DrMM's blog about books, the universe and everything (actually, just books). I currently read mostly YA/MG fantasy, although the only thing I won't read is horror.
For some reason, the Adventurers Wanted series manages to remain a series I absolutely love, even though I think that they tend to be full of flaws. Slathbog's Gold was my first official review and I had a lot of problems with it ... but I still loved reading it. The second and the third books had the same flaws ... but again, I loved reading them. However, as much as I enjoyed them, I kept feeling like there was so much unrealized potential that I was also very frustrated
Sands of Nezza finally managed to bring out some of the potential that I knew was there but hadn't seen yet.
That's not to say there weren't problems, because there were. However, enough flaws were fixed to make me a very, very happy reader.
My major complaints about Slathbog's Gold were these:
1) Unoriginal plot, including a blatant rip-off of 'The Hobbit.'
2) One dimensional, stereotypical characters
3) The writing (particularly the use of sly)
4) A very tedious amount of feasting
1) While I don't think the plot of Sands of Nezza is the most original plot in the universe, it is much, much better than the plot of the first book (almost anything would be). And while the plots of the second and third books were more original than Slathbog's Gold, I think they were a bit limited by being too stuck to the traditional quest format. Since Alex was on a rescue mission rather than an adventure, he wasn't limited by the goal of the adventure. What I appreciated about most about Nezza was that the goal of Alex's quest kept changing as Alex learned more about the situation of Nezza. I don't think that this could have happened had Alex been part of an official quest.
2) I'm afraid that this is still one of the areas where I have problems with the series. I do think Alex's character has developed quite a bit from the first book, which is a significant improvement, since he was obnoxiously perfect then. At least he has flaws now -- his habit of commanding everyone (and not always politely) is a big one, although I do think he could easily become arrogant in later books. However, where this book (and the third as well) really failed was in the development of secondary characters. While the first book stuck to stereotypes to define characters on the adventure, at least we got to know them. The only one of the new adventurer's we get to know is Tom and we already knew Skeld. The others? I'm not even sure I remember their names. Honestly, Prince Rallian's relatives from the north were better developed than the other adventurers and Stonebill, the raven even better than Rallian.
3) The writing. I shall dance a little dance here because I did NOT notice the (mis)use of the word sly AT ALL. It's a minor thing but it makes me ecstatically happy since it drove me crazy in the first few books. Other than that, I think the writing has improved, although I think the faster pace and more unique plot helped. Because the pace was faster and the plot more creative, I wasn't paying as much attention to the language, so I didn't notice it the way I did in the first three books.
4) Nezza is a much faster paced book than the three previous adventures. As a result, while there is still an occasional feast, we aren't forced to read pages about them the way we were in the first few books. This is a HUGE improvement because they really started to bog things down. I understood the reasons why they were focused on in the first book -- the experiences are all new to Alex and so on -- but were still tedious.
5) This book has a much less obnoxiously preachy tone to it than the first book did. Again, this is something that I feel a faster pace helped with, as did the development of Alex's character. The concept of honor is still there and still mentioned but it's not focused on the way it was in the first few books. Obviously with a faster paced story, there wasn't room for the pages of philosophy about the concept of honor that we saw in the first book but Alex understanding the concept better is also a big reason.
Other comments not related to comparisons to the earlier books?
Well, I'm relieved to see than Alex's dragon form DIDN'T make him invincible. When I read about Alex's transformation in the third book, I totally rolled my eyes. Alex was already obnoxiously powerful -- did he really need to be made more powerful? I still think that development was a bit too much ... but I'm sure the fact that he's true silver will be important at another sage of the series.
Yay! Deaths! I probably shouldn't cheer deaths ... but I think it was important to have character deaths (even if they're minor characters) in this book. Especially after the Alex-the-dragon development in the last book, if there's going to be any sort of tension in future books, we had to have something to prove that Alex can't do everything. Character deaths, especially that of Cam, who was right in front of Alex when he died, was the best way to do this. A more major character death would add more tension, I think (I vote for Bregnest or Whalen) but since I'm not writing the story, I don't get a vote. (If you read this Mr. Foreman, I agree with your editor.)
Stonebill the raven was also pretty awesome. I do have to admit some disappointment that the Ring of Nezza didn't enable Rallian to speak to ravens like him though. It just seemed like it would have been an appropriate and fun development.
Final Verdict: Big improvement on the earlier books in the series. Morality is still simplistic and secondary characterizations are still weak but I definitely saw improvement and am looking forward to more.