Friday, February 17, 2012

Review: Vanish by Sophie Jordan, Book 2 of the Firelight Series

After the events of the last book, Jacinda is now returning to her Pride under the shadow of having completely revealed herself to hunters. They now know draki can appear as humans and they know what Jacinda looks like. All because she loved Will, one of the hunters, and couldn’t stand to see him die.

But a brief reprieve is realised with Tamra’s draki finally manifesting and limiting the damage. But all is far from good – the leader of the Pride has greatly tightened security and limited the freedoms of the draki – he’s also definitely gunning for Jacinda to force her back into line and make her compliant, and cutting her off from any support network she could have. Jacinda finds herself widely reviled and certainly far from her old, special status.

And maybe she could have assimilated back into the Pride – especially with Tamra’s manifesting meaning she is now holding a coveted position. Maybe she could have learned to love Cassian as he continued to hold onto his affection for her – except she still loves Will. And he has found the camp.

This leaves Jacinda caught between her love, her friends and an increasingly hostile Pride – and that’s before she loses someone to the Enkos, the people who fund the draki hunts.

Let us start by saying that this book has a truly great world. The concept of the Draki, with their myriad powers, their hidden society and the very concept of these dragons masquerading as humans is a fascinating one. Not only that but there is clear evidence of a well built culture and some fully developed world building. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Sophie Jordan actually has a massive tome of world building notes behind this series.

Unfortunately, this is pretty much the end of what I enjoy about the book.

I find the characters, in general, to be overdone. Severin, the boss man, is dictatorial to an extent that is almost at melodrama villain levels and he continually makes decisions that have no real purpose beyond simple cruelty and power tripping. It’s like someone sent down to central casting for a cartoon villain. Corbin is completely unnecessary to the story and exists only to add to Jacinda’s pity-fest without actually being around enough to be an issue. Cassian just lives to serve Jacinda, no matter how far she goes or what she does, he’s part punching bag, part servant, all by the power of his love-struck puppiness.

But Jacinda? Oh dear gods, I cannot stand this character. She has betrayed her people by revealing herself to an entire family of people who hunt her species for sport and profit, she then saved one of said hunters. That was the last book. This book she realises that her One True Love who she has known for, maybe, a week or so, isn’t effected by Draki mind wiping. Which she keeps secret – the this man who hunters her people to near extinction may actually remember her is something she keeps secret. And when he finds her people’s home she hides that he is a hunter AND again, that the mind wipe they performed on him didn’t work. So he knows where they live – she even keeps meeting him outside the walls of her home while he goes back to his family that, I feel the need to say again, HUNTS HER SPECIES TO NEAR EXTINCTION FOR SPORT AND PROFIT. And why? Because she loves him (because her love, the love of a 17 year old, justifies putting the entire town at such risk) and knows this because of a few weeks acquaintanceship!

And if this weren’t enough for me to hate Jacinda already, her angst just adds to it. Her constant guilt and angst and worry (but never enough to do anything about it! She feels guilty but never stops her risky, thoughtless, selfish behaviour, she just MOPES about it over and over again). And everyone is just so mean and shunning her and she’s not special any more and her life is so miserable (like they don’t have a perfectly good reason to be severely angry at her) woe woe woe, let’s have some more pages of woe. She only partially breaks out of this woe when Cassian tells her what a silly girl she’s being (aaaargh, the man snaps the emotional woman out of her silly emotional state, oh you silly emotional thing!). But even then she just cuts back the woe enough to allow for more mooning over Will (that would be the hunter. Whose family hunts and kills her kind. I may have mentioned this but it needs repeating).

And everyone falls in with her over this! Az (after a brief period of estrangement that just lead to more angst), Cassian and Tamra all just follow her and help her – hiding Will, assisting her meeting Will, even running off with Will, they’re all joyous co-conspirators.

Add into this, of all the things she feels guilty about, she does nothing about them. She’s risked her people’s lives – but she still sees Will. She hurt her friend Az, but she doesn’t change her behaviour and just expects Az to come round. She worries about her mother’s descent into extreme depression, but doesn’t do anything about it. She feels sorry for being with Cassian when Tamra is clearly interested, but she makes no real effort to distance herself from him (at very least showing poor self-control). So all this guilt just feels like dramatic self-flagellation (especially since there’s so much purple prose) meant to make us pity her rather than actually owning up to her own screw ups or being actually concerned about the people around her.

There are so many tropes here I find highly problematic – the idea that love justifies any behaviour, no matter how wrong or selfish or foolish and the idea that a man’s history can be set aside because you love him are two principle ones, but the friends as tools and the utter self-absorption in your own issues are close behind.

There is also complete erasure in this book.

This is one of those books where, for me to be completely fair, I have to end my review with a disclaimer. This book has a lot of themes and issues which, frankly, I don’t like. They’re not even slightly to my taste. Teenaged angst, teenage romance, romance after a very short acquaintance, love is more important than everything, following the heart and ignoring the head, melodrama – all of these are elements that I dislike intensely and resulted in my disliking this book with a similar intensity. I would also say that while there is a plot, it revolves around Jacinda's love of Will and is eclipsed by her angst and guilt.

However, if these elements of a story are things you don’t mind or even enjoy, then you will probably like this book a great deal as it includes all of them in flowery detail and classic style. So, if these themes appeal, consider this review a hearty recommendation – I honestly think you will love this book as such a perfect example of the style against the backdrop of a world and concept that even a harsh critic would find fascinating and novel.