I have a personal preference when it comes to nook series that I read. I prefer it when each installment is almost like a single season of a TV series. What I mean is that I don’t mind the set up, the need to be introduced to the characters, the need to have the show find its footing, and it is ok if there is some mystery or a story arch that can’t be completed in the single season and we have some “to be continued” episodes. But I do expect there to be progress. I don’t need all of the answers in the first book or the first episode, after all what would be the point of sequential installments if a reader has been told everything upfront. But I don’t expect the first book to be like the first episode where all the mystery is dumped on you all at once, with zero answers, and you only know enough about the characters to know who they are (and not even able to form any opinion as to whether you like them or not), just enough of the plot to be able to categorize it as drama vs comedy but not enough to be able to describe the show in a conversation. Those are infuriating to me. And that’s what Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton did to me: dumped mystery upon mystery and gave me no answers and even less plot and details than was necessary to even approach enjoying this book.
Since I started with the TV analogy I will stick with it. I watched the first few episodes of Lost. Critics adored it, people were addicted to it, and I will probably get all sorts of hate thrown at me for what I am going to say next. Me? I tolerated it just long enough to realize that all I was going to get was additional mystery after mystery and I was not really going to get many answers, at least not satisfactory ones for a really long time. And I can’t stand that. I don’t like those types of serials, regardless of whether they are tv shows or books. My favorites are the ones that while there is an overall story arc we do get answers as things move along, and where there can be mysteries that are almost standalone episodes. Take the first 6 Harry Potter books. Each of them had a story, a mini-mystery, something that was going on but there was a definite beginning, middle and end. All this despite the fact that they were pieces of a larger story that wasn’t resolved until the last book.
In the Sorcerer’s Stone, we learn about Nicholas Flamel and we see that mystery solved. Heck, we even get to see Voldemort for the first time (albeit through a very disturbing description of him living on the back of Quirrel’s head). Even though it was all important set up and back-drop for what was going on in the larger story arc. On the tv series front, take for instance Haven, It’s based on a Stephen King story. So naturally, there are lots of mysteries and set up, and we need to be watching over multiple seasons, but we did learn what happened to Audrey, what the barn does, and how things work. And we got big pieces and little ones before the pile of mysteries got so big it was insurmountable. I need this to be invested and to want to continue.
Unfortunately, Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton seems to fall into the category that is not my favorite. I know just as little about the actual goings-on as when I started the book. And don’t even get me stated on the synopsis writers again. When will they learn that those little blurbs should be accurate or they risk pissing off the readers? (Or maybe I should be asking when will the publishers realize that their staff, writing those synopsis, stink?)
Here’s what the blurb should have said:
An ancient artifact. The clashing of families. Three teenagers in love. The twisting of justice. A secret society meant to ensure the greater good. A noble profession taught by parent to child. But is it really still noble? Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. And as soon as Quin’s training is complete, she learns nothing will ever be good, or the same, again.
That’s more like it. And more accurate. And I would not have felt crushed by the totally misleading blurb I got. I felt like I was sucker punched. And that’s why the review took so long – I needed to get over that disappointment to make sure it wasn’t going to influence the review of the book itself.
So here’s the deal with this book: Quinn is a 16-year old young woman who has been training under her cruel father since she was little. All to become a Seeker. Because they are so noble and good. She believes once she becomes a Seeker she will be doing justice, justice that no one else can administer. Along with John (who she is in love with and he, with her) and Shinobu (a distant cousin, who is also in love with her), the trio has been training together for years. John started later but we don’t know why at first. We are introduced to the trio at the end of their training, they are put through a final test before taking their oath. Quinn’s father has it out for John though. And we don’t know why. Cryptically, Quinn’s mother and Shinobu’s father each try to get Quinn and Shinobu to reconsider and walk away from their test but they tell them absolutely nothing as to why. Nothing. Hell, nothing is more than what they are told. Anyway, John gets kicked out of the training before he can take the Oath even though he apparently knew much more than Quinn or Shinobu. John is being driven by the need for revenge on behalf of his family, most specifically his mother who was murdered by Quinn’s father. Quinn and Shinobu go on their quest and are disgusted by what they are asked to do, but they take their oaths anyway for some strange and unknown reason. The story then unfolds as John sets out to right the wrongs he believes were committed and his need for revenge. He tries to get help from Quinn, multiple times along the way even though she doesn’t want to help, but it all gets fouled up. Repeatedly.
There are a few fantastical elements such as the ability to use a stone dagger (did I really need to be told how to pronounce athame? That felt a little condescending.) to cut holes in the fabric of reality and travel instantaneously to other parts of he world; there are some elements of time travel and immortality (but this is really more like having the ability to hibernate outside the timeline of the rest of the world); and it seems that there is magic, at least in the form of poisons and antidotes.
The premise was intriguing but the execution is where this one fails. I don’t know if it was just poor planning by the author (although I wouldn’t think so because there are clearly little tidbits that seem to be information that will be important or the foundation of things later on). But the story line was just jump and haphazard and not well planned. I am hoping that the second installment will come with a few more answers, or at least solid clues so I can formulate some sort of overall idea as to where the story is going. I think the author needs to take a page from the Castle “book” – a story arc (Beckett’s mother’s murder) where we get clues and info over time, and eventually get enough to solve the big mystery. We didn’t get every single thing solved, but enough that it is satisfying to move forward. I can’t see this series doing well if we don’t get some of the swiss cheese’s holes plugged with details and at least a few answers.