Monday, May 26, 2014

Banishing the Dark (Arcadia Bell #4) by Jenn Bennett

Cady’s mother is alive and in the Aether and looking for a way to cross over and fulfil her lifelong ambition – possessing her daughter and claiming her Moonchild magic for herself.

Cady can find only one solution to saving herself and her unborn child – stop being the Moonchild. Which means finding out exactly how her mother completed the Moonchild ritual in the first place and what exactly that means. Unfortunately, they begin this investigation with a memory spell that backfires unpleasantly.

The plot of this book I was actually really eager for. Cady and Lon, after 3 books of ignoring Cady’s powers, using Cady’s powers grudgingly and generally sitting around and doing very little about the whole Moonchild thing have finally decided to get up and track down exactly what the Moonchild means, what it can do and how it was created and what the implications are of that.

Excellent! And the plot and development was fairly well done – if a little late in the day. The investigation was fairly decent (even if Cady had a few moments of “Moonchild means I can pull out useful powers at random”) and tracked down information in a logical manner. It revealed a lot of the back story and the real truth behind Cady’s mother’s machinations.

I really liked the revelations – because it worked so well with Cady’s progression in learning about her parents, having her illusions scattered, fearing them and now, finally turning round and confronting her mother once and for all. It brought her arc round – it was, perhaps, a little abrupt and fast, but it brought it round full circle.

If I had any complaint about Cady’s story it would be that after 3 books of ignoring the Moonchild, we now get it all at once and not enough time to explore or expand on it. We get a lot of quick answer, satisfactory answers, but answers that only begin to explore the whole issue. I feel much the same about the world building in general –the different demons, the whole “Mother of Ahriman” thing, the different magical societies – all have been touched on but this is the last book and none of them have been expanded.

Jupe had his own little storyline this time as well, and it did add to the main and wasn’t too consumed by drama – but it was consumed by breasts and naked women; which I’m guessing is the author writing a 14 year old boy. It wasn’t an awful segment to read but ran straight into that whole last book problem – here’s Jupe introducing me to Leticia, a whole new character with an interesting back story and family and potential for a great deal – but this is the last book. Unless there’s a spin off none of this is going to go anywhere and it ends up being quite a long segment for a small amount of information. It was interesting and it’s nice to see things from Jupe’s point of view and experience (including dealing with racism) but it added up to some other elements of the book to make me want to get back on topic

Speaking of - the romance. I have to say I’m not a fan. One is the edge of infantilism in Lon’s treatment of Cady. Sometimes he will speak to her or order her as if she were a child. Yes, there’s an age gap, but she’s still 25 years old.

Then the memory loss. A huge chunk of this book rests on the fact that, for reasons that I still find dubious, Cady decides to remove part of her memory. By sheer wonderful coincidence, this removes her memory of any relationship she has with Lon. Lots of the book then collapse into the drama hole of her being attracted to him and trying to pursue a relationship then being all sad and insecure about it while Lon is all angsty because Cady has forgotten that they not only have a relationship but they’re on the edge of a proposal. What does it add to the story? Pretty much nothing but padding. I’d probably be more tolerant of the whole thing if this wasn’t a problem with the series – Lon and Cady’s relationship frequently hits shoals of random pointless, poorly justified conflict and drama just shoe horned in for… reasons. This also comes with savage raging jealousy at a woman Cady dubs “Tits Ahoy”. I think this is supposed to be “proof” that she still loves him despite not remembering their relationship.

On top of this Cady is in endless, constant lust mode. I think Lon could have worn plate armour and she would have got all hot and bothered by the sheet metal. It got in the way

Which fits into this whole last book issue. As a book it wasn’t bad, but I didn’t like the focus of it. I wanted to focus on the excellent world building and the decent plot and Cady’s story coming full circle. But instead I got Jupe doing his own investigation, Cady lusting over Lon’s arms and pointless memory loss. It left me feeling frustrated that we had all this in the way of what could have been a pretty awesome book.

We did have 2 major POC in Jupe and Letitica and they’re both pretty well done – Jupe has always been a good character with a decent personality, hobby, agenda and choices, even if they haven’t always been good ones, Leticia, from what we saw of her, was pretty good to – not a fool, confident, intelligent and fun. Kar Yee had a brief cameo appearance but she never got the attention she deserved

For GLBT people we had the Hallidays who are Lon’s housekeepers and a gay man the questioned in passing. That pretty much sums them up in their entirety – they’re names, not characters.

This does appear to be the last book in the series and I think my overall judgement can be summed up with my feelings over that – I’m not sad. I’m not relieved either. It just is. I think there’s a lot more that could be done in this world, though probably not with these characters given the way that Cady ended up and the little epilogue that was clumsily tacked on the end that even J. K. Rowling would have considered unnecessary. I think I’m vaguely disappointed – I’m not desperate for the series to continue but I think it never really reached its very high potential.