This was really not what I was looking for in my children's high-fantasy.
Firstly, I like my books to treat morality and humane restraint as a given. I really did not
enjoy the revenge scene where Halt beats up the battleschool bullies and allowed Horace to injure his bully intentionally. Allowing an ambiguously 30 year old man
who is responsible for the enforcement and protection of the villagers beat up a 17/16 year old
? No matter the physical abuse done to Horace or not, this scene could definitely be treated much more differently. Because what this scene is promoting is basically: if you get bullied, find someone powerful to pound them bloody them and then, get to exact your bloody cruel revenge on them as well mua-ha! And I think that's a terribly awful mindset. You know what would be good? To outsmart
them. Halt could show that he was on Horace's side and give a small display of power that would make them piss their pants and this would potentially result in them leaving Horace alone in school because who knows, Halt could always be there watching with his really really sharp knives. In the context of the novel there was no precipitated need for violence.
This isn't a situation where the whole world is against you and the only way to stop them is to send a violent message. This scene just says more about Halt's and Horace's character that isn't very mature or ethically right, and if they are the ones responsible in delivering justice in the future, I fear for the lives of the entire city.
Next, I find the characters in the novel really shallow and unbelievably immature. Let's give a little more context, shall we? Will and his homies are 15 year olds. FIFTEEN YEAR OLDS. I remember being fifteen like, 6 MONTHS AGO. THAT IS NOT HOW FIFTEEN YEAR OLDS ACT.
The characterization and the style of writing made this seem like it's geared more towards middle-grade than YA, so it was really confusing to keep reminding myself that the protagonists were 15 and not 10.
The style is very tell, not show and if this was intentional it did not
work for me. I assume that Flanagan want the tone of the story to be a very storyteller-like third person but in doing so I think he overlooks the importance of interpretation. But telling me that "Jenny made a small gesture with her hands, urging Will to drop the matter" or "suddenly he hated them all" you're not effectively conveying to me their emotion
. Tell me more about how Jenny's eyes might have implored Will to stop, or tell me the emotions that were running through Horace's mind that tells me in vivid clarity, the intensity of his hate. See that's the thing-- it's not enough to just tell me :this happened". I need to know the level of intensity and how the emotional arc builds up and I'm not feeling that throughout the whole book and it's so disappointing. Considering that the conversation between multiple characters are sometimes meant to be rapid fire and are meant to build with tension, the constant telling me of extraneous detail dissipates the tension every single time and it makes the plot too distant and unrelatable.
I'm also disappointed by the lack of action and adventure. It's basically the reason why I was so obsessed with high fantasy in my earlier years. I loved the scene where we see how Will blends in with the background and goes all super stealth, but that same sense of momentum and action doesn't carry on consistently throughout the books. I'm looking for a rollercoaster ride when I read such action-based novels and it didn't fulfill in this area. It needs to be able to hold up emotionally and action-wise with a sense of an arc in tension with fast paced action because that's what keeps me reading in high fantasy. I felt increasingly bored and I waited for the book to get to the point too many times to count and that definitely does not score you any brownie points.
I wouldn't really recommend this book for anyone who loves a crazy heckuva ride while reading High Fantasy. I don't hate it however, I just have this mild dislike for it, so if the style of the novel fits you then by all means, enjoy! But if, like me, you've seen the comparisons to Percy Jackson, don't. believe. them. If there's one thing this novel's not, it's Percy Jackson. (in so, SO MANY WAYS)