Monday, July 21, 2014

Book Review: The Unwilling Adventurer by Heidi Willard

Another book review today!  This is the first book of the Unwilling series which consists of three books.  This first book was listed at $0.00, the next were $2.99 each.  Without further ado, here is my review of book #1, The Unwilling Adventurer by Heidi Willard.

What I Thought
This is the story of a wizard (called a "castor"), a young warrior teen girl and a farm boy who go off on an adventure together.  There were grammatical errors that I noticed right off the bat which, while it doesn't necessarily mean the story won't be a good one, does make it a bit tougher to read.  Another thing that sort of bumped me early on was that two of the main characters had very similar names (Fred and Ned).  This isn't a big deal in and of itself, but it does diminish a joke early on that would have been funnier had there been a greater disparity between the two.  The story itself is relatively solid.  The fantasy creatures are not typical fare which is refreshing, though in one or two cases this may have been the author just renaming something that already exists the way she called magic users "castors" and then describes a stereotypical wizard.  This can be distracting in the fantasy genre and, while this book certainly isn't the worst offender, it is mostly unnecessary.  Either invent your own creature (which she does, as I mentioned) or make use of the shorthand that exists.

The main characters themselves, especially Pat, the teenage girl knight, were a little off putting.  I single out Pat because her personality became grating.  A cantankerous character is fine, but there are many points in the story where it seemed her character was going to take a turn for the positive, but went right back to being mean for no real reason.  Also, the character of Ned is overly described as mischievous, many times when a joke would have worked better if played straight.  Ned was almost too silly a character for the role he needed to play in the story.

There were many elements to the story that were well thought out.  I liked the idea of Fred's staff, the assassin character has a lot of promise and the uncomfortable chair was an unusual (in a good way) turn on the "hero selected by magical object" trope.  The book moved at a good pace and set up many things that, presumably, will pay off in subsequent books.  I saw some other reviewers complaining that the book ends on a cliff hanger, but I didn't feel it was cliff hanger as much as a natural break in the narrative.

The final thing that bugged me was some repetition I noticed.  Again, nothing too terrible, but it did distract from the story.  There was one chapter where two characters were referred to by the term "old friends" in what felt like every other paragraph.  Also, one character places his hand on a awful lot of shoulders.

Should You Read It?
There's a good story here, but there were quite a few things that hindered my enjoyment of it, the most of which was the unpleasantness of Pat which went on for far too long.  The book was about what I expected with a few surprises and a few disappointments, working out to about even as to whether or not I would recommend it.   If you are a fantasy fan and are looking for an interesting story that pokes and prods at genre conventions, this one will do.  If you don't like fantasy, this probably won't convert you.

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