After busy months of becoming a freshman in high school in a new town, my grandson finally got back into his reading groove and back to having me reading a series with him.
After the mostly tame and always ‘bad-guys-become-good’ and/or ‘the really bad guys get theirs’ of Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Septimus Heap, Percy Jackson and others, he asked me to read The Summoner Trilogy.
I love to read. I can read very fast, I can skim and get more than just the gist of any story, but I love words. I can nearly swoon over a well-turned phrase. I am a total word-nerd. I prefer to savor good writings, taking my time reading.
I skimmed through a lot of this series, though. Shhh…Don’t tell Jonny.
Don’t get me wrong. The characters are well developed. There is enough conflict and growth through the years the readers travel through with them and their experiences to be plausible, in an implausible world. The story development and continuity are good, very good, for the genre.
What did I skim? The battle scenes.
But then I did the same thing when I read War and Peace.
I read Tolstoy’s epic novel when I was in my late teens. Even if you never ventured to read it, you may know that it is an extremely long book. In fact, if something was long-lasting, people would often say, “It was as lengthy as War and Peace/ as thick as a copy of War and Peace”, or, “I waited so long, I could have read War and Peace” and the like. I read many of Tolstoy’s works, and savored every word*, but I skimmed over the incredibly detailed battles.
I picked up enough of them to know what was going on.
[I may have told this before. My mother was not a Woody Allen fan, but she often quoted his lines: “I took a speed reading course. I read War and Peace in two hours. It was about Russia.”]
I found out after we were married that my husband had read War and Peace at about the same time I had. We lived near each other and found that we occasionally passed each other’s houses without ever meeting. However, Joe relished the battles and read quickly over the romantic parts, exactly opposite of my experience.
In The Summoner trilogy ,“The Novice”, “The Inquisition” and “The Battlemage”, Taran Matharu, for all his good writing, characters, and story, did something which really bothered me.
I can understand the details in the harshness and bloodiness of the physical clashes to keep his teenage boy target audience interested. It apparently works; (but I don’t need it).
My real bone to pick with him is his terminology. He calls all of his magical creatures “Demons”, why? That is immediately going to turn-off many readers. Most of the creatures are benevolent and loyal to those who control them, with nothing of cast-out angels or ‘spawns of Hell’ about them.
To ice that cake, he then used the names of well-known, commonly accepted mythological creatures to describe ones of his own, (otherwise inventive), imagination, which also bore no resemblance to the creatures generally recognized by those labels.
WHY? It was incredibly disconcerting, I can tell you. I vocally complained to my grandson throughout. Had it not been for Jonny and the fact that I truly wanted to know what was going to happen, I was tempted to quit reading a hundred times over the terms alone.
And I waited through the entire second book to see an actual “inquisition’ ; it didn’t happen.
(I won’t even go into how disconcerting I found that Matharu made no effort into fitting the common names he used to his distinct characters.)
Then the finale has left a door open for more, so why call it a ‘trilogy’?
I found it all very unfortunate, because, as I said, the story line and character development is good for the age group; indeed, it is better than a number of adult books which have been put into my hands. The continuity is more complete than many series aimed at adults.
And by the way, the bad guys do turn good or the really bad guys do get theirs in this series, as well. I always like that, especially in children’s’, Mid-grade and YA books.
So, what are your thoughts? Should authors play fast and loose with terminology? Am I over-reacting, after all, it’s just a work of fiction. (Although I still have to add that downplaying the word ‘demon’ to impressionable readers really upsets me).
Will you please give me your opinion?
*[Although could not stomach Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I found that even Leo himself thought it was garbage and threw most of it away. His daughter retrieved them from the garbage and sent them into the magazine which was publishing it in installments, in order to get money on which to live.]