Sunday, June 14, 2015

The King's Scrolls and Challenger Deep

Time for book reviews again! This week I read two books: The King's Scrolls by Jaye L. Knight and Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman.
Here are my reviews. Covers (and text links) link to the Goodreads pages.

Ahhh, where to start. Let's see. Well, it definitely didn't lose my attention. It was suspenseful and made me feel the same grief as Kyrin and Kaden (yes, I teared up about four times), which is rare for me. As ever, I still love Jace, although I dearly wish he got more "screen time."
There were a few things that sort of bugged me, though.
One, I think the cast is getting too big. Even in Resistance, the cast ballooned from the first page to the last. And in The King's Scrolls, the cast only got larger. I think it may have doubled, actually, with all of Kyrin's brothers. And while all the characters aren't dizzying, and they are fairly easy to keep track of due to their unique names, the rate at which they kept coming in made me feel like there wasn't much character depth going on. Timothy and Aaron were prime examples of that. Some of the new character felt very one-dimensional, like the author chose a single adjective to describe them and then just went with that. Even Jace, who was excellently developed in the last book, felt a little like a cardboard cutout at the times when it was Kyrin's point of view (which it almost always is) due to just how little he actually says. I mean seriously dude, I get the whole bad conversationalist thing, but half the time he didn't even seem to be around! Which was also partly the fault of the enormous cast. Let me count real quick . . . twenty-six characters who were around for long enough to warrant a mention. Some books manage to carry a large cast well, but I don't think this was one of them. There just wasn't time enough. They kept coming in in new batches without time to get to know any of them, and then there were so many that you just had to focus on who was who. I hope that the next book doesn't add any more, because there are more than enough now. There were characters who had a decent amount of development: Kyrin, Lydia, Marcus, and Leetra. Those four went through changes and it made them feel more real than the others. Kaden was still well-done, though. I regret having to say that for the majority of the books I had to remember Resistance to remember that Jace had any depth at all, which is a tragedy.
Also, there were points when I felt like the Christian faith was sort of . . . I don't know how to say it. Photoshopped. Touched up, to make it seem easier than it is. All the characters didn't once doubt God. Some of the first things that came out of their mouths when they faced a tragedy was about how it was His will. And while I agree 100% with that, that is not how humans often behave. It felt unreal and verged on my chief complaint about Christian fiction - perfectly faithful characters who don't mess up.
My only other complaint is the fact that Jace was so marginalized (seriously, I want more from his point of view! Not that I've got anything against Kyrin's).
After all that complaining you may find it hard to believe that I actually did really enjoy this book. It wasn't hard to pick back up if I had to put it down, and when I did put it down I was reluctant. I'm highly anticipating the next book in the series, as well as the e-book being released this month. The writing style was great, and while I wasn't thrilled with all of the characters the ones that counted did have enough depth to keep me from writing off the entire cast as poorly developed. Erm, that sounds very negative. Let me rephrase. I actually did love several of the most important characters, like Kaden and Marcus and Jace (again, why). The way it wrapped up was good, too, with a suspenseful climax. It wasn't quite the BANG I was hoping for, but it was still good. I didn't love this book as much as I liked the previous book, but it was still good, and I still think you should read it if you want a good Christian fantasy. Four stars.

Challenger Deep takes you along for a plunge into mental illness along with the main character, Caden. The writing was so beautiful and expressive that I felt almost like I was the one getting more and more irrational until everyone around me started noticing and I was admitted to a mental hospital. That is what I'll praise first: the beauty of the writing itself. I read very few books where I take note of how the book is written, how the words interact, how the pace ebbs and flows along with the narrator's thoughts. But in Challenger Deep, the writing is just so gorgeous and expressive that you can't not take notice. The style of the narrative capturing Caden's thoughts so perfectly . . . I can't quite describe it, so you're going to have to read it for yourself.
Also, don't stop reading Challenger Deep at the last chapter - read the author's note. The book becomes so personal after that. So touching. Challenger Deep is a definite five stars, but not because it leaves the reader feeling all hyped and excited and squealing. When I closed it, I sat for some five minutes just letting my brain circle over and over how wonderfully the writing had captured Caden, how deeply it had made me empathize with him, and how personal the entire story must be for Neal Shusterman. It is the kind of five-star book that makes you want to set aside an hour or two for silent pondering on all that the story has made you feel and think. It makes you feel like you can't move on to another book just yet, for fear that you won't let this one sink in deep enough. If I didn't have a stack of other books to read, I'd just open Challenger Deep at the beginning and read it over again, front to back. It was laden with subtext and I feel like I've missed a great deal which can only be known by reading it through again, knowing the ending. This novel was art. It was feeling. It was understanding. 
Please read it.

So, if you've read either of these, what did you think of them? Would you rate them the same number of stars I did? Why or why not? And if you haven't read any of these, are they on your to-read list?


  1. I love books with large casts, but those characters have to have depth for me. I know that's really demanding, but it's so much fun when you can find a book with a well defined but vast cast.

    I've never read either of these. I'm not sure if I could read the first one. Because I kind of have that same pet peeve about Christian fiction and it might make so angry I would put the book down. I don't know. Maybe not.

    But I definitely want to read the latter book! I've heard so much about it and the author. It sounds really good!

    1. Well the first book, Resistance, was really good. And despite the large cast there were some major characters with good development, which is the most important.
      But yes, definitely read Challenger Deep.

  2. I hear so many good things about Challenger Deep- I really should read it. I've never heard of The King's Scrolls though, but I added Resistance to my TBR :)

    1. I doubt you'd dislike it. :) Oooh, tell me what you think of it when you've read Resistance!