Friday, May 31, 2013

Beyonders book 3: Chasing the Prophecy - by Brandon Mull

My husband and I preordered this book, partly because it was a good deal, and partly because we enjoyed the previous two so much. This one struck me as different—not necessarily worse, or bad, just different than I expected, especially in the beginning and end of the book.
The first thing that is clearly different is that the reader starts the book already knowing the story. In the end of the second book, Seeds ofRebellion, we are left with a prophecy showing the “only” way that the rebellion could succeed in defeating the evil, power hungry emperor, Maldor. This third book is only really worth reading to find out just how the prophecy is fulfilled, not if it is fulfilled (despite it clearly being a shot in the dark for the rebellion). Because of this, the reader starts knowing the ending, and a couple small clues for specifics along the way. The book does, in fact, embody the old proverb “the joy is in the journey.” I think this is part of the reason it took me longer to really get into this story than the previous books: there were simply fewer surprises along the way.
The prophecy says that in order to succeed, the Galloran and his team will have to split. One group seeks a piece of lost information, and the other group gathers an army for a direct attack on Felrook, Maldor’s castle built on a high, rock island. The Beyonders are also split. Jason heads off to look for obscure information in an old library, and Rachel (who is now incredibly powerful with Edomic, the language of magic), joins the crew to attack Felrook.
The second main difference is only noticeable because I was expecting something different. In the previous books, almost every chapter introduced some interesting new creature, plant, language, or system unique to Lyrian. I always thought these “inventions” were fun and interesting and I expected them in similar proliferation in this third book. But Chasing the Prophecy is different. It builds more on what Brandon Mull already set up in the previous books. Even though he certainly introduces new creatures, the surprises in this book are of a different kind, and less frequent. They come in the fulfillment of the prophecy, the twists of fate, the necessary deaths, and the clever solutions to seemingly impossible problems.
I will not go through the storyline of the book, because anyone who read Seeds of Rebellion will have a pretty good idea of the structure of the story, and the details, as I said, are the source of the delightful surprises.
At just over 500 pages, I did not find this book too long. Yet it was too long to be impressively good. To be sure, the second half of the book clipped along steadily with the twists and turns of plot. It is the first half that I suspect Mull could have cut down and sped up. But why have a short best-seller when you can have a long one? It’s not Harry Potter, but there was already enough interest to ensure the book’s success. If there had been only moderate interest, or Mull had been a less popular author, I expect his editors would have taken much greater care with his beginning and ending. Evens so, the book is enjoyable; just not a great as I had hoped.
The ending is where I felt truly disappointed. The last page is a letter from Jason to his parents which Rachel takes with her back to their world. (A little spoiler right there. Yes, Rachel returns home and Jason doesn’t.) The letter is meant to wrap things up and let Jason’s parents know that he is still alive, and cares about them, even if he never wants to come home again. But the way the letter is written, most parents would prefer to go on believing that their son had died in a freak accident (being swallowed by a hippo). Receiving this letter would probably leave them wondering if some prank were being played on them, if Jason was alive somewhere in the world, if he was crazy and being kept in some asylum somewhere. Jason, after all his courageous acts, and all his creative thinking, writing from his noble heart to reassure his parents, would never write a letter like this.
The entire book is a great, epic story with a fun surprising resolution to the many problems it presents, and I cannot possibly give it a bad review. It’s fun and I wholeheartedly recommend the entire series. But after a glorious victory, the ending in the Epilogue left a bad taste in my mouth. If you can stomach it, I would just recommend not reading the Epilogue. It’s not really necessary, but if you must read it, avoid reading Jason’s letter to his parents. Instead, savor the triumphant victory, the hero’s sacrifices, the cleverness and goodness of those who succeeded. That is the real, and better ending to the story. 

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