Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book Review: Taste of Darkness by Maria V. Snyder

I remember reading Maria V. Snyder's "Study" series a couple years ago and finding myself completely enraptured by the crazy adventures the butt-kicking heroine went on. Which, of course, led me to devouring all of her other books with a speed faster than the Road Runner--beep beep. "Taste of Darkness" is the finale to the "Healer" series, bringing Avry's fight against Tohon and the Skeleton King to a close. Forgive me if I'm sounding a little lukewarm; I hate to say it (trust me, I really do), but I was so relieved when I finally hit the last page because the book was just so slow! Disappointment is a big, fat jerk.

Avry of Kazan has fought death and won. She survived the plague and defeated King Tohon, but when she wakes up one morning to find Kerrick gone from her bedside, Avry knows only fear. But that's not all that she has to deal with. The Skeleton King is plotting to take the Fifteen Realms for himself, and armies of the dead threaten to overwhelm Prince Ryne's forces. As virtually the last healer in the realms, Avry is needed now more than ever. Torn between love and loyalty, Avry must choose her path carefully, or the kingdom will crumble under darkness.

I mentioned earlier that I found "Taste of Darkness" slow. And, unfortunately, I meant it. The plot of the final book in the "Healer" series is frustratingly plodding, even to the point where I ended up skimming over a good portion of the book. There really isn't much that happens in the story. In fact, it seemed as if Ms. Snyder was just using the last installment of the trilogy to wrap things up and give her readers a nice, clean ending. Having said this, wrapping things up doesn't have to be in such a lackluster manner! It's strange because I don't recall feeling this way whatsoever with the previous books in the series, yet with this last book, I was just bored out of my mind. I never got the feeling that something was at stake. Sure, I got that the Fifteen Realms would fall under the Skeleton King or Tohon's rule, but I never really felt that tension. In fact, I think one of the major problems in the storyline is that there really isn't a clearcut antagonist. It's basically Avry and her friends against the Skeleton King, Cellina and Tohon, and, because there are so many enemies, their respective threats diminished greatly. It's just such a huge disappointment, because there's some awesome potential with the series, and it had to end this way!

Another thing I noticed while reading the novel was that the writing style was a little awkward and pretty clumsy. Again, I don't know if it's always been like this and I just hadn't noticed, or if it suddenly got clumsier (chances are it's the former). For example, there were lots of sentences that could've flowed a lot more smoothly had there been a comma or two in them, since they ended up sounding like run-on sentences. Another thing is that the words and phrases used seemed a little...immature. I mean, Avry's already twenty one-years old, but her narrative voice gave me the impression that she could easily be fifteen. The same can be said about the other characters. I get that there's meant to be humourous banter, especially between the monkeys and within their group of friends, but it doesn't have to be lame. The characters weren't exactly witty, and the slightly awkward writing didn't help with that either.

I know I sound like I'm seriously bashing on this book, but I just have to say one more thing about the characters. I've always admired Ms. Snyder's heroines, because they're indubitably kickass and stubborn and compassionate and all that jazz. In "Taste of Darkness," I found that, yes, Avry was still a strong protagonist who has a good head on her shoulders, but she became pretty flat and static as a character. There wasn't any change within her, no more development that would've made her a dynamic and truly interesting main character to read about. This also ties in with the flat storyline, since there weren't many things that challenged her and pressed her to question herself and change into a stronger, better person.

Overall, "Taste of Darkness" is a rather disappointing finale to what could've been a fun fantasy series. Things just fell flat: the plot, the writing, and the characters. I'd probably give this one a miss--but I definitely recommend checking out Ms. Snyder's "Study" series! It's what had me thinking I'd found my new favourite author (though maybe not so much anymore).

Rating: 1/5

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