but I don't think it will ever make it to the must-have list.