Sunday, March 25, 2012

REVIEW: Harshini by Jennifer Fallon

It actually feels like a relief to have finished this book/series ... not because I didn't like them, but because I have been dying to get to The Hunger Games trilogy and A Song of Ice and Fire which have been sitting on my shelves for weeks. It was one of those series I started years ago and had to finish to fulfill my obsessive compulsive nature.

I have a really big bone to pick with Jennifer Fallon in this book, other than the titles (Medalon, Treason Keep and Harshini) which turned out to be little more than three arbitrary elements plucked from the story. No, worse than that was the fact that she got halfway through the book before it dawned on her that the whole Harshini magic system was flawed beyond belief and that for the ending to have any credibility whatsoever, she was going to have to introduce a few more rules that had somehow never come up before. Um, hello? WE'RE IN BOOK THREE!

The climax was a spectacular fail almost on par with Jemisin's Kingdom of Gods (I've been really raking poor JemJem over the coals lately). I've said this time and time again, yet it seems to be an acceptable norm for some fantasy authors ... just because you're using magic doesn't mean you can throw all sense of logic and reason out the window. Your protagonist cannot just draw on some incredibly powerful and unprecedented level of whoop-ass, making some flashy lights and then pass out, only to find everything has miraculously turned out the way you hope. Fallon dedicated the better part of two whole pages to the fate of Xaphista which as I recall, was the point of the whole three novels. And he really didn't put up much of a fight.

This was where the series really fell down for me. In the end, R'Shiel's quest took a back seat to everything else that was happening. Fortunately, the 'everything else' was absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately, because the poor demon child received so little screen time the whole thing because a half-arsed effort and detracted from the series as a whole. All she really did was get some powers, pretend to look at some scrolls, put in a token effort to appear helpless and overwhelmed, and then miraculously defeat the bad guys in less time and little more than rolling over in bed.

Throughout Treason Keep and most of Harshini I really hated R'Shiel. She was very similar to Harry Potter in Order of the Phoenix ... you know when he goes all annoying and angsty and everyone wants to hit him over the head with a stove? R'Shiel is so inconsistent and in fact has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Towards the end however, this was pointed out by Fallon in a no so subtle way, that in fact she's meant to be like that. Her brutal upbringing, her confusing heritage and her unwieldy powers have all contributed to making her a selfish and annoying bitch and just because she finds herself the heroine of a fantasy series doesn't automatically make her a noble and gracious warrior goddess. Hmm ... maybe I underestimated you Fallon ... you can have this round.

Adrina and Damin were once again in fine form, providing some much needed witty banter and more than a few comical moments. Actually, one of the funnier moments was Brak and R'Shiel's arrival at Talabar at which I actually laughed out loud. I think this was when I started hating her a little less.

The world-building is quite strong in this series and the history and politics between the four nations is what makes up the bulk of the narrative (at least the interesting part). I would really have liked to see a little more of Karien and perhaps some part of the story from a Karien point of view. In fact now that I think about it, the story could have included a lot more and did feel a little rushed.

Harshini like its two predecessors was incredibly easy to read and is a credit to Fallon's uncomplicated and flowing prose. From this point of view I really enjoyed reading it - it was really only the eye-roll-worthy moments and the gaping plot holes that were a little disappointing.

I'm scheduled to see The Hunger Games movie in just under a week and while I like to read the book before the movie, I'm not a fan of having freshly finished it right beforehand. I made this mistake having re-read HP and the Half-Blood Prince the day before seeing the movie ... totally ruined. But I think I'm going to take the risk because I really want to read it ... and who knows, the movie might just ruin the book for me!

1 comment:

  1. I'm not surprised you were underwhelmed with this series: although it has its moments, it's Fallon's first, and therefore more of a trial run than a really tight story.

    You should read the prequel series the Wolfblade Trilogy. It's much better, and actually really incredible writing, especially in book 2. She really gets at how Hythria works and how that affects the characters, and just general fun and tragedy.

    You should also look at the Second Sons Trilogy. It's really a character piece, with one of the few fantasy protagonists I genuinely like and respect. It's also an interesting series because it's technically sci-fi, but it's cleverly disguised as fantasy.

    Both these series have fewer plot holes and more loveable/interesting characters.